Guardians of Immortality in Melbourne

News • 24 Jun 2019

Guardians of Immortality in Melbourne


As you’re probably aware by now, we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary. For more on that click here and here. Part of our whole ‘Then Now Beyond’ celebrations is about looking at time differently. Challenging our perceptions of time and our relationship to it.

Coincidently, the National Gallery of Victoria (just a short hop from our Melbourne boutique) is also holding an exhibit which blurs the lines between past and present.

The exhibition is part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series at the National Gallery of Victoria and brings together China’s ancient terracotta warriors, displayed alongside new works by contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang.

Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality was organised by the NGV in partnership with Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau (陕西省文物局), Shaanxi History Museum (陕西历史博物馆), Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre (陕西省文物交流中心), and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum of the People’s Republic of China (秦始皇帝陵博物院).

One of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century. The terracotta warriors were found by farmers in 1974 as they were digging an irrigation well in Lintong district, Xi’an. To date, approximately 2,000 of the 8,000 warriors have been excavated.

Made to protect the mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, their existence was lost over time. Had the well-digging farmers commerced further to the right, the warriors may never have been discovered.

The exhibition space housing the terracotta warriors lie in stark contrast to the area dedicated to Cai Guo-Qiang’s artworks. Each warrior is housed within a mirrored glass box; one cannot but help view this as a commentary on history. The past is immutable, sure it is open to interpretation, but, the past is the past. It’s come and gone.

Fixed notions of time operating on a rigid linear scale are quickly dismissed upon entering Cai Guo-Qiang’s porcelain bird installation. Observers find themselves enveloped in 10,000 gunpowder-blackened porcelain starlings. Arranged to flow like Chinese calligraphy.

The porcelain starlings are creating a murmuration, a natural phenomenon whereby huge flocks of birds seem to communicate as one, moving in a fluid state of synchronicity. The installation in this instance is meant to resemble a three-dimensional shanshui landscape brush and ink painting of Mount Li.

All 10,000 of Cai’s porcelain starlings were created in Dehua, nearby his hometown of Quanzhou, which has a long history of producing white porcelain. Exposure to gunpowder ignition gives Cai’s starlings the characteristic blotchy black colour.

A number of other fascinating artefacts also accompany the exhibit, making this a fantastic way to spend a quiet chilly day in Melbourne. To book click here, for everything else on the art of watchmaking feel free to shoot us a message.

Tags: then now beyond

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