The V&A, the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, possesses one of the most comprehensive and important collections of Chinese art outside East Asia.
The first group of Chinese artefacts was acquired by the V&A in 1852. Today, the Museum’s Chinese collection amounts to approximately 18,000 objects, with examples from all branches of Chinese art including ceramics, jade, metalwork, lacquer, textiles, furniture, sculpture, ivory, bamboo, rhinoceros horn, glass, paintings, manuscripts and prints.
The particular strength of the V&A Chinese collections is in the applied arts of later dynastic China, after AD 1500. Highlights are on display in the T.T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art and include magnificent textiles, exquisite porcelain and elegant furniture. These are displayed according to use – living, eating and drinking, burial, the court, temple worship and collecting.
The V&A continues to collect excellent examples of contemporary art and design in Mainland China and Hong Kong and works actively with expert colleagues in leading Chinese museums to study and understand the Museum’s collections.
The V&A has organised a number of important exhibitions at the V&A over the last decade, most recently, Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings: 700-1900 (October 2013 – January 2014).
The show was the first UK overview of the Chinese painting tradition since the International Exhibition of Chinese Art at the Royal Academy in 1935. It brought together over 100 of the finest examples of Chinese painting, including some of the earliest surviving Chinese paintings and other extremely rare pieces, from the greatest collections in the world.
Many of the paintings were shown in Europe for the first time, on loan from the Palace Museum Beijing, Shanghai Museum, Liaoning Provincial Museum, Dunhuang Academy and Tianjin Museum.