The Irish Museum of Ceramic Art has been officially opened!
The short version is that the ceramists have done Ireland proud. Their exhibition is creditable by any measure and, according to Dr I Chi Shu, among the best of the international collections. It is a job well done and – crucially – done in a spirit of friendship. The Irish group held together! This was not always a foregone conclusion. Pressures were intense, personalities various, and there were many occasions when individuals put their own opinions aside in the better interests of the group.
More on the exhibition to follow. It deserves more attention than I can give it in transit and the last week has been a whirlwind.
From everybody's point of view, the timing was tight. Some of the Irish were working until the very last minute. The final kiln was cracked a mere few hours before the opening. There were instances of plinths melting from the heat of recently fired work. A few hours before this, some of the ceramists were patiently waiting for the paint to dry so that they could hang their work. The Visitor Centre at Fuping was transformed into a creditable exhibition space – white walls, natural light, and a waterproof roof! But it was a rollercoaster ride.
The outside of the building was finished a week before the opening. We were cheered by the sight of our lovely new gallery. The ceramists had worked long and hard for this. The little arched bridge in front of the building was paved, the verges trimmed with gold paper, and the courtyard lined with flowers. The windows sparkled and, at the entrance to the compound, an inflatable triumphal arch was flanked by three red lanterns, each the size of a small car and fringed with gold. Proper recognition for Irish ceramics at last!
Alas, no. The decoration was nothing to do with the Irish effort. Fuping Ceramic Art Village is a three-star tourist attraction and hopes to gain a fourth star. In China, one knows about these things in advance and the red carpet was rolled out for the inspectors. The lettering on the triumphal arch – now deflated – translated as 'Do Not Use Fake Money'. And the red lanterns bounced off into the sunset, tied to the back of a tiny three-wheeled truck...
With ironic sighs, the ceramists went back to work. It rained. The gold paper around the hastily concocted flowerbeds began to sag. But just when it was all beginning to look a little sad, a large stage appeared, overnight, with a red banner announcing the launch of the Irish Museum of Ceramic Art. And the Visitor Centre became a museum.
Bells! Drums! Fireworks!
They know how to do a launch in China (none of us can hear properly).
So honour has been satisfied and there are planes to catch.
But this doesn't feel like an ending. I will be blogging long and hard before I have made sense of the Fuping experience.