Friday, September 07, 2007

China's Latest Sinister Export

The British Museum's forthcoming exhibition of figures from the Terracotta Army is set to break all blockbuster records - even Tutankhamun. Why? I cannot for the life of me see the attraction. These figures are remarkably naturalistic and no doubt represent an impressive technical feat- but they equally represent the extreme brutal megalomania of the First Emperor (Qin Shi Huangdi), the monster who created them. They are the products of terror rather than art - and surely the whole point of them is to see them en masse, rather than to gawp close-up at a few isolated specimens. What will they return us but a blank stare and a feeling of unease? Tutankhamun mania was understandable - the boy pharaoh's grave goods were beautiful as well as amazing. There is no beauty in these footsoldiers of a paranoiac's fantasy army.
However, they do have prankster appeal - let's hope someone does a Pablo Wendel.


  1. is it time for a Bryan Ferry moment again? I mean, should it make a difference who commissioned it or why? if it's interesting, we should see it. (not that I would as I haven't made my mind up how interested I am).

  2. I would love, love, love to see these sculptures in Xian -- seeing a few of them separated from the ensemble ... well, I'm less sure. It would be interesting, but I think the impact would be far less.

    By the way, I saw the King Tut stuff here in Philly this summer and I was deeply underwhelmed. Some of the most brilliant artifacts (the big gold image of his head, e.g.) weren't even there, except on film screens in the viewing rooms.

    Of course, I was also put off by the hordes of people -- I hate trying to examine artifacts when jostled about on all sides by other tourists. I'd much rather go to the U. Penn archaelogy museum where similarly old artifacts from Egypt, Greece, and the Middle East are easy to study and visitors are few. Indeed, I recommend this museum highly to anyone visiting Philly: Wonderful black figure vases and loads of other antiquities and the price of entry is just a few bucks.

  3. Absolutely Susan - it's the same with the British Museum, so many treasures to see, so few people in the way most of the time, and free - and it's even got the Elgin marbles! The recent Tut exhib was a bit of a con, but the original Brit Mus one, back in whenever it was, was the real deal.