Monday 22 April 2013

Museum Rietberg

Last Friday, a friend of mine and I went to Zürich to see the recently reopened exhibition of Chinese ceramics at the Rietberg Museum. The day was cold and rainy and just perfect for a visit to a museum. Since I had my day off, I was able to take my time while admiring those beautiful ceramics and have some chat and a cappuccino in the museums coffee bar. This reminded me of my former days when I studied the history of art: As a student I was able to visit all the Swiss museums free of charge – which I did on a regular basis. Sometimes I would just drop in a museum between two lectures to take a quick look at my favourite paintings.

The Rietberg Museum

The “Meiyintang Collection” of Chinese ceramics was treasured by the brothers Gilbert and Stephen Zuellig. Meiyintang is Chinese, more precisely Mandarin, and means hall among rose beds. This collection is one of the most important private collections of Chinese ceramics in the world. The Gilbert part was handed over to the Rietberg Museum as a long-term loan. Together with the museum’s existing collections it can be admired since January 2013. 

The exhibition shows objects from the Neolithic period (5th millennium BC), through the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), the Tang dynasty (618–907) and finally my favourite: the Song Dynasty (960-1279). So, even if you are not an expert on Chinese ceramics, this exhibition can actually give you a great overview on the subject. You may also be astonished how modern some of the thousands of years old ceramic pieces seem. 

Another contemporary high-tech highlight of the exhibition is the way the ceramics are presented. The ceramic objects are placed in special designed display cases with LED luminaries that were set into the shelving. These high-tech LED shelves are lighting the objects with 2/3 of the light capacity from above and 1/3 from below. In this way the exposed ceramics are highlighted in a perfect way without any shadows. 

Here are two of my favourite pieces: 

Lotus bowl, stoneware, late Tang, Five Dynasties or northern Song dynasty, 10th c.

Marbled bowl, stoneware, northern Song dynasty, 10th/11th c.