Chinese Whispers: Chinoiserie in Britain 1650–1930
3 May to 2 November 2008
A major exhibition at Brighton Museum and the Royal Pavilion
China has fascinated the imagination of the West for centuries. The story of Chinoiserie in Britain is a dazzling example of contact between two very different cultures. English merchants who traded with China returned with silk, porcelain, tea and lacquer. These fabulous objects inspired local craftsmen to produce their own fantastical pieces using the fanciful imagery of an imaginary China.
Chinoiserie is exotic, stylish, and above all fun. In a Chinoiserie interior fantastic mountainous landscapes with fanciful pagodas and fabulous birds are peopled with exotically clothed mandarins and haunted by dragons and phoenixes. Brighton’s flamboyant Royal Pavilion provides a suitably hot-house late flowering of the style and provides the inspiration and focus for this major exhibition. With loans from national museums and private collections, Chinese Whispers will include some of the earliest Chinese and China Trade objects exported to Britain. It will also display imitations of Chinese objects and furniture, ceramics, silver and textiles in a pronounced Chinoiserie style, from the late 17th century right up to the use of Chinese motifs by designers in the 1920s and 1930s.