a ruler whose reign (1735-96) might have been considered progressive on account of his interest in western culture and his hiring of the noted polymath, Giuseppe Castiglione, to create the European wing of that structure. (A reproduction of Castiglione’s portrait of the emperor on horseback attests to his virtuosity.) Today that legacy is mired in controversy. Ai called the animal heads “Western playthings,” bastardized versions of older designs that better reflect Chinese history and culture.
is that objects like these can be misunderstood as a national treasure, when really they are not…They were designed by an Italian, made by a Frenchman for a Qing-Dynasty emperor” whose forebears “actually invaded China,” he explained in an interview for the exhibition catalog. “So if we talk about national treasure, what nation are we talking about?”