The Art of The Steal (Again)

Ren Jingwen, a man in Xi’an, China, who spent over 40 years collecting ancient artifacts, and particularly things related to “Ox Culture,” built his own museum in Xi’an. The birth of new China (October 1, 1949) was in the year of the Ox, and 2009 was the hugely important 60th birthday of China and the year he planned for this museum to open, displaying his collection to the public. This museum opened on September 12, 2009.

Here is a run-down about the museum

I just happened to be  with an alum group that month, and had arrived in China on September 17; we got to Xi’an on Sept 21-23. The provincial museum was closed on the day we were supposed to go, in preparation for the October 1 celebrations, and our guide had heard about this new private museum, so we went. Here is a link to my full set of pictures.

This place was not only physically magnificent, but the collection (and I have seen a few Chinese history museums) was at least as good if not better, in many of his items, that I have ever seen… examples that I had only seen broken and repaired, he would have five pristine versions of them.

He was there that day, and took us around – I am pretty we were the first foreigners, and among the first visitors ever.

Apparently, creating this palatial and privately held museum and putting on this display – EVEN though it was all in deference to the country and the culture – was too much for the provincial government, who decided they needed the land, and demolished the museum and parsed some of the collection to three smaller museums.

I am so upset to hear about this! It sets my social justice neuron to firing when you mess with art. I have a super-special sense of privilege to have seen this place during its short lifetime.

And if you are smirking and telling yourself that “this is China, and this could never happen in the United States,” then you do not know about the story of the ca. $25B (B!Barnes Collection in Philadelphia, and I urge you to watch “The Art of the Steal” (2009) sometime. There is a copy on YouTube.

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