Stiftung Mercator’s “Enlightenment in Dialogue” series brought to a close in Beijing – “dialogue necessary and valuable”
Forums and salons give impetus for dialogue in and with China on the subject of enlightenment / Salon series format to continue
Beijing/Essen, March 2012. On Sunday, 25 March, Stiftung Mercator brought its “Enlightenment in Dialogue” series to a close in Beijing. Since the series was officially opened in April 2011 by Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, China’s Minister of Culture Cai Wu and high-ranking representatives from China and Germany, more than 3,000 guests from numerous countries have taken part in the forums and salons on historical and artistic themes relating to the Enlightenment. Organizers and participants alike felt that the series had been a success. Stiftung Mercator will continue to invest long-term in order to foster dialogue and exchange with China.
The series concluded with a salon entitled “The Great Art Collectors” and a dialogue forum at the National Museum of China on the subject of “Enlightenment and Cultures of Knowledge”, at which Stiftung Mercator was able to welcome acclaimed experts and scientists to the podium, such as Yang Zhenning from China, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. As the academic accompaniment to the exhibition “The Art of the Enlightenment”, Stiftung Mercator staged five forums and nine salons in Beijing from April 2011 to March 2012, in which, among other things, artistic and historical aspects of a contemporary engagement with the topic of enlightenment were addressed and discussed. The salon events were designed to imitate the classic salon of the Enlightenment and, adapted to the circumstances of today, to offer a forum for open discussions of art, culture and society.
Bernhard Lorentz, director of Stiftung Mercator, gave a positive assessment: “We staged this series of events because we were convinced that dialogue between China and Germany is both necessary and valuable. For us as a foundation, it was important to provide a platform which would allow a discussion of the differences between and common features shared by the European and Chinese enlightenment movements with respect to philosophical, social and artistic aspects, with a view to promoting mutual understanding. We certainly achieved this.” This claim is supported not only by the lively participation of the audience but also by the large number of returning visitors, not to mention the response in visitor surveys and the media. “We have seen that dialogue is not only possible, but also desired. We thus intend to continue the salon series format from summer 2012 in order to establish it as a dialogue forum”, went on Lorentz. This will offer continuity for those interested in such a dialogue and will open up a whole range of topics. To this end, Stiftung Mercator will be making available around 450,000 euros.
The future salons will draw on the experiences gained in the series that has just ended: “The dialogue has taught us a great deal over the past few months. For us, the most important point is that our engagement in China should bring about a lasting and long-term impact”, explained Lorentz. A team of German and Chinese experts will now evaluate the concluded event series and supervise the continuation of the salons. “In the Chinese context, the form of public discourse chosen by Stiftung Mercator is effective on a number of levels”, believes Michael Kahn-Ackermann, longstanding director of the Goethe-Institut in Beijing and a member of the expert team. “It enables an intensive and multifaceted engagement with the selected topics, and communicates different intercultural and intellectual standpoints. A wide-ranging salon culture has enjoyed increasingly dynamic growth in China, particularly in recent years, yet a platform that combines high intellectual standards with simultaneous interpretation in an international and discursive format has rarely attracted so many visitors.”
About “Enlightenment in Dialogue”
The “Enlightenment in Dialogue” series was staged by Stiftung Mercator with the support of the German Ambassador in China, Michael Schaefer, as the academic accompaniment to the exhibition “The Art of the Enlightenment” in Beijing. The official forums of the series were organized by Stiftung Mercator in partnership with the National Museum of China. In addition, it has separately initiated a series of salons on the subject in which German and Chinese intellectuals had the opportunity in recent months to exchange ideas and opinions on philosophical, social and artistic aspects of the Enlightenment. Stiftung Mercator made available a total of some 1.5 million euros for the purpose. The programme comprised five dialogue blocks which continued for the entire duration – April 2011 to March 2012 – of “The Art of the Enlightenment”, an exhibition presented by the National Museums in Berlin, the Dresden State Art Collections and the Bavarian State Painting Collections in Munich, in cooperation with the National Museum of China.
About “The Art of the Enlightenment”
April 1, 2011 saw the official opening of ‘The Art of the Enlightenment’, an exhibition organized by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Munich, in collaboration with the National Museum of China. With its 600 loans, including masterpieces by Friedrich, Füssli, Gainsborough, Watteau, Piranesi and Goya, the three German museum bodies unveiled to the public the entire spectrum of Enlightenment art – ranging from painting, sculpture, drawings and prints, through to crafts and fashion and even exquisite scientific instruments. The exhibition focuses on works of art that exemplify the core ideas of the Enlightenment, revealing their influence on the fine arts and their historical impact on the artistic revolutions that took place in the 18th century and even those occurring now. The exhibition is on show in Beijing until 31 March 2012. For more details, visit: www.kunstderaufklaerung.de
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