Joseph CROOK
The British Museum

The British Museum's Touring Exhibitions in China

Background:

The British Museum is committed to sharing it's collections with a global audience. Whether through welcoming international travellers through our doors in London, loaning objects, continuing to expand our online collections, or touring exhibitions, the objectives of access and engagement remain constant.

Since 2006 the British Museum has toured 11 exhibitions to China, two of these were in collaboration with the V&A. They have been displayed in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The exhibitions have been diverse in their subject matter, including iconic Greek statues, Indian temple art, Assyrian wall reliefs and highlights from our renowned collection of ceramics. It is our hope that in the years ahead we can build on this foundation, touring an even broader array of objects to an even wider Chinese audience.

The museum-building boom within China means that many cities across the country now benefit from modern museums that have the facilities to host international touring exhibitions. It is hoped this will bring opportunities for the British Museum's collections to be shared with new audiences throughout the country.

Future opportunities

Recently the British Museum has been exploring opportunities for touring exhibitions to travel to a number of major museums outside of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. During several trips to cities across China we have engaged in discussions about the types of exhibition that could be desirable; this includes the size of exhibitions, the themes and the types of objects that Chinese audiences would wish to see.

It is our hope that there will be opportunities in the coming years to bring British Museum touring exhibitions to Chinese museums with whom we have not worked in the past. It is recognised that some Chinese museums have different budgets to the major museums in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. This poses a challenge because of the high costs of transport and insurance associated with large exhibitions, and so creative solutions will need to be found.

Multi-venue tours of international touring exhibitions appear to be favoured by many Chinese museums. There are distinct advantages to multi-venue tours in terms of costs. In addition they have benefits for the profile of an exhibition in China, and bring exhibitions to a wider audience. It is therefore a model that the British Museum is interested in exploring further. It may be that the future lies in creating multi-venue tours to upwards of four venues, thereby allowing significant cost-sharing.

The museum appreciates the value of face-to-face meetings for helping to clarify complex issues relating to exhibition projects. Meetings have consistently helped to bridge gaps in understanding by providing us with a forum in which to discuss different working practices and contexts.

Despite certain challenges there is a clear will on both sides to work together and possible solutions are being identified. It is hoped that, with the links we now have, we can continue to work with Chinese counterparts to bring British Museum exhibitions to wider parts of China in the coming years. In addition the museum will continue building on the strong and valuable relationships we have in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to tour exhibitions there in the future.