The Museum's collection of Chinese art, spanning 5,000 years, has grown from the approximately 130 works given by founder Ralph Norton to more than 700 objects. His acquisitions form two outstanding bookends to the Chinese Collection: ancient jade and bronze, and imperial jade and hardstone carvings dating from the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 ) to the Republic period (1912- 1949). A seminal early work from Norton’s gifts includes a 3,200 year-old cast bronze wine ewer (gong) in the form of a dragon, which is a composite of many powerful creatures – tiger, bear, elephant, bird, and antelope. A seminal late work in the collection is an alms bowl with seven buddhas, commissioned in 1777 by the Qianlong Emperor who reigned from 1736 until 1795.

Over the years, Ralph Norton's gifts have been supplemented with other significant works of art illustrating the aesthetic values, technical achievements and cultural beliefs of this vast country. These works include: a painting by Ming dynasty master Tang Yin (1470–1523), titled The Nine Bends River, which links the personal qualities of man with Confucian moral values; one of the world’s finest extant pairs of 17th-century lacquered cabinets (1662–1700) made during the reign of the Qing dynasty emperor Kangxi; and Five Quail, a 13th-century painting influenced by one of China’s best known quail painters, Li An-Zhong (Southern Song dynasty, circa 1120-1160) that sends a subtle message about life in unstable times.

Chinese Collection Highlights

Laurie Barnes

​Elizabeth B. McGraw Curator of Chinese Art
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Laurie Barnes

​Elizabeth B. McGraw Curator of Chinese Art
(561) 832-5196​​ x1125

Since Laurie Barnes joined the Norton in 2006, she has organized more than 35 thematic rotations in the Chinese galleries and seven special exhibitions, including the acclaimed High Tea: Glorious Manifestations East and West (2015), and two traveling exhibitions about the impact of exported Asian ceramics, On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture, and Commerce (2011); and Silk Road to Clipper Ship: Trade, Changing Markets, and East Asian Ceramics (2005).

From 1989 to 2005, Barnes was Assistant, then Associate Curator-in-Charge of the Department of Asian Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. There, she renovated the Asian galleries, creating one of the most prominent Korean galleries in the Americas. In 2005, she also served as an adjunct professor at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, and guest curator at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

Barnes’ specialty is Chinese imperial porcelain from the 1300s to 1500s. Working with the Jingdezhen Institute of Ceramic Archaeology in China, she spearheaded the establishment of the first conservation laboratory at the site of the Chinese imperial kilns.

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