WILLIAMSTOWN -- After a circuitous route around the globe, the Clark Art Institute’s traveling collection of 19th-century French Impressionist paintings have landed at the Shanghai Museum in China to a wildly enthusiastic response.
More than 9,000 visitors viewed the exhibit on the first day, and the lines stretched around the building, according to Victoria Saltzman, communications director at the Clark.
This is the first time paintings from the Clark have been shown in China.
The relationship between China and the Clark has been growing since museum officials visited in 2009 to retrace the steps of Sterling Clark’s scientific expedition through north central China in the early 1900s.
"The Chinese love the Impressionists," Saltzman said. "And the Shanghai Museum is arguably the best museum in China - one of the best museums in the world."
The show, labeled "Barbizon through Impressionism: Great French Painting from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute" by the Shanghai Museum, opened Sept. 19 and will close Dec. 1. It features 73 paintings by Renoir, Rousseau, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Pissarro, among others.
A companion exhibition displays photos that Sterling Clark shot while journeying through China in 1908-09, paired with photos of the same settings 100 years later shot by Chinese photographer Li Ju.
The traveling Impressionists began their global journey in Madrid in October 2010. Since then, the collection has visited Milan in Italy, Tokyo and Kobe in Japan, Montreal, London and Fort Worth. Shanghai is the 10th venue on the Clark’s first-ever international tour. The last stop will be in Houston before returning for the grand opening of the Clark’s newly built and freshly renovated gallery spaces next summer.
Saltzman noted that at its last stop, in Kobe, Japan, the total number of people who have visited the shows around the planet totaled 1.8 million. The show in Kobe attracted more than 150,000 visitors, following a stay at Tokyo’s Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, where attendance was nearly 250,000.
"We have every confidence we will surpass 2 million in Shanghai," she said.
The road show is meaningful on a number of levels for the Clark and its surrounding communities, Saltzman noted.
"It puts the Berkshires on the map for people around the world," Saltzman said. "And now it’s bringing the Clark, Williamstown, and the Berkshires into China. That’s what this show is doing."
"We are particularly pleased to bring the Clark’s collection to Shanghai as this marks the next chapter in our continuing collaboration with the Shanghai Museum and further deepens the Clark’s historic connections to China," said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. "The Clark’s paintings serve as our ambassadors to the world during this exciting period of change and growth on our campus. We are proud to be able to use our tour as a way of introducing the Berkshires to audiences around the globe and encouraging them to visit the region."