Port House is last stop for international exhibition "Dialogue with Emperor Qin"

Publication date: 
15 Dec 2017

After touring around China and Europe for seven years, the exhibition entitled "Dialogue with Emperor Qin" is making a last stop in Belgium. The 31 sculptures by as many international artists will be on show in the Port House in Antwerp until the middle of February 2018. The impressive artworks are inspired by the Qin emperor's world-famous Terracotta Army. Together they form a contemporary "peace army" whose mission is to spread ideas and cultures. In 2012 the exhibition was awarded the "EU-China Intercultural Dialogue" label by the European Union.

Cultural bridge between China and Europe

The idea for the exhibition was formed in 2010, when the organisation "Inspiring Culture" asked 30 international artists to make sculptures inspired by the world-famous Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin. The challenge was taken up by 27 European artists – one from each EU country – and three Chinese. The 30 sculptures were joined by a 31st made by a Croatian artist in 2013, the year in which Croatia joined the EU.

The 31 soldiers, each nearly 2 metres high, form an army that never threatens or seeks to conquer. In this way it symbolises 31 "messengers of peace and prosperity." As Pick Keobandith of Inspiring Culture explains: "With this exhibition we want to show that humanity is made up of a mix of cultures." 

The 27 sculptures that were made in Europe were shipped to Tianjin from the port of Antwerp in the summer of 2011. From there they went to Xian, the location of the original Terracotta Army and also the start of the historic Silk Road. There they joined the three sculptures by three Chinese artists that were already awaiting the arrival of the Europeans. 

Between 2011 and 2013 the exhibition made up of the 31 soldiers visited eight Chinese museums including Shaanxi Provincial Art Museum, Suzhou Art Museum and Ningbo Art Museum. In 2013 the army began its tour of Europe, visiting among others Estonia, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, England, Scotland and now also Belgium. After a penultimate stop in Brussels, the international exhibition is now closing its tour in Antwerp, more specifically at Port House, the headquarters of Antwerp Port Authority. 

"The location of Port House was chosen deliberately to form a link between city and port," explained port alderman Marc Van Peel. "Our headquarters symbolises our ambition to act as a bridge between the cultural life and the economic life of the city. And for that reason also Port House is open to the general public. Now on this occasion we are enormously proud to welcome the exhibition 'Dialogue with the Emperor Qin,' as it brings European and Chinese culture closer together and so fosters mutual understanding," he concluded.

Antwerp, the historic Silk Road and One Belt One Road

The choice of Antwerp for the exhibition is hardly surprising, as the city has a long tradition as a waypoint on the historic Silk Road. Already in1722 the General Imperial Indian Company was founded and given a monopoly on trade between the South Netherlands and Asia. Nowadays Antwerp is still very active on the routes that link the Atlantic and Pacific, resulting in steadily growing volumes of trade between Antwerp and China. In 2010 Antwerp formed a twinning agreement with the port of Guangzhou, one of the most important ports on the historic Silk Road. 

Now, Antwerp also seeks to become part of One Belt One Road, the new trade route being developed between China and western Europe. One Belt One Road is also the theme of the China Day that is being organised in Port House just before the opening of the exhibition, aimed at among other things illustrating the position of Antwerp with respect to the European hinterland. 

Practical details

The exhibition "Dialogue with Emperor Qin" is open free of charge from 18 December 2017 to 16 February 2018, on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Various sculptures that form part of the exhibition will also be on display in Zaha Hadid Square, on the East side of Port House.