Mia’s New Immersive Exhibition Guides Visitors Through the Spirit of Ritual Bronzes

The immersive exhibition showcases Chinese culture and tradition through sounds and visuals produced by award-winning designer Tim Yip

Photos courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art

The 2000 film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” forefronts popular culture once again, due to actor Michelle Yeoh’s SAG Award-worthy performance in the recent film, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is also an Oscar contender. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia) will have free screenings of the former film in March, April, and May—a remarkable adventure in aerial swordplay and love set in 19th-century China that features two master warriors played by Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat—in conjunction with its new exhibition, “Eternal Offerings: Chinese Ritual Bronzes.”

The exhibition presents nearly 150 of the museum’s ancient Chinese bronzes, which in ancient Chinese society held ritual significance. Symbols of power, as well as vessels for serving wine and food to heavenly and ancestral spirits, the bronzes are exhibited in galleries animated with sound, projections, and light displays created by Academy Award-winning art director and film designer Tim Yip, best known for his work on “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Liu Yang, chair of Asian Art and curator of Chinese art at Mia, collaborated with Yip to also include narrative and thematic backdrops that evoke the culture and traditions in which the bronzes were used—resulting in a cinematic, theatrical, and immersive experience that transports museum visitors into the past and the rituals that commanded such attention. The exhibition is on view through May 21, 2023. Purchase tickets here.

The exhibition guides visitors through a series of galleries. The first includes bronze shards suspended from the ceiling to evoke fragmentary memories of the ancient past. The second conveys animism, shamanism, and worship through the inclusion of bronze animals and images against a projection of the Yellow River. The third re-creates an ancestral temple replete with ritual objects.

The fourth gallery features an earthen altar, holding a large bronze cauldron, with a moving sky projected overhead. Next is a banquet hall, with bronze vessels evoking the ceremonies in which food was blessed and drinks flowed. The sixth gallery is devoted “to the concept of li, a moral code used to maintain social structures and hierarchies. Li covered every aspect of society, but its main purpose was to promote the continuation of the ruler’s lineage,” according to press materials. Bronze vessels, bells, musical instruments, and a food vessel adorned with a phoenix embody the spirit of li. The last gallery has 3D scans projected on the walls to showcase the intricate surface ornamentation of different bronzes. Objects displayed on a mirror relate back to the bronze shards seen in the first room, completing the visitor’s spiritual journey.

“In this exhibition, I intend to create a new multidimensional perspective for looking at bronzes,” says designer Tim Yip. “I want visitors to feel through their ears, body, eyes, and other senses, which will allow them to rediscover the ancient bronzes and the impact of their beauty and mystery.”

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