By Janice Carter Levitch
I recently made the trek to Cincinnati Art Museum to preview “Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China,” and the trip did not disappoint.
The figures used in “Terracotta Army,” also known as the Terracotta Warriors, were discovered in 1974 by farmers in China. This discovery revealed an underground army of nearly 8,000 life-size terracotta figures. This has now become known as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. Discovered one mile east of the known burial site of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China (r. 221-210 BC), the terracotta army was created to accompany the emperor in the afterlife. This exhibition showcases eight regal terracotta figures, including a horse and chariot, along with other fascinating artifacts.
One of my routines when visiting a museum is to make a day of it, which includes lunch in the museum café. Doing so sets the tone for a lovely afternoon – to be surrounded by wonderful art while enjoying a light bite to eat.
That’s exactly what I did recently when I went to Cincinnati to meet with Jill Dunne, the museum’s director of marketing and communications. While we enjoyed lunch, Jill educated me on the finest details of this exhibit.
“This particular show was put together with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Cincinnati Art Museum,” she explained. “Our curators collaborated and pooled this exhibition together so they could utilize their resources and expertise. We’re working closely with the Chinese government and different Chinese museums because these works are so precious, and these are the authentic warriors that we’re going to have here on display. They only allow them out of the country for a year at a time. So between the Virginia exhibition that just wrapped up a few weeks ago and after our showing which runs … through August 12, all the pieces go back to China to their respective museums and institutions over there.”
Regarding her trip to China in January of this year, Dunne commented, “Seeing the excavation site (where) 8,000 warriors were fully excavated with many other artifacts was a sight to behold. It was a trip I knew would be one of those experiences that I will never forget.”
Speaking of China, local artist Guy Tedesco is the only sculptor selected from North America to travel to one of our sister cities, Chengdu, China. He will begin working on a greenway that will be part of a beltway around the city, which is home to 14 million people. The project will include sculptures designed by 20 different artists.
“It’s meant to be a greenway with a lot of pedestrian traffic in different areas and that’s the reason for these sculptural designs,” Tedesco said. “They want to brighten and beautify the city with cultural things that will encourage people to get out and go around to see what the sculptures are all about. They want their slogan to be ‘Chengdu in the world and the world in Chengdu.’
“What I’m working on is a Pegasus,” he continued, “because the Pegasus was born in the war between the Titans and the gods. One of the Titans was killed and thrown into the sea and then sprang from the foam as a beautiful Pegasus, which signifies rebirth, rejuvenation and a moving forward into the future. So, it’s very fitting to connect between Louisville, where a Pegasus is symbolic for the Kentucky Derby and now, possibly, as an iconic symbol for the city of Chengdu as a rebirth and moving forward. I have visited the terracotta army site in the past; it was a great privilege and overwhelming. To be in the room with thousands of these figures, you know, and to realize that each one is a unique portrait is incredible.”
Don’t miss your chance to visit this historical exhibition and create your own day trip to China. Reservations are highly recommended. You can find more details by checking out the website, cincinnatiartmuseum.org. Of course, take time for lunch in the Terrace Café. You’ll be glad you did. VT