An exhibition illustrating Newport’s deep connections with China from the 18th century through the Gilded Age will open September 1 at historic Rosecliff.
“The Celestial City: Newport and China” will include more than 100 extraordinary works in a range of media, from paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs to fashion, ceramics, lacquerwares and lanterns. They come from the collections of The Preservation Society of Newport County, which is hosting the exhibition, and from other institutions.
Highlights include treasures of Chinese art collected by Newport merchants and industrialists; photographs and stories from Newport’s early Chinese community; and the writings, portraits and family heirlooms of Chinese women suffragists who inspired American women’s rights leaders including Alva Vanderbilt Belmont of Marble House. Contemporary artworks by Yu-Wen Wu and Jennifer Ling Datchuk will illuminate Chinese contributions to Newport as well as hidden connections between the Newport mansions and the Chinese American experience.
“This exhibition will give visitors a new perspective on Newport’s past,” Preservation Society CEO Trudy Coxe said. “Some aspects of the Newport-China connection are well known, such as the fortunes made in the 19th-century China trade by the families of Chateau-sur-Mer and Kingscote, and of course Alva’s Chinese Tea House. But many are not aware of the extent to which many different people of Chinese heritage contributed to life in this city, including immigrant entrepreneurs, suffragists, merchants, makers and sailors.”
“The Celestial City” was informed by research into the experiences of Chinese women’s rights activists and of the Chinese community in Newport in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including interviews with descendants.
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