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January 2011

Dazu: Designing the exhibition

Posted by John Rowlands on 26 January 2011
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales
Dazu Rock Carvings - National Museum Wales

During my time as a designer at National Museum Wales I have had to deal with displays of all shapes and sizes and the Dazu Rock Carvings exhibition provided a unique challenge, especially the heads!

The exhibition features many heavy stone heads, separated from the bodies by historical vandalism as well as some wear and tear (well, they are over 1000 years old!).

The problem posed was how to display them securely and yet in a good position for the viewing public. We also needed a flexible system that is quick: there was only ten days from the delivery to the practical installation!

Some weeks ago we had an idea in the design studio and called on the expertise of Annette and Mary from the Conservation department to discuss the merits of our thoughts.

“What if we set the stones in an expanding foam mould? Would it grip the sculpture securely and hold a display position?”

Mary and Annette both confirmed that if we employed a high-grade conservation material and sheathed the stone with polythene film, the stone would not be affected -in Layman’s terms, it would work!

As the icing on the cake we came up with the idea of adding a fabric layer that would act as the finish, ready for display. A mock up was quickly made and, wow! It worked brilliantly!

Mary and Annette made great progress and the heads were set into pre-made display boxes in a secure lab deep in the bowls of the Museum.

The fabric finish was trimmed and the boxes complete with the sculptures were transferred to the gallery for display with specialised lighting.

The heads joined larger items on specialised plinths and some very delicate carvings within cases. Further ingenious display methods were devised for each and every sculpture to ensure this truly amazing exhibition is as inspiring as possible.

We are all very excited to see this exhibition come together and are sure the public will love it too.

Simon Tozzo, Three Dimensional Designer, National Museum Wales

See more Dazu images on Flickr, keep up to date with Dazu on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @museum_cardiff  #dazuwales

Sacred Dazu rock carvings leave China for the first time

Posted by John Rowlands on 19 January 2011
(c) Dazu Rock Carvings Museum, Chongqing, China
Head of Vairocana Buddha, Baodingshan, Dazu, Southern Song dynasty (AD1174-1252).
(c) Dazu Rock Carvings Museum, Chongqing, China

January 26th marks a special day at National Museum Cardiff as it is the opening day of a very unique and exclusive exhibition.

From Steep Hillsides: Ancient Rock Carvings from Dazu, China is a collection of rare Chinese religious sculptures from the World Heritage site in Dazu.

The very earliest sculpture at the sites date from the mid 7th century and these beautiful carvings depict and were influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist beliefs.

The exhibition will contain sculpture mostly from the 10th to the 13th century. Eclectically bringing these religions together, they create a highly original manifestation of spiritual harmony and give life to the exceptional Chinese history of this particular period.

Off limits to visitors for many years, the carvings were only opened to Chinese travellers in 1961 and foreign visitors in 1980. The result is that they remain in excellent condition despite their creation centuries ago.

While many of the larger carvings still remain embedded in the cliffs and mountain sides of Dazu, this is the first time the more manageable sculptures have left Chinese shores and travelled West.

National Museum Cardiff will be the only museum outside of China to host this extraordinary exhibition, providing a fascinating insight into ancient rock art and Chinese culture to all those who come and visit.


See more Dazu images on Flickr, keep up to date with Dazu on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @museum_cardiff  #dazuwales