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HOT: Terracotta Warriors & Cai Guo-Qiang, NGV International, Melbourne

You can always be guaranteed of a blockbuster art event every year as part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces. In 2019 the exhibition is Terracotta Warriors x Cai Guo-Qiang, a parallel presentation of historical Chinese artefacts and contemporary Chinese art.

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It’s an inspired combination, as the delicate nature of the Terracotta Warriors means that only eight of them have taken the journey from Xian, China to Melbourne. Combining these ancient masterpieces with new works by renowned Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang means that the exhibition has more content than would otherwise be the case.

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The 6000 terracotta warriors from 2200 years ago were discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well in China’s Shaanxi province. They were there to protect and accompany China’s first emperor Qin as he proceeded to eternal life.

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As you can imagine, the terracotta warriors were one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. They are often named as one of the eighth wonders of the world.

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The warriors gaze out, strong and silent, and invite you to contemplate the lives of the people in that era. It’s interesting to see that the statues’ facial structure are all instantly recognisable as Chinese.

Certainly, they inspire the imagination and pride of many Chinese people, am I’m glad that I bring along half-Chinese Lady AB to the exhibition. I myself have never seen these warriors before (though I seriously think a trip to Xian a must-do soon!).

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Along with the terracotta warriors, there are several galleries of smaller artefacts, tomb carvings and sculptures borrowed from museums and galleries all over China.

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If you are taking children to the exhibition then I recommend buying the children’s book ‘Discover the Terracotta Warriors’ from the NGV Design Store, ideally before you enter and with some time to read through it.

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That way you can learn a bit about the history and context for the terracotta warriors, you can play ‘eye-spy’ as you spot items from the book on display, plus there are drawing and writing activities to complete. Lady AB is able to tell me the roles of each of the terracotta warriors thanks to her pre-reading.

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There are also explanatory plaques for kids within the exhibition with questions to help prompt further thought and discussion.

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Presented in parallel, Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape, takes inspiration from Chinese inventions – porcelain, silk, paper and gunpowder – and turns them into 10,000 soaring birds forming a silent murmuration….

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….huge abstract gunpowder murals…

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…and sculpture.

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Make sure you watch all the panels of the video at the end of the exhibition which shows how the gunpowder paintings were made. It’s very exciting to see!

Buy discount tickets to see the Terracotta Warriors here.

To extend your Terracotta Warriors x Cai Guo-Qiang experience why not book into the special Terracotta Warriors high tea by Sofitel Melbourne?

For accommodation options in Melbourne, I recommend checking out what’s available on Booking.com and Airbnb.

To see more contemporary Chinese art at the NGV, read my review of A Fairy Tale in Red Times

If you’re visiting the NGV with children read my review of Alexander Calder: Workshop for Kids

Click here for my review of the Terracotta Warriors High Tea


This post contains affiliate links. If you book using the links there is no extra cost to you and I earn a small commission that helps me to provide free, valuable and useful information for you! Thanks Joyce

About Joyce Watts

Joyce Watts is a former intellectual property, IT and media lawyer turned serial entrepreneur.

As well as being the founder of TOT: HOT OR NOT she helps businesses with their SEO, email marketing & social media as BrightSmart.com.au; she owns an online bike store CycleStyle.com.au and develops and produces creative experiences for families via WheelieGoodFun.com. She used to publish another popular lifestyle and food blog called MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne.

She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband, two children and seven bikes.

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