from january 30th to september 28th, milan’s fondazione prada presents the porcelain room, an exhibition exploring the historical context, scope and impact of chinese export porcelain. curated by jorge welsh and luísa vinhais, the show gathers more than 1,7000 individual porcelain pieces made from the 16th to the 19th centuries for different markets, religions and social groups. the project, which has been divided into three sections, illustrates how efficient the chinese were in understanding the taste and the demand of each segment of the market, and tailoring their production accordingly.

fondazione prada the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain designboom
all images by delfino sisto legnani, courtesy of fondazione prada unless otherwise stated
video © designboom

 

 

on view on the 4th floor of fondazione prada’s torre, the porcelain room is part of a wide range of research the foundation has undertaken, extending its activities to a plurality of expressive languages that cross the boundaries of contemporary art. without creating distinctions between visual arts, craftsmanship, design and mass production, the exhibition highlights the creative value of chinese export porcelain by showcasing its refined workmanship to a wider audience.

fondazione prada the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain designboom

 

 

the beginning and core of the porcelain room has been called first orders, and it constitutes the largest number of early 16th to mid 17th century ming dynasty porcelains with european iconography ever shown together. during the ming dynasty (1368-1644) the export market became progressively important, firstly with the celadon and underglaze blue porcelains. once europeans started trading and commissioning porcelains to bring back to the west, they quickly became the first truly global commodities. first orders is a term usually attributed to the first commissions of chinese porcelains by the portuguese after their arrival in china, being the first ones to order porcelain decorated with western iconography. these early orders are extremely rare, with only around 150 having survived to the present day. for the exhibition, over 45 examples have been selected, on loan from both public and private collections.

fondazione prada the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain designboom
image © designboom

 

 

the second part consists of a wide selection of daily use objects interpreted as natural forms representing animals, fruits, and vegetables. these explore the impact and exoticism of chinese tableware made for western markets. created around the 1760’s, the pieces aimed to amuse guests dining in wealthy households. the sources for these shapes were mostly western ceramic examples that were produced across european factories.

fondazione prada the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain designboom

 

 

the third and last iteration of the exhibition pays homage to the tradition of porcelain rooms and the magnificent installations created in european palaces and aristocratic houses in the 17th and 18th centuries. the set sees the porcelain pieces among mirrors, lacquered panels and gilded carved wood, referencing the extraordinary rooms created all across europe. some of its most iconic cases still survive, including the ceiling of the santos palace in lisbon and the porcelain room at the charlottenburg palace in berlin. the rooms and architectural features have in common the use of chinese porcelain not for its original purpose but instead transported to a different dimension where visitors are transported to distant cultures and lands.

fondazione prada the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain designboom
image © designboom

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain
image © designboom

fondazione prada the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain designboom

fondazione prada the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain designboom

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain

fondazione prada's the porcelain room explores the impact of chinese export porcelain

 

 

exhibition info:

 

name: the porcelain room

location: fondazione prada

address: largo isarco, 2, milan, italy

dates: january 30th to september 28th, 2020