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Melbourne Winter Masterpieces: Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Qiang at NGV

29 Apr 2019

When winter rolls around, Melbourne’s art scene comes alive with the arrival of NGV’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces. Keen to take a journey into ancient and contemporary Chinese art for this year’s exhibition, Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Qiang? It all starts by hopping on a tram.

Image above: 196.0cm, Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum

Considered one of the world’s most significant archaeological finds, a part of China’s Terracotta Army will make its way to Melbourne’s NGV International, offering visitors a once in a lifetime experience. The perfect parallel to this captivating and historically-rich display is a collection of artworks by contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang whose works illustrates how ancient Chinese culture can inspire contemporary art. Experience Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Qiang from 24 May to 13 October.

Getting There

No matter what direction of the city you’re travelling from, getting to NGV International is a breeze. Tram Routes 1, 3/3a, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 and 72 will take you right to Stop 14 Arts Precinct — right on its doorstep. These services connect with a plethora of inner-city suburbs, including St Kilda, East Brighton and Camberwell, so not only is this exhibition incredibly accessible, it's just as easy to get to many of Melbourne's most happening pockets. Or, if you want to stop and take in the river views from Princes Bridge along your way, NGV International is a 10-minute stroll from Flinders Street Station and tram stops on Flinders Street (Stop 4 Flinders Street Station) that Routes 70, 75 and the free City Circle Route 35 tram service.

Tramming 101

Never set foot on a Melbourne tram before? No sweat — follow these hot tips, and you’ll be taking in the spectacles of Terracotta Warriors and Cai Guo-Qiang in no time. As your tram trundles toward you, make sure your myki is at the ready, so you can touch on and bag prime position on your chariot. Take a seat (preferably) or, if it’s busy, take hold of a handle so your driver can get you safely to the exhibition while you take in the sights of bustling Melbourne. When you see your stop approaching make sure your belongings are ready to go so you can beat the bustle. Wait for the tram to come to a complete stop before you disembark. When in Melbourne, this is how we tram!

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Terracotta Warriors

Once you’ve arrived at NGV, make a beeline for this epic exhibition that showcases what many consider to be the eighth wonder of the world. For some background, in 1974 thousands of life-sized clay models of soldiers, horses and chariots were inadvertently uncovered by locals in China’s Shaanxi province. Attracting archaeologists from far and wide, three pits of these sculptures were discovered. They were constructed under the command of Qin Shi Huang — the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, to form part of his epic mausoleum. In fact, the feat is so spectacular, these it took more than 700,000 workers to construct these incredible sculptures between 246 and 208 BC. The warriors have seen a lot in their time — a flood in 206 BC and war when Xiang Yu and his soldiers attacked, around the same time as the floods.

Part of this display of Chinese history and culture will be eight of these magnificent warriors. They’ll be flanked by two horses and two bronze replica chariots, as well as more than 150 incredible pieces of ancient Chinese art. Precious gold, jade and bronze artifacts from the Western Zhao and Han dynasties (1046 BC to 220 AD) are just some of the items you can expect to marvel.

Cai Guo-Qiang

As if the spectacle that is the Terracotta Warriors weren’t enough on their own, here they’ll be exhibited alongside the eclectic and all-new works of contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang. With a cross-disciplinary background including theatre stage design, video and performance, Cai’s artworks are as thought-provoking as they are spectacular. He uses Chinese inventions like porcelain and silk as mediums to create his remarkable works. Perhaps his most interesting pieces are created with gunpowder. He forms a design by strategically placing gunpowder over a canvas and sets it alight. What’s left on the canvas is a tapestry of explosion marks that create a haphazard yet mesmerising image. His epic installation of 10,000 suspended porcelain birds is another show piece of this unique cultural exhibition.

NGV Permanent Collection

If you feel like continuing your journey into the arts, while you’re here, why not check out NGV International’s permanent collection. Entry is free, so you can explore this emporium of creativity an extensive collection of works spanning from contemporary to fashion. Or, if you want to delve into the Australian arts scene, take a short tram ride or walk to NGV Australia at Federation Square. Here, you can take in more than 25,000 homegrown works, including iconic pieces like ‘The Pioneer’ by Frederick McCubbin.

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All information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication.
This story has been produced in partnership with Yarra Trams.

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