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Art & Architecture Vancouver Art Gallery to host Forbidden City exhibition after ROM showing

A view of part of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Sean Gallagher/The Globe and Mail

The Vancouver Art Gallery will host the exhibition The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors next year, after its run at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

The ROM is curating the massive show, estimated to include up to 200 treasures from the Palace Museum in Beijing, some of which have never been seen outside of China.

The exhibition, whose Toronto run was previously announced by the ROM, will explore life within the Imperial Palace over hundreds of years, through rare works including paintings, ceramics, gold, silver, enamel and ivory objects, musical instruments, medical instruments, as well as historic photographs and palace models and blueprints.

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The announcement that the show would travel to Vancouver next October until January, 2015, was made at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Monday morning.

"The presentation of this exhibition will mark an important milestone in the institution's ongoing and fervent commitment to explore and present art from China and the Asia Pacific," said VAG director Kathleen Bartels at the news conference, which was also attended by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

"It's such a gift to Canadians to be able to see it firsthand for the first time, some of these artifacts, outside the Forbidden City," Ms. Clark said. Eighty of the works travelling to Canada from Beijing have never left the Forbidden City.

"I'm just so happy that I can do something … for Vancouver," Robert H.N. Ho, founder of the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation, told The Globe and Mail during an earlier interview at his West Vancouver office. The Foundation, which is based in Hong Kong, is the presenting foundation sponsor and the driving force behind the exhibition, giving more than $1-million to bring the exhibit to Toronto and Vancouver; China National Offshore Oil Corporation is the presenting corporate sponsor, with a $1-million donation.

Bringing the show to Vancouver is particularly meaningful for Ho, who has granted tens of millions of dollars since establishing his foundation in 2005 to support Chinese arts and culture, and promote a deeper understanding of Buddhist teachings. Among many other initiatives, the foundation funded the tour of the Warrior Emperor and China's Terracotta Army exhibition to the ROM and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and recently some $10-million (U.S.) to the Guggenheim Museum in New York to commission contemporary Chinese art. But it has done little in terms of visual art in Ho's own backyard.

"We've done a lot of exhibitions around the world, for visual arts mainly. We've been to Toronto, we've been to Montreal, but never in Vancouver. That's my hometown," said Ho, who turns 81 on Tuesday. "So I said, let's see if we can bring this over here."

The exhibition, which is at the ROM from March 8 through Sept. 1, 2014, is scheduled to run at the VAG from Oct. 18, 2014, to Jan. 11, 2015.

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