CityU creative media installation takes centre stage at Washington gallery

Michael Gibb


Visitors to one of the world’s most celebrated art galleries will have the chance to experience ancient Buddhist cave paintings from China thanks to the highly innovative immersive installation devised by Professor Jeffrey Shaw and Dr Sarah Kenderdine from City University of Hong Kong (CityU).
The groundbreaking creative media work of Professor Shaw, Dean of the School of Creative Media and Director of the Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and Embodiment (ALiVE), and Dr Kenderdine, Research Director of ALiVE, titled “Pure Land: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang”, was selected as the centerpiece exhibit for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the pre-eminent museum for Asian art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
“This is a huge honour for CityU,” said Professor Shaw on the eve of the 25th Anniversary Benefit Gala at the Gallery held on 29 November in Washington. “The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is one of the most important galleries in the world for Asian art. For ‘Pure Land’ to be selected as the main exhibit is extremely prestigious.”
Guests invited to the Gala for the start of the exhibition included international philanthropists, royalty, private collectors, ambassadors, art critics, government officials and business leaders, all of whom will discover the level of excellence attained by faculty at CityU.
Indeed, Mr Julian Raby, The Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, said that the “Pure Land” exhibition was not only a “thrilling assimilation of history, art, music and religion brought alive through innovative technologies”, it was also a unique opportunity for visitor to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to experience these exquisite examples of ancient Buddhist murals from China.
Moreover, the innovative immersive technologies developed by Professor Shaw are clearly visionary in scope. Mr Raby said that “the immersive experience that the digital cave offers could not be a more perfect signal of the ways in which the Sackler Gallery is looking ahead to its next quarter-century”.
The “Pure Land” installation uses pioneering virtual reality technology to immerse audiences in the Buddhist wall paintings inside Cave 220 of the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang in northern China. The project seeks to preserve this unique UNESCO World Heritage site since many of the fragile caves are closed now to the public to try to preserve the murals.
It is a project of CityU in collaboration with Dunhuang Academy and Friends of Dunhuang Hong Kong, and produced at ALiVE.
The exhibition at the Sackler Gallery will run from 1 to 9 December 2012 at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “Pure Land” will return in the spring of 2013 for a long-term installation in the new International Center Gallery shared by the Sackler and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art.  


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