Video CritJim Olson, Peabody Essex Museum, USA, Jim Olson, Peabody Essex Museum, USA
The Peabody Essex Museum is nearing completion of an expansion and reinstallation of the permanent collection. The second floor of this new space will be dedicated to Asian Export Art. While the museum is well-known for its important collection of Asian Export Art, which is a big draw for scholars and porcelain enthusiasts, the project team hoped to create a video animation that appealed to a wider range of visitors. We wanted something that would be of interest to both experts and average visitors. The team was honest in assuming that many people just find a room full of blue and white China pretty boring and we aimed to change that. As a result, we are working with Fablevision in Boston to create a punchy animation that uses tongue-in-cheek dark humor to tell the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of Augustus the Strong’s obsession for Chinese porcelain, his imprisonment of the alchemist Johann Böttger, and the eventual founding of the Meissen manufactory in Germany. Chinese porcelain was a technology that so surpassed anything the Europeans could produce that it fueled mania. The ridiculous Augustus the Strong story ties to one of the overall themes of the reinstallation, that desire, obsession, and greed have fueled our complex global economy for centuries. After watching the video we hope visitors will question the role desire plays in their own lives.