China has one of the world's great artistic legacies. Passed down through the old dynasties, perfections of style and form are uncovered all across the country. Even the written language has something rare and poetic, resembling pictures as much as words. It is impossible to easily summarize the artistic world here, for it is an encyclopedia of creativity and design stretching across many thousands of miles and many thousands of years.
Art tours in China are always unique. There is no standard route in a land with such rich artistic heritage and diversity of form. Unique encounters form the heart of the experience, whether exploring Shanghai's contemporary edge or closer-door access to extravagant murals found in ancient capitals. Gallery owners and expert guides chronicle the story, each with their own niche specialism. From sculpture to canvas, paint to bronze, calligraphy to ceramics, the encounters traverse a diversity that you won't find anywhere else on the planet. And as you explore the confusing and contradictory history, you'll see that there are few countries with such a compelling artistic story.
Contemporary tastes dominate the scene in China's art capitals. Tradition given a surreal cutting edge, shown in vast warehouse-style exhibition spaces; the heritage of collections prudently preserved so to avoid destruction; auction houses specializing in rare pieces of jade and jewelery, ceramics and calligraphy; meeting artists developing techniques as diverse as any artistic hub demands them to be.
It's the three most Western-facing cities where contemporary art has evolved most completely, fusing both Chinese and international influence to form a detailed insight into style and form. Luxury China tours can celebrate these contemporary capitals, infusing half or full-day art encounters with an exploration of more famous sights. Over two or three days, visiting Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong lets you explore localized scenes that have gained international recognition.
Some stops will appear obvious to art connoisseurs. At ShangART, OV Gallery and Island 6 in Shanghai, we can arrange for the gallery directors to introduce the space, describe the works, and reveal pieces not in the exhibitions. Collectors and curators lead your discovery in Beijing, the Group 798 art district an iconic place to start the exploration. Visit private loft studios in Hong Kong, where award-winning architects and artists narrate the story. In all three of the cities you can visit artists' studios, learning more about their work while sharing stories with those who have a history of challenging norms through expression. The focus reflects the style of our private China tours, immersing you in an often unseen side of the country through exclusive experiences.
A quick glance through the centuries offers a glimpse onto the diversity. Somewhat curiously, the more the diversity is explored, the greater the similarities that can be found. Famous communist posters have become iconic images of pop art in recent years, Chairman Mao's message garnering a cult international acclaim. Compare their clear and vibrant colors to the Tang Dynasty murals, where the hues have always reflected the intricacies of a painter's palate. The images are absolutely different, yet the fundamentals are almost the same: a message of authority and demand for acquiescence. It is the manifestation of the message that changes dramatically.
You'll find this to be a common theme on art tours in China, each dynasty and century an evolving showcase of using art as political communication. Particularly in China's ancient capitals, explored in both the central and northern part of the country, it's possible to explore many fabulous evocations of these messages. Faded murals etched onto once forgotten streets of stone; imposing sculptures as surreal as a myth; scenes painted onto pottery or coated with lacquer. In each example you also find evidence of peculiar beliefs. For example a China art tour that offers exclusive access to the Tang Dynasty murals in Xian, creating an insight into the Terracotta Warriors nearby.
Of course, art is not merely the invention of those in power. It can always be a form of challenge and a demand for change. And it is usually an expression of beauty, which can turn into a memory of culture. Historically, China never had a monotone culture. Dozens of unique ethnicities flourished in their particular part of the land, with many of their stories kept alive through the art they produced. In ancient cobblestone towns you'll find exquisite works of bronze, pottery, sculpture and silver. Wandering through crumbling old villages you'll find art works celebrating a rich and ingenious history. In dusty antique shops you'll find vintage memoirs showcasing an ethnicity's past. By exploring traditional hutongs in major cities you feel the need for artistic and architectural perfection.
China has such a diverse sphere of art forms and the differences between nearby destinations can be remarkable. Design changes dramatically and no two heritage towns are the same: a poignant example is found comparing Pingyao with Lijiang. Each destination offers a powerful immersion, quickly creating a very powerful impression of its history and era. Sometimes, the popularity of these destinations creates the challenge of recognizing modern replicas from the originals. We place great emphasis on identifying expert local guides, those whose knowledge goes beyond the story found in history books. It's these guides that help you understanding the more complete picture in every destination visited on an art tour in China.
To explore the complete complexities of the country's art scene would take many lifetimes. Exclusive China art tours are customized to your interests, the route crafted to reflect your interests and inspiration. Modern China has a good travel infrastructure, making ambitious itineraries possible, incorporating both the contemporary cities and the small heritage destination hidden from the world. On these China art tours the luxury is in the experience, including daily encounters with talented local artists, activities guided by gallery curators and directors, along with tours led by revered fine arts specialists.
Art is almost always threefold; the subjective impressions created by what you see, the story of influence and inspiration that shows what came before, and the interpretations made by the artistic community. On all art tours you can make your own subjective opinions. By meeting China's art specialists you build a more complete picture. And while their opinions are also subjective (can art ever be objective?), they are the most respected opinions in the complex realm of Chinese art.
Art provides a window onto a country. Most of our private China tours include some element of art, whether hands-on activities tailored for families, access to artists' studios and private galleries, or immersion in the historical legacies. These are designed to your interests and we're continually searching for new activities to incorporate into private China tours. Of course, art is just one lens onto China and there are many other avenues that help you explore this fascinating nation in more depth.