As ever, contemporary and modern pieces are juxtaposed with the sweeping 18th century house and gardens. This year, internationally acclaimed artist Xu Bing has been given special permission to make use of the remarkable Seahorse Fountain, a centrepiece of the gardens in an area usually off limits to the public.
The artist Xu Bing installing his piece Tao Hua Yuan: A Lost Village Utopia at Chatsworth.
While the historic fountain is undergoing restoration, Xu Bing will unveil a piece entitled Tao Hua Yuan: A Lost Village Utopia. The cluster of rocks have come from nine separate regions in China and have been arranged with flowers and little ceramic figures, houses and animals made by the artist to represent a Utopia, where people live in perfect harmony with nature. It is inspired by a popular 5th century AD Chinese fable called Tao Hua Yuan, or Peach-Blossom Spring, in which a fisherman discovers such a community, but, when trying to lead fellow city dwellers to it, fails to find it again.
Tao Hua Yuan is arranged to resemble a classical Chinese landscape painting, allowing viewers to experience it in three dimensions. Not only is Xu Bing a leading contemporary artist, but he is also a proponent of tradition. He is concerned that modern industrialised society has lost its respect for nature, which it needs to regain to achieve happiness. The story of the Peach Blossom Spring is, he says, a metaphor in which the ideal world we long for seems to be so far away. In this sense, his work at Chatsworth can be seen not only as an ecological rallying cry, but also an offer of healing for disillusioned spirits.
Given its position, Xu Bing’s transformative work can be viewed up close or from above through the windows of Chatsworth’s State Rooms, presenting both the grounds and the work in a new light.
Tao Hua Yuan will be joined by a selection of pieces from artists such as Aristide Maillol, Eduardo Chillida, Baltasar Lobo and Giacomo Manzú, as well as Marc Quinn, Christopher Le Brun and Michal Rovner.
Beyond Limits will take place from 8 September to 26 October.