Chinese art collection acquired by the Ashmolean

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THE Ashmolean Museum has acquired one of the greatest private collections of modern and contemporary Chinese art in the world.

The Oxford museum was given the collection by Professor Michael Sullivan, who died in September, aged 97 after spending seven decades studying and collecting Chinese art.

The Sullivan Collection – as it is known – is made up of 400 works of art amassed by Professor Sullivan, and his wife Khoan, from the 1940s onwards. Most of it has never been exhibited to the public before.

Professor Christopher Brown, director of the Beaumont Street museum, said: “Michael Sullivan was a long-standing friend and supporter of the Ashmolean and it is through his forethought and generosity that we have received this outstanding collection.

“His paintings will be displayed, on rotation, in the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Gallery where they will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors; and scholars from around the world will have the opportunity to use the works in their study, teaching, and research. We hope this is a fitting testament to a great art historian and collector.”

Prof Sullivan was a world authority on modern Chinese art and his collection includes works by the principal artists of late 20th century and contemporary China.

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His book Chinese Art in the Twentieth Century, published in 1959, was the first to address the subject. He spent time with the International and Chinese Red Cross organisations in China in the 1940s and remained in the country for many years.

Professor Sullivan was appointed head of the Department of Oriental Art at Stanford University before joining St Catherine’s College in 1980.

Many of the painters represented in the collection were close friends of him and his wife, and the paintings they acquired were often gifts.

Last month the museum was given a two-tonne, three-metre tall sculpture by Ju Ming in memory of Prof Sullivan which now sits on its forecourt.

In March 2014 the Ashmolean will show a new selection of works in a small commemorative exhibition called Michael Sullivan: a Life of Art and Friendship.

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