Hockney artworks travel to China to showcase British culture

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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Arts treasures from William Shakespeare to those by Yorkshire’s David Hockney are to travel to China as part of a drive to showcase British culture.

Cash is also being spent on boosting Chinese tourism to the UK and encouraging high-spending visitors to venture beyond London to cultural attractions like Wordsworth’s Lake District and Yorkshire’s Bronte Country.

The initiative was announced by George Osborne during a week-long visit to the east Asian economic giant designed to boost bilateral trade and kickstart what the Chancellor hopes will be “a golden decade of UK-China relations.”

Highlights of the cultural programme, backed by almost £6m of Government grants, include bringing the British Museum’s exhibition “A History of the World in 100 Objects” to China for the first time.

Some £1.6m will allow the British Library to mount exhibitions over the next four years featuring hand-written manuscripts and early editions of works from authors ranging from Shakespeare to Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Tate’s Landscapes of the Mind show of 100 artworks from 300 years of British landscape painting - including Hockney’s Bigger Trees Near Warter - will be presented in China, backed by £1.3m of state funding.

Speaking at Beijing’s National Theatre, where he joined Vice Premier Ma Kai to watch excerpts of Mandarin-language productions of War Horse and Richard III, Mr Osborne said: “Britain’s world-class cultural institutions, education and brands are internationally renowned and respected, and a key element of our global economic and political influence.

“That’s why I’ve ensured that Government funding will continue to support some of our greatest museums, galleries and theatre companies - including the British Museum, Tate, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company - to boost their profile in China.

“As we enter a golden decade of UK China relations, reinforcing cultural links is vital and will also support the UK economy through promoting trade and tourism between our two great nations.”

Last week Mr Osborne said his trip would also be about attracting Chinese investment to Yorkshire, with local business and council leaders taking part in a trade delegation to the country, alongside Mr Osborne.

As part of the drive to showcase British culture, £740,000 will support a tour of the recent Shakespeare’s Globe production of The Merchant of Venice and train Chinese arts organisations for commemorations next year of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

Cash will be spent developing the National Theatre’s Chinese tour of First World War drama War Horse - famous for its lifelike animal puppets. “War Horse opened in Beijing on September 4 to enthusiastic and young audiences and we are now delighted to be receiving a grant from the Chancellor that will allow us to develop the tour across China,” said Lisa Burger, executive director of the National Theatre.

“In sharing established and cutting-edge British theatre practice with our Chinese theatre colleagues, we hope to open up pathways for the UK’s world-leading theatre companies to take their own work to China,” she added.

A further £3m is to be spent on boosting Chinese tourism to the UK and encouraging high-spending visitors to venture beyond London.