The purpose of the Portfolio and artists involved
This Portfolio of sixty contemporary Chinese woodblock prints is a project initiated and funded by the Muban Foundation between 1997 and 2003. The purpose of the project is to actively support, encourage and promote woodblock printmaking in China, and to preserve a moment in time of contemporary Chinese Art. It is a landmark event in the history of Chinese printmaking. It also presents a valuable and unique collection of prints to international institutions and collectors.
Woodblock printing is one of the oldest art forms and it has a history of more than 1500 years in China. The Portfolio represents not only a sampling of contemporary Chinese woodcuts prints, but also places them in their historical perspective. Sixty outstanding artists were chosen from across China to contribute to this project, from artists in their 20s to a few in their 80s. Some artists came out of retirement to take part in this project, for example Yan Han, Niu Wen and Li Shaoyan. Many of the artists are internationally renowned, such as Xu Bing and Chen Qi. Some are rising stars in the Chinese printmaking world, such as Wang Chao.
作为印刷手段的木刻版画源于隋，成于唐，盛于明，文艺复兴早期传入西欧，并逐渐形成独立艺术创作形式。创作版画经由李叔同、鲁迅等于上世纪二十年代末介绍到中国并在数十年中得到长足发展。1997年，瑞典中国古籍收藏家冯德保 (Christer von der Burg)与瑞士人博林德 (Verena Bolinder-Müller)在伦敦创立木版基金会（今名木版教育信托）并筹备邀请中国艺术家创作木版画作品。由时任大英博物馆亚洲部负责人的龙安妮博士(Anne Farrer) 与奥斯特大学版画系巴大玮教授 (David Barker)倡议，中国艺术家徐冰（现中央美术学院副院长）提名，欧洲木版基金会于 1997 – 2003 年在中国邀请50位（后增加到60位）著名版画家每人创作一幅木刻作品。原作集参与者包括老艺术家赵延年、彦涵、晁楣、李焕民；中坚艺术家徐冰、苏新平、应天齐、张敏杰、王华祥、陈琦、陈海燕；以及年轻艺术家王超等。
The styles of the prints
The sixty prints in the Portfolio range from images cut into a single block and printed in black on white paper to more complex images using a number of blocks and printed in up to ten different colours, some printed in oil-based colour whilst many are printed using traditional water-soluble colours offering wash like effects. Blind embossing, waste-block printing, colour blends, image montage and many other creative techniques are represented – all founded on strongly drawn research and design.
The audience of the portfolio
The Portfolio provides a perfect opportunity to museums, art institutions, collectors and Chinese related businesses and companies to acquire sixty original woodblock prints, printed, numbered and signed by the artists. The portfolio is unique because it contains a substantial number of original prints that demonstrate the range and depth of technical and creative invention from artists whose work is normally unavailable outside China. It is a ready-made collection, a ready to hang exhibition, the prints are also tailor-made for company boardrooms and offices.
The accompanying catalogue
To encourage as full an understanding of the Portfolio as possible, a specially commissioned hardcover book entitled The Art of Contemporary Chinese Woodcuts accompanies each portfolio. This beautifully produced book contains essays by scholars and experts in the field together with a dual language glossary of woodblock printmaking terms.
155 copies of each image have been printed, the printing blocks are now the property of the Trust, therefore no further copies can or will be printed. Of the 155 Portfolio sets, 5 sets are hors-de-commerce, 60 sets were donated to the artists who contributed to the project and 90 sets are available for sale. The Portfolio is available from the Muban Educational Trust. Income from sales goes to support the ongoing work at the Trust. Currently we still have just over 40 sets of Portfolio for sale.
To date, the Portfolio have been collected by the British Library, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Chester Beatty Library (Dublin), The Oriental Museum, University of Durham, the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, the MCH Foundation, Vesenaz (Switzerland), Paning Foundation, Novel Energy Ltd (Beijing), the Xu Yuan Printmaking Workshop and Art Gallery (Beijing), China Print Museum (Shenzhen), Heilongjiang Art Museum together with private collectors in Europe, China and the United States.