Jeff Gaudino   
Belz Enterprises
The Tower at Peabody Place
100 Peabody Place/Suite 1400
Memphis, TN 38103

(901) 767-4780

Melinda Medlin or Bob Phillips
Thompson & Baker
(901) 527-8000


Visitors Rediscover Ancient Culture of the Manchu Dynasty At Opening of Peabody Place Museum and Gallery

Memphis, Tennessee (October 15, 1998) -- One of the country’s most extensive and rare collections of Chinese artistry transported visitors through time Thursday (October 15) to the Manchu’s Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty during the opening of the Peabody Place Museum and Gallery.
     The unique museum, located in the Pembroke Building at 119 S. Main, features extraordinary works of Chinese art from the private collection of Jack and Marilyn Belz of Memphis. Mr. Belz is chairman and chief executive officer of Belz Enterprises, a leading innovator in real estate development with interests throughout the South and much of the country.
     Peabody Place Museum and Gallery exhibits one of America’s most exquisite collections from the artistic legacy of the Manchu Dynasty, which reigned from 1644 until the revolution of 1911. A majority of the collection is from the 19th century and later, with some pieces dating back several hundred years.
     Artists from this last great ancient Chinese dynasty created some of the most beautiful treasures in the world. After the Manchu Dynasty’s fall, many of these creations were scattered and lost. Rare examples of this artistry in jade, other precious stones, ivory, porcelain and cloisonné along with furnishings, fabrics, scrolls and other artistic objects will be displayed in the Peabody Place Museum and Gallery.
     “The art of China is a great example of the use of the creative eye, the hand and a multigenerational commitment to craft tradition,” said Mr. Belz. “I’ve always been fascinated with the different forms of art that are unique to different countries, and indeed, to different regions within countries. China is an amazing example. The different areas of the country have separate artistic specialties that are handed down from one generation to the next.”
      Visitors enter the museum through a round moon gate. The main gallery entrance is guarded by two cloisonné Temple Shizi Guardian Lions or “Foo Dogs.” The “Foo Dogs” tower almost six feet tall and once stood watch over the Forbidden City in Beijing.
     Once inside the gate, visitors wander through three galleries, featuring 7,500 square feet and more than 100 pieces of priceless Chinese treasures.
     As visitors walk into the main gallery, a massive, carved jade ship takes center stage. The ship stands almost six feet tall and five feet wide with complex carvings, including a two-headed dragon at the bow of the ship and multiple sails on the ship’s three masts.
     Throughout the museum, visitors will view numerous jade pieces ranging from small animals to a 2,000-pound statue that is carved with multiple scenes from Chinese life during the Manchu Dynasty.
     Many art forms, such as jade carving, reached their peak of perfection during the Qing period. Jade, which is harder than steel and very brittle, cannot be chiseled but must be worked by grinding with abrasives. The delicate jade carvings were created by drills and disks used with abrasive pastes. The drills were run by foot-pedal power. After the object’s design is complete, it is polished with finer abrasives and buffing tools. Because of its scarcity and difficulty to carve, jade objects were prized. In addition, jade was thought to have magical properties and was often buried with the dead to protect the body from decay or to promote immortality.
     One of the galleries also features a parade of animals along a 40-foot path that leads from a cave. The animals include pairs of horses, tigers, camels, and sheep, all created from a variety of precious stones, ivory, cloisonné and other materials. The animals range from three-feet to five-feet tall. The backdrop to these figures is an enormous mural painted by Elinor Hawkins of Memphis.
     From the intricate ivory carvings that took years to create to the brilliant coloration of the fearsome cloisonné lions, the Belz Collection reflects the opulent style of the Imperial court. Art from the Qing Dynasty illustrates lavish decoration and superb technique. The style comes at the end of a long Imperial tradition, and amalgamates China’s own rich history of symbols, art and craft forms, shapes and techniques.
     The general aesthetics and mood of the Belz Collection is set by the frequent use of blue and green in Qing times, plus the complements of occasional rich gold and Imperial Yellow.
     The Belz Collection began during a trip to Los Angeles almost 30 years ago. The couple wandered into an Oriental collector’s gallery and became enchanted with the beauty and craftsmanship of the art. The collection began with a purchase that day of carved ivory horses, an ivory chess set and an intriguing carved stone ball-in-ball.
     After 30 years of assembling a vast art collection, Mr. and Mrs. Belz decided to create a museum at Peabody Place and share an important piece of art history with the public.
     “I still have the first pieces I purchased, though they are not of the magnitude of the art on display in the museum,” said Mr. Belz. “I love art – all types of art. When you have something beautiful – flowers, art, whatever – you just want to share it. It makes you feel better when you share with others.”
     The Peabody Place Museum and Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and noon to 5:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $4.50 for senior citizens, and $4 for children under 12.
     Headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, Belz Enterprises is a national leader in real estate development. The company owns and manages more than 25 million square feet of industrial, warehouse and distribution centers, shopping centers, office buildings, mixed-use centers and corporate campuses. Belz also owns a group of premier hotels including the Peabody Hotels in Memphis, Tennessee and Orlando, Florida.

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