The Belz Report, Spring 1999

S P R I N G -- 1 9 9 9P A G E5

Visitors Rediscover Ancient Culture of the Manchu Dynasty At Opening of Peabody Place Museum and Gallery
One of the country's most extensive and rare collections of Chinese artistry transported visitors through time to the Manchu's Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty during the opening of the Peabody Place Museum and Gallery on Thursday, Oct. 15, 1998.

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.

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 are 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 Jack Belz, chairman and CEO of Belz Enterprises. "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."

Throughout the museum, visitors 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 Ming Dynasty.

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.

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.

After 30 years of assembling a vast art collection, Mr. and Mrs. Belz decided to create a museum at Peabody Place to share an important piece of art history with the public. Jack Belz noted at the opening, "This museum completes another phase of Peabody Place and shows our commitment to make downtown Memphis a place to live, a place to work, a place to shop, a place to entertain and a place to receive culture."

The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and weekends from noon until 5 p.m. For more information, call 901-523-ARTS.

Photo: Jack and Marilyn Belz greeted guests at the opening of the Peabody Place Museum and Gallery.

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