Pablo Bronstein’s “The largeness of China seen from a great distance”
              Simone Menegoi
              The fashion for Chinese decoration, architecture, and craft in Europe was the first great wave of exoticism in Western culture. It lasted for more than a century, from roughly 1670—when Louis XIV commissioned the Trianon de Porcelaine, a Chinese-inspired architectural folly, for Versailles—to the end of the eighteenth century. It reached manic heights (Augustus the Strong, prince of Saxony, almost drained the state finances to fuel his collection of porcelains), and left an indelible mark on the history of taste (the “English garden” was also born of a desire to imitate Chinese landscape architecture). So it’s surprising that it’s taken Pablo Bronstein, whose oeuvre draws on eighteenth-century architecture and décor, so long to devote an entire exhibition to it. Perhaps the venue persuaded the Argentina-born, London-based artist that the time had come: a wonderful eighteenth-century apartment in the center of Turin, a room of which is still decorated with frescoes in the Chinoiserie style. The aspect of this Sinomania that most interests Bronstein is distance. The geographical and cultural distance separating Europe from China is cause for both fascination and misunderstanding, with the representation of each by the other swinging between idealization and caricature. The show’s opening work evokes that distance. …

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