‘Copies and Invention of East Asia' to open at Ann Arbor's University of Michigan Museum of Art

New exhibit challenges the idea of copying and invention

By Sarah M. Parlette - Associated Producer

Miniature jar with cover, decorated with figures of boy acrobats, China, 1825 - 1912, porcelain with blue underglaze painting. Photo | University of Michigan Museum of Art.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Beginning Aug. 17, the “Copies and Invention of East Asia” exhibit will take over the A. Alfred Taubman Gallery in the University of Michigan Museum of Art in downtown Ann Arbor. 

Full of burial goods, Buddhist sculpture, paintings and contemporary works of art, the exhibit challenges the Western notion that copying is equal to a lack of creativity. 

The exhibit, scheduled to stay at the UMMA through early January, showcases how throughout China, Japan and South Korea, the practice of copying has been considered a valuable practice for preserving masterful works of art. 


Imperial winter dragon robe, China, early 19th century, embroidered silk. Photo | University of Michigan Museum of Art

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Duplicated brushstrokes and painstaking replications demonstrate the practice of dutifully recreating works of art, of creating life for the dead, and of honoring religious experiences through the multiplicity of sculptures.  

At 3 p.m. Aug. 18, there will be a free talk by Natsu Oyobe, exhibition curator and curator of Asian art. Oyobe will discuss the works of art within the exhibition,  as well as how duplication has historically been seen as a gateway to innovation and creativity. 

Registration is required for Oyobe’s discussion. Those interested should visit the event page here. 

For more information about “Copies and Invention of East Asia,” visit the UMMA website

The UMMA is free and open to the public. Galleries are open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

The UMMA is located at 525 S. State St.

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Five Attendants and Carrier, China, 1368-1644, earthenware with glaze and mineral pigment. Photo | University of Michigan Museum of Art