The X+Q factor

Exquisite scarves for the V&A’s Chinese paintings exhibition

What does a museum do next, following such exhibitions as Club to Catwalk, London Fashion in the 1980s and the beg-borrow-or-steal-a-ticket that was the David Bowie retrospective?

In the case of the V&A, you go back to 700AD – where else? The host of the previous two contemporary shows opens Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900 on Saturday October 26 (running until Sunday January 19 2014). Many of the exhibits have never been seen before in the UK, and the show will encompass a breadth of material from different dynasties. In terms of size, pieces will stretch from a miniature monk’s engraving to scroll paintings reaching 14m long.

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Somewhere down the smaller end of the range are two new silk scarves for sale in the shop, which are designed to celebrate the exhibition. They are by the Chinese artists Xiang Jing and Qu Guangci – known collectively as X+Q Art. “It is an interesting phenomenon to see the V&A hosting the exhibition, showing that culture transcends boundaries of time and space,” says Guangci. In Chinese characters, X and Q are symbolic of rarity and exquisiteness. And indeed, the two scarf designs – with only 50 available of each – are both.

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On the metre-square Landscape Mash-Up scarf (second picture, £85), X+Q Art have brought together designs from two late-16th-century scrolls: Visiting a Friend in the Mountains juxtaposed with Saying Farewell at Xunyang. Hand-painted on heavy silk, a special ancient hand-pleating technique is adopted for the edges, a technique so refined that only 10 pleats are completed a day.  

The larger 180cm x 53cm scarf, Dancing Auspicious Cranes (first picture, £150), does not refer to the hard-to-miss construction towers that have become an established part of the skyline in major Chinese cities, but rather the black birds that symbolise longevity, wisdom, nobility and auspiciousness in China – all aspects that the lucky wearer will hopefully be imbued with.

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