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Applause for Nixon, China and the Arts

East meets West at new South Coast Plaza Exhibition

Stilt walkers

Toasting the launch of a singular South Coast Plaza exhibit – “The Week That Changed the World: Nixon, China and the Arts” – guests at the opening festivities happily clinked flutes of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, the American sparkling wine chosen by President Richard M. Nixon to salute Premier Zhou Enlai during their 1972 “Toast to Peace” state dinner in Beijing.

Sponsored by South Coast Plaza and the Richard Nixon Foundation, along with arts institutions including the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Carnegie Hall and the Getty Foundation, the 2,300-square-foot multimedia exhibition in Jewel Court through August 18 features a cylindrical design with culturally relevant themes: The curvy, yin yang display walls symbolize the complementary relationship between the U.S. and China, and a moon gate, a traditional architectural element in Chinese gardens, signifies a portal connecting the two world powers.

The display panels at the exhibit feature highlights from the historic trip that marked the first time a U.S. president visited China. Also on view: a duplication, courtesy of South Coast Plaza, of the Nixon library’s life-size bronzes of Nixon and Zhou Enlai.

“This is all about East meets West and our ongoing relationships with the Chinese government. By opening the door to China, Nixon challenged the system, and since then, besides trade, there have been fantastic cultural exchanges in the visual and the performing arts,” noted David Grant, general manager of South Coast Plaza.

The exhibit also touts the opening in October of the new Nixon library, a $15 million expansion that will boast 72 new museum galleries, more than 30 custom interactive multimedia experiences and 300 artifacts, many never before displayed (information: Nixonfoundation.org).

After the opening ceremonies, VIP guests convened at Marché Moderne bistro for a celebratory feast that featured the fizzy Schramsberg 2013 (Nixon and Zhou Enlai tossed back a 1969) at tables crowned with clusters of scarlet roses inspired by the “Pat Nixon” rose. Delectables included roast duck breast and caramel eclairs.

“The Nixon library is in the process of renovation; we are updating the content, making it more interactive and working on a new orientation film,” said William Baribault, president and CEO of the Richard Nixon Foundation. “We are also creating a virtual version of the library so people from around the world can visit.”

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