Yale School of Management

‘Calligraphy and the Art of Business’ Exhibit Opens at Evans Hall

An exhibition of Chinese calligraphy, titled “Calligraphy and the Art of Business,” opened at Yale SOM’s Edward P. Evans Hall with a reception on December 12.

The exhibit includes a number of works by active contemporary artists on loan from Steven C. Rockefeller Jr. ’90 and Kimberly Rockefeller. Many of these artworks were collected by Steven Rockefeller during his business career in China, where the exchange of artwork, such as calligraphy, is often a way to cultivate mutual relationships. These are displayed in traditional formats in order to show a wide spectrum of calligraphic scripts and structures.

Also included in the exhibition are digital displays exploring important works of calligraphy in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, such as a handscroll in cursive script by Wang Duo and a seventh-century Buddhist text, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, thought to have come from the Buddhist cave chapels at Dunhuang. The brushstrokes in this pre-modern calligraphy are animated, invoking the expressiveness of the artists and their use of ink. 

In his remarks at the opening reception, Steven Rockefeller said that calligraphy has a central place in China’s cultural—and economic—life. 

“Calligraphy touches upon elements of Chinese poetry and music, through rhythm and mood, and on painting and sculpture as fine art,” he said. “Calligraphy is a life, as it has been said, ‘with bones, blood, flesh, and spirit.’”

“And from my experience,” he added, “it carries tremendous weight in the formal halls of corporate and state China. What I learned from my calligraphy Teacher Fo Tao, himself a descendent of Emperor Taizong Tang, was that Chinese nobles always collected and did calligraphy themselves, that calligraphy became the most stable and valuable financial reserve of its time. The link to business of calligraphy through current social norms and by historical import is profound.”

Rockefeller expressed pride that the exhibit was helping to increase understanding of China’s business culture: “Consistent with the Global Network for Advanced Management’s mission to help business leaders work across the globe, Yale SOM’s show here will help to promote understanding as leaders expand business outreach to China.”

Roe Fellows, Yale SOM’s managing director of development, who helped to assemble the exhibit. said that it reflects Yale SOM’s objective to be the most global U.S. business School. “Yale SOM is proud to showcase the art and culture of countries affiliated with the Global Network for Advanced Management,” she said.

“The exhibit builds on Yale’s strong connections to China, to the Global Network for Advanced Management, and to SOM’s commitment to a broad-minded approach to management education,” Fellows added. “We are grateful to Steven and Kimberly for their inspiration and generosity that made this exhibit possible and for demonstrating how art and business are connected.”

Watch a video introducing the exhibition:

Watch a video highlighting works of calligraphy in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery: