APOLLO 2006 Nov.
6,000 years of Asia’s art
To mark the 40th anniversary of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, its curators present a selection of recent acquisitions by the museum, one of the world’s greatest and most diverse collections of the continent’s art. They range in time from remote antiquity to work by cutting-edge contemporary artists.
Since 2003, when the Asian Art Museum opened in its new facility, the transformed 1916 main public library building in San Francisco’s Civic Center, more than 2,600 works of art have been added to the collection. These additions span 6,000 years of history and represent the diverse cultures of many Asian countries. They range from gilt-bronze Mongolian Buddhist sculptures to Indonesian ritual implements to contemporary Japanese baskets, and from 16th-century Korean ink paintings to colonial-period photographs from India to modern Philippine oil paintings.
Among the important groups of art works recently donated are 148 Chinese calligraphies, paintings and seals, from the 7th century to the present, gifts of the Yeh Family. The museum’s collection of Chinese calligraphy, that most challenging and rewarding art form, had been small. The Lloyd Cotsen Japanese Bamboo Basket Collection consists of 895 objects. These comprise bamboo sculptures by contemporary artists as well as baskets by artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. More than 700 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and other objects relating to South Asia have been given from the collection of William K. Ehrenfeld, MD. Although the museum’s collection of South Asian art was quite strong, it largely lacked materials from the colonial period. The Ehrenfeld donation substantially fills the gap, adding not only paintings by British artists such as William Simpson and George Landseer but also hundreds of 19th-century photographs by both Indian and European photographers.
Other major gifts include 120 Japanese prints of the 18th and 19th centuries, by artists such as Sharaku, Harunobu and Kiyonaga, donated from the Grabhorn Ukiyo-e Collection; 25 major Korean sculptures, paintings and textiles acquired with funds from the Koret Foundation and the Korean Art and Culture Committee; and more than 300 modern and contemporary works in both the mediums and styles of the international avant-garde and in traditional mediums and neotraditional (or subverted neotraditional) styles. Highlights of the acquisitions discussed here are on view in the exhibition ‘Sights Unseen’, which continues at the Asian Art Museum until 25 March 2007.
Lily Garden, No. 15, by Zhu Wei (b. 1966), 1999. Ink and colours on paper, 223 x 110 cm. Gift of the Yiqingzhai Collection, 2004.25
Zhu Wei's paintings record events of China's past and present in a form similar to a personal diary layered with idiosyncratic touches. His mixture of a traditional Chinese garden setting and sophisticated composition techniques gives a sense of peering into a hidden, enchanted world. This large work is made of a thick, fibrous paper, which the artist textured by setting on an incised stone plate before he applied colour. He adjusted the textures according to the mood he wished to convey, lending the painting the look of aged silk. Zhu Wei received informal training in art as a child. In 1982 he joined the People's Liberation Army and graduated from the Art College of the People's Liberation Army in 1989. He left the army in 1992 and established his own studio in Beijing, where he currently resides.
Women dressing their hair by Kitagawa Utamaro (1754-1806), 1790s Oban, colour woodblock print, 38.1 x 25.4 cm. Signature: Utamaro hitsu, publisher: Uemura Yohei. Gift of the Grabhorn Ukiyo-e Collection, 2005.100.74
In this print two women are depicted totally preoccupied in dressing their hair. The print shows a complex and most original design with the two figures positioned against the plain yellow background. Their engrossed attitude is intensified by the opposing directions their figures bend. Utamaro's work is an indication of the changing lives of people, especially women, in the second half of the 18th century in Japan. For example, everyone was fascinated by the new glass mirrors that showed their faces so clearly; before then, the Japanese used only dim bronze. Ukiyo-e print artists discovered that they could create interesting compositions by depicting their women looking into mirrors, because their faces could be multiplied by reflections.
Ceremonial vessel in the shape of a phoenix. Chinese, Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Bronze with silver inlay, gilded copper inlay and painted lacquer, 29.5 x 21.6 x 11.4 cm. Museum purchase, 2003.11
This vessel presents issues typical of the study of later Chinese bronzes. Technical factors, such as the use of lacquer to simulate patina, indicate that it was created during the Ming dynasty. However, the piece is copied from an illustration in the woodblock-printed catalogue of ancient bronzes collected by the Song dynasty emperor Huizong (reigned 1101-1125). The illustration this piece is based on is identified as having been created during the Western Zhou dynasty (approx. 1050-771 BC). Although the inlaid motifs of curls, birds, and mythical creatures covering the surface of this vessel are indeed similar to those of Western Zhou examples, neither the inlay technique nor this vessel's shape existed during the Western Zhou. The vessel illustrated in the Song catalogue was no doubt fabricated during Huizong's lifetime. In short, this piece was modelled on a more than 500-year-old woodblock illustration of a fabrication of what was thought to have been a 3,000-year-old vessel.
Scripture of the Hidden Talisman (Yinfu jing) in standard script (kaishu) by Chu Suiliang (596-658). Album, ink on paper, 25.4 x 34.9 cm. The Yeh Family Collection, f2002.49.1
Calligraphies have long been among the art works most sought after by members of China’s educated elite. Criteria used in determining the relative value of a piece included the quality of the calligraphy, the content of the piece, its age, the fame of the artist and the importance of the collections to which the piece had belonged. This version of the Taoist text Yinfu Jing bears the characters for the signature of a famous 7th-century calligrapher, along with colophons, the earliest of which is dated 916; together these elements reveal a fascinating history of being collected at the highest level. Yinfu jing can be translated as ‘Scripture of the Hidden Talisman’. Said to be a revelation from the Yellow Emperor, it begins to appear in textual references in the late 500s. It presents a view of the grand cosmic order, in very obscure language. This version consists of 461 characters arranged in 96 columns on 24 leaves.
A gathering of scholar-officials. Korea, Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), 1576. Hanging scroll, ink and colours on silk, 86 x 79.4 cm (image). Acquisition made possible by Koret Foundation funds with additional funding from the Connoisseurs’ Council, the Moon Art Foundation, and an anonymous donor, 2005.74
Gatherings of elderly scholar-officials were a traditional subject of commemorative paintings (gyehoe-do) in Korea. Like group photographs, multiples of this kind of painting were produced by the court painters and distributed to the participants, who would keep the paintings as honoured memorabilia. Gyehoe-do paintings consist of three parts: the title of the specific gathering in seal script on top, a depiction of the gathering in the middle, and at the bottom a list of participants. (The bottom section of this particular painting has been lost.) Conforming to the style of 16th-century gyehoe-do paintings, this work presents figures of scholar-officials and entertainers on a hill; the figures are rendered very small, with the landscape dominating the composition. This painting is significant in two ways. First, it is dated 1576; few paintings survived the 1592 Japanese invasion. Second, it has an unusually detailed rendering of palatial buildings, showing three entrance gates and two archery grounds, as well as a landscape in the style of the great 15th-century court painter An Gyeon.
Heirloom textile. India, Gujarat state, c. 1325-1405. Cotton, 94 x 431.8 cm. Museum purchase with exchange funds from the gifts of Avery Brundage, Ed Nagel, Mr and Mrs John Bunker, Elizabeth Fullerton Crocker and various other donors, 2004.81
This heirloom textile, with a repeated design of a woman and her attendants, was produced in Gujarat for the Indonesian market. It was collected in the Toraja region of Sulawesi, one of the Sunda islands of the Indonesian archipelago. Precious textiles from south Asia were exchanged for rare spices, and other forest and sea products along the centuries-old trade routes of southeast Asia. The cloth is block printed and resist-and-mordant dyed on hand-spun cotton. The design, repeated over two registers, depicts an elaborately dressed woman with a parrot, accompanied by attendants. Above the figures are parasols and geese. The subject as well as the drawing style relate to the Jain painting tradition of western India. Remarkably, this piece has been carbon-dated to the 14th century, establishing that it is older than textiles of a similar type found in India.
Nandishvara and Mahakala. Indonesia (central Java), 700-900. Andesite, 78.7 x 30.5 x 20.3 cm. Acquisition made possible by Joan and M. Glenn Vinson, Jr., and Richard and Kim Beleson; with additional funding from Forrest Mortimer, Hok Pui and Sally Yu Leung, Jean and Lindsay MacDermid, and Robert L. Speer; and with exchange funds from the gifts of Avery Brundage, Ed Nagel, Mr and Mrs John Bunker and Elizabeth Fullerton Crocker, 2004.30.1-2
These two door guardians (dvarapala) most likely date from the 8th or 9th century, when small square and cruciform temples were constructed, often on scenic hilltops, around the volcanic plains of central Java. Guardians would have been placed in niches on either side of the door to the temple, protecting the entrance to the sanctuary of the god Shiva. The more benevolent Nandishvara is seen here on the left, standing in front of a trident and holding a small flower in his right hand, while the fiercer Mahakala leans on a large club with his wild hair flaring behind his head. Early central Javanese sculptures with established provenances are extremely rare; it is rarer still to see a matched pair of statues in such good condition.
The Shimmering of Heated Air (Kagero-) by Sho-no Sho-unsai (1904-74), 1969. Bamboo, rattan, and metal, 34.9 x 35.6 cm. Lloyd Cotsen Japanese Bamboo Basket Collection. 2006.3.836
Although seemingly reminiscent of the constructivist sculptures of Naum Gabo or Antoine Pevsner, this work was made independently by a Japanese artist working in Oita Prefecture on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. Unlike its European counterparts, the sculpture eschews industrial materials (with the unusual and rather daring exception of metal feet) and instead relies entirely on native madake bamboo and split rattan - highly demanding mediums that require decades to master. The Shimmering of Heated Air (Kagero), considered one of the great masterpieces of 20th-century bamboo art, was made by Sho-no Sho-unsai, the first bamboo artist to be designated a Living National Treasure by the Japanese government. This work is part of the Lloyd Cotsen Japanese Bamboo Basket Collection, a group of nearly 900 works donated to the Asian Art Museum in 2006, which has thus become the largest public collection of Japanese bamboo art in the world.
Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. Mongolia, 18th century. Gilded bronze, cold gold and semiprecious stones, 86.4 x 33 x 17.8 cm. Gift of the Connoisseurs’ Council and museum purchase, 2004.19
The harbinger of a new age, Maitreya awaits his final rebirth as a Buddha in Tushita, his ‘Heaven of Joy’. Maitreya is among the most important deities in Mongolia, where Buddhists follow the Gelugpa Order of Tibetan Buddhism. His images are brought out in the Maitreya Festival, held annually on the New Year, during which it is believed he will bring a bright future to Mongolians. Here Maitreya’s raised right hand holds the stem of a lotus that carries a wheel, the symbol of the Buddha’s doctrine. The lotus in his left hand supports a sacred vessel whose water washes away defilement and bestows immortality.
Manuscript with scenes of combat from the Ramayana, central Thailand, c. 1800-25. Pigments and gilding on paper, 22.2 x 49.5 cm. Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.9
The epic Ramayana, composed in India more than 2,000 years ago, was known in southeast Asia from early times, and continues to be popular. Its origin in a Hindu context has not prevented it from being revered by people of other religions in both south and southeast Asia; Buddhist kings of Thailand have often included ‘Rama’, the name of the virtuous royal hero of the epic, in their names. In the 19th century, carved or painted episodes from the Rammakien, the Thai version of the Ramayana, frequently decorated temple walls, manuscript cabinets and even silver vessels. The epic also provided many stories for courtly dance-dramas. This manuscript, of illustrations without text, shows groups of heroic and demonic figures in hand-to-hand combat. Their costumes, postures and gestures strongly resemble those of dance-drama performers. A closely related manuscript in the Thai royal collection is now kept at the National Library, Bangkok.
The Hero Rustam Kills the White Demon, from a manuscript of the Shahnama (Book of Kings). Iran, perhaps Shiraz, c. 1580. Colours on paper, 25.1 x 20.6 cm. From the Collection of William K. Ehrenfeld, md. 2005.64.162
Rustam, identified here by a tiger skin coat and a helmet in the form of a tiger’s head, is a great hero in the Shahnama, the national epic of Iran. In its text Rustam is said to possess great strength, be protected by magic, and symbolise Persian honour and virtue. This book, composed by the poet Ferdowsi around 1000, tells the history of ancient Persia from the creation of the world until the country’s conversion to Islam in the 600s. Because of its literary importance, the Shahnama has been illustrated many times throughout Persian history.
Personal Space by Jayashree Chakravarty (b. 1956), 2001. Mixed media on paper, 247.0 x 975.4 cm. Acquisition made possible by Jay and Marshalla Yadav. f2003.5
Chakravarty has created a dreamlike rendition of inner space that is part quaint countryside and part urban chaos. Made of layers of patches and strips of paper pasted together to form a large scroll, the work simultaneously inhabits realms of painting and sculpture. In keeping with its subject, pathways and navigation, the double-sided composition is suspended and curled into a three-dimensional work in such a way that viewers can either walk around or thread their way through it. Attempting to navigate the landscape, viewers encounter streets that flow like rivers through sets of houses and mountains, at times circling into oblivion. Using street signs with names such as ‘Self Esteem’ and ‘Continuity Road’ - with the mapped streets leading in ambiguous directions - Chakravarty charts a course of alienation and confusion typical of modern existence.
This article was prepared by present and former members of the curatorial staff of the Asian Art Museum. Korean art: Kumja Paik Kim and Sung Lim Kim; Japanese art: Yoko Woodson and Melissa Rinne; Chinese art: Michael Knight, Li He and Pauline Yao; Himalayan art: Terese Bartholomew; South and Southeast Asian art: Forrest McGill, Natasha Reichle and Bindu Gude. The photography is by Kaz Tsuruta.
《太上感应十五号》，朱伟（1966-）创作，1999，水墨，223 x 110厘米。怡情斋，编号2004.25。
《仕女梳妆图》，北川歌摩（1754-1806），1790年左右创作，彩色木版画，38.1 x 25.4厘米，签名“歌摩笔”，出版人Uemura Yohei。葛雷朋浮世绘收藏会捐赠，编号2005.100.74。
凤形礼器，中国明代（1368-1644），铜银合金镀金彩绘漆，29.5 x 21.6 x 11.4厘米。博物馆自购，编号2003.11。
褚遂良（596-658）所抄《阴符经》楷书，水墨册页，25.4 x 34.9厘米。叶家族捐赠，编号f2002.49.1。
《文官相聚图》，朝鲜，朝鲜王朝（1392-1910），1576年作，卷轴，水墨绢本，86 x 79.4厘米（图画部分）。柯罗特基金会、月亮艺术基金会的鉴赏家委员会、以及某匿名捐赠者的慷慨捐赠。编号2005.74。
家传织物，印度，古吉拉特邦，1325-1405，棉，94 x 431.8厘米。在布伦·戴奇、爱德·纳戈尔、约翰·邦克夫妇、伊丽莎白·富勒顿等数位捐赠者的外汇基金资助下，博物馆的自购品。编号2004.8.1。
《欢喜天和摩诃迦罗》，印度尼西亚（爪哇中部），700-900，安山岩，78.7 x 30.5 x 20.3厘米。在格伦文森夫妇、贝勒森夫妇的资助下，购买此件作品成为可能，其它资金资助来源有福雷斯特·莫蒂默、梁氏夫妇、麦德美夫妇、罗伯特·斯佩尔，以及埃弗里·布伦戴奇、埃德·纳戈尔、邦克夫妇、伊丽莎白·富勒顿的外汇基金。编号2004.30.1-2。
《发光的热气（阳炎）》，生野祥云斋（1904-74），1969。竹、藤、金属制品，34.9 x 35.6厘米。劳依德·柯特森的日本竹篮藏品。编号2006.3.836。
《弥勒 未来的佛佗》，18世纪，镏金铜、冷金、半宝石，86.4 x 33 x 17.8厘米。鉴赏家委员会馈赠，部分为博物馆购买，2004.19。
《罗摩衍那》手稿，附战争绘图，泰国中部，公元1800-25，纸本设色洒金，22.2 x 49.5厘米。多丽丝公爵慈善基金会东南亚艺术收藏部捐赠，编号2006.27.9。
《英雄鲁斯坦杀死白魔》，出自《波斯王书》手稿，伊朗或伊朗设拉子，公元1580，纸本上色，25.1 x 20.6厘米。威廉·埃伦费尔德赠，编号2005.64.162。
《个人空间》，Jayasharee Chakravarty（1956-），2001年作品，纸上混合媒材，247.0 x 975.4厘米。在杰伊和玛莎拉·亚达夫的资助下收购，编号f2003.5。
本文由亚洲艺术博物馆评论家协会成员及前成员共同撰写。他们是韩国艺术部的Kumja Paik Kim和Sung Lim Kim；日本艺术部的Yoko Woodson和Melissa Rinne；中国艺术部的Michael Knight、Li He和 Pauline Yao；喜马拉雅艺术部的Terese Bartholomew；东南亚及南亚艺术部的Forrest McGill、Natasha Reichle和Bindu Gude。摄影师为Kaz Tsuruta。