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Asia-Related Exhibitions in
Greater Boston and New England
Boston Children's Museum
Trains of Willpower and Kindness Carrying Hope to the Future
Boston Children’s Museum recently announced the opening of “Train Train”, an exhibition created by the student members of the Art Thinking project team at Tohoku University of Art & Design in Japan.
Art Thinking is a research based project of Minatsu Ariga and her team at Tohoku University of Art & Design in Japan. The project asks “How do we use art in our life?” and explores art as a way for children and adults to develop their imaginations, problem solving skills, creativity, and resiliency. Art Thinking chose to use the special power of art to connect with many friends after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in their hometown in March 2011.This is their fifth annual international friendship project bringing their art exhibition and hands-on activity programs to Boston.
“This is an exhibition of storytelling, imagination and friendship making a connection through art,” said Akemi Chayama, Japan Program Manager. “It is quite fitting for Boston Children’s Museum to host this art and friendship exhibition in the space next to the Japanese House which is another symbol of international friendship. We hope that this exhibition will create a space which encourages us to be curious to learn about the world and to build knowledge and skills to become impactful global citizens.”
The exhibit uses “trains” as storytellers and welcomes Museum visitors to reflect on their lives through exploring the stories. Where is your train going? What is your train story like? Is it romantic, dynamic, fun, gentle? Trains connect us and lead us to our tomorrow. Museum visitors are invited to share their own train stories.
Museum visitors can explore trains as a symbol of determination and kindness. Trains are not quitters, and they keep moving forward every day whether in the rain, in the wind, against the summer heat, or against the winter snow. Trains often remind us of the importance of hard work, patience, and determination. Trains carry many things including people, and trains help them reach their destinations. Trains remind us of the importance of generosity and compassion for all humanity and the earth in which we live.
The installation is scheduled to run through September 10.
For additional information visit BostonChildrensMuseum.org
Harvard Art Museums
A New Light on Bernard Berenson: Persian Paintings from Villa I Tatti University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
This focused exhibition features illustrated Persian manuscripts and detached folios that were collected in the early 20th century by Harvard alumnus Bernard Berenson (1865–1959), the famous American art historian and connoisseur of Italian Renaissance painting. Berenson prized these works at his home in Florence, Villa I Tatti, which he bequeathed to Harvard and which now serves as the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. The exhibition offers the first opportunity to see these works outside Villa I Tatti.
Works in the exhibition are grouped according to the style in which each was created between the 14th and 17th centuries in Iran and Central Asia. Berenson’s important 15th-century Timurid manuscript will be displayed in an unbound state as part of an ongoing conservation and rebinding process. The show will also include additional related works from the Harvard Art Museums, the Morgan Library and Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. These works were collected by close associates of Berenson who shared his enthusiasm for Persian painting, at a time when this area of art was gaining considerable prestige among collectors.
The exhibition sheds important new light on Berenson’s little-known and understudied Persian collection, highlighting current research from various scholars on Berenson’s collecting interests and the artistic and cultural significance of the objects.
Curated by Aysin Yoltar-Yildirim, Assistant Curator for Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Harvard Art Museums.
This exhibition is supported in part by the Sydney Freedberg Director’s Fund.
Information about related events, including a Materials Lab Workshop on Islamic papermaking on March 8, an Art Study Seminar on April 28, a series of gallery talks, and an Art Study Center Open Hours session dedicated to the museums’ history of collecting and exhibiting Persian art, can be found on our calendar.
Stories related to A New Light on Bernard Berenson can be found in the museums’ Index magazine. Click on the “exhibition” tag at magazine.harvardartmuseums.org.
Adorning the Inner Court: Jun Ware for the Chinese Palace , University Teaching Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
The Harvard Art Museums hold the largest and finest collection in the West of a rare and strikingly beautiful type of ceramic ware used in the private quarters of the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace in Beijing. These numbered Jun wares—so named because each is marked on its base with a single Chinese numeral—have long been admired for their fine potting, distinctive shapes, and radiant purple and blue glazes. Opinions on these vessels’ dates of origin vary widely, and given the scarcity of numbered Jun in most museum collections, a comprehensive study of this unusual ware has never been undertaken outside the imperial collections in China and Taiwan.
Drawn entirely from the museums’ permanent collections, this exhibition introduces the typology, technical characteristics, collecting history, and controversies surrounding numbered Jun ware. It features approximately half of the museums’ 60 numbered Jun, all of which were given to Harvard in 1942 by Boston-area collectors Ernest B. Dane (Harvard College Class of 1892) and his wife Helen Pratt Dane. This exhibition marks the 75th anniversary of the Danes’ extraordinary gift of nearly 300 Chinese ceramics and later jades. It is also the first focused exhibition of their unique collection of palace Jun ware since it came to Harvard.
The exhibition is complemented by an online resource that provides further contextualization of Harvard’s entire numbered Jun collection. The Numbered Jun Ware Special Collection introduces this remarkable ceramic ware and explores its many complexities through descriptive summaries of its typology, technical characteristics, controversies, and collecting history, accompanied by a selection of representative images.
Curated by Melissa A. Moy, the Alan J. Dworsky Associate Curator of Chinese Art at the Harvard Art Museums.
The exhibition and online special collections feature are funded in part by the Gregory and Maria Henderson Fund and by generous support from Terry and William Carey.
Information about related events, including gallery talks in English and in Mandarin Chinese, can be found on our calendar.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Conservation in Action: Demons and Demon Quellers
July 29, 2017 – February 4, 2018 in the Asian Painting Gallery (Gallery 178)
Watch as the Asian Conservation Studio restores a 12-foot portrait of the mythological demon queller Marshal Xin, a general of thunder, dating back to China’s Ming dynasty and on view to the public for the first time. Marshal Xin was an impressive figure in Daoism, the popular belief system in imperial China, with powers to control ghosts and spirits, summon thunder and rain, and avert evil. The MFA’s 16th-century portrait may have once hung in a county government temple for use in ceremonies to protect all local citizens.
The six-month conservation treatment involves dismantling and reassembling the entire work—a complicated construction in which the painting and mount form an inseparable unit, unlike most Western paintings and their frames. Conservators will also restore the painted image and original silk support. Visitors can observe the elaborate process unfold, and, at times, interact with conservators at work.
The hanging scroll is surrounded by other works depicting demons and demon quellers, including an important 15th-century Chinese handscroll featuring the deity Erlang and his army battling mountain demons who have taken the form of beautiful women, as well as a Korean painting that shows demons tormenting sinners in the Buddhist hells. Japanese demonology is represented with paintings and prints that include the 19th-century hanging scroll Night Procession of the Hundred Demons.
The video Mr. Sea (2014) by Beijing-based artist Geng Xue will be screened in the gallery, showcasing how traditional tales of demons and ghosts continue to influence contemporary culture. This animated film, featuring blue-and-white porcelain figures, recreates a supernatural adventure from Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, a famous 18th-century collection of ghost stories.
For an in-depth look at this conservation project, see Conservation in Action.
China’s 8 Brokens: Puzzles of the Treasured Past
June 17, 2017 – October 29, 2017 in the Lee Gallery (Gallery 154)
The first-ever exhibition dedicated to bapo (or “eight brokens”) painting, a revolutionary artistic genre that emerged in China during the mid-19th century
Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture, and bapo refers to the damaged cultural ephemera hyper-realistically depicted in the paintings—worm-eaten calligraphies, partial book pages, burned paintings, remnants of rubbings and torn-open letters. They are usually arranged in a haphazard, collage-like composition, created with Chinese ink and colors on paper or silk. When bapo emerged, this unexpected imagery was radically distinct from classical Chinese landscape and figure painting, and became popular among an aspiring urban middle class delighted by its visual trickery and sophistication. After 1949, the art form was largely forgotten, but has recently been rediscovered by contemporary artists and collectors. The rediscovery of bapo has prompted curators to now decipher the puzzle of the meaning of the images. This exhibition presents some of the finest examples of bapo paintings dating back to the 19th century, as well as a contemporary work by artist Geng Xuezhi, and includes new acquisitions and loans from museums and private collections located in the United States and Asia. They are interspersed with three-dimensional decorative and functional objects that display bapo imagery.
An Enchanted Land: A Century of Indian Paintings at the MFA
April 10, 2017 – January 7, 2018 in the Corridor between Islamic Gallery and Huntington Lobby (183)
“An Enchanted Land” celebrates the centennial of the MFA’s collection of Indian art with a display of some of the most extraordinary examples of Indian painting anywhere in the world. Made in the Rajput kingdoms of North India between the 17th and 19th century, they represent a type of art that was totally unknown in the West when they entered the Museum’s collection a century ago. Even in India, Rajput painting was then little recognized.
This exhibition celebrates 100 years of Indian paintings at the MFA, highlighting the contributions of the figure who brought them to Boston, and to the attention of the world: Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877–1947). Curator at the Museum from 1917 until his death in 1947, Coomaraswamy collected these paintings during his travels in India and sold them to MFA benefactor Denman Waldo Ross. A pioneering philosopher and historian of Indian art, Coomaraswamy was also a staunch nationalist, working to end British colonialism in India and elsewhere. He put Rajput painting forward as a proto-national art form of the highest quality, a visual manifestation of what he called “the great ideals of Indian culture.” For him the struggle for independence was nothing less than a fight to keep these ideals alive.
The end of colonialism in India has reframed the ways we approach the study of Indian art, but many of Coomaraswamy’s observations and arguments about Rajput painting remain incisive. The works on view in this exhibition—organized around his own words, reflecting some of his keenest insights—also retain their power and their ability to delight.
New Women for a New Age: Japanese Beauties, 1890s–1930s
December 10, 2016 – August 20, 2017 in the Japanese Print Gallery (Gallery 278A)
Examine the changing image of Japanese women though prints, book illustrations, and photographs made in Japan from the 1890s to the 1930s. During this crucial period of rapid modernization, traditional ideas of ideal beauty and behavior intermingled with imported styles and concepts. Arranged in roughly chronological order, the exhibition begins with ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the late Meiji era (1868–1912) and postcards that include both photographs and artists’ depictions. A recent gift of kuchi-e prints—color woodblock frontispieces for books of the early 1900s, usually romantic fiction—makes up the exhibition’s core. Shin hanga prints from the 1910s and ‘30s depict beautiful women in both traditional and modern styles.
These works can be interpreted in several ways: as glamorized reflections of the lives of Japanese women during a time of rapid social change; as idealized expressions of heterosexual male desire; and as metaphorical images of Japan itself, with the young women standing in for their entire country and its search for national identity.
Presenting the New Japan
Opened May 13, 2017 in the Walter Ames Compton, MD Gallery (Gallery 280)
After more than 200 years of national seclusion, Japan opened its ports to foreign trade and soon after—with the ascension of Emperor Meiji as the leader of the government in 1868—embarked on a campaign of modernization and Westernization. This new installation in the Art of Japan gallery re-examines a broad spectrum of works created during this time of cultural exchange. Featuring 90 objects drawn from the MFA’s own renowned holdings along with private collections, the installation centers on paintings and decorative arts by Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891), who understood international markets. His lacquerware, scrolls and folding screens combine traditional Japanese techniques with Western formats and were highly sought after by European and American collectors, as well as members of Japan’s new mercantile class. The gallery also features groups of objects that have rarely been displayed together. Until recently, works that were produced for the Western market, such as intricately decorated metalwork and lacquerware, were snubbed in Japan as “export art.” Meanwhile, objects that were made for Japanese audiences, such as paintings with traditional formats and themes, were largely ignored by Western collectors. Bringing these works together shows the influence, both at home and abroad, of artistic dialogues between Japan and the West during the Meiji era.
Showdown! Kuniyoshi vs. Kunisada
August 11, 2017 – December 10, 2017 in the Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery (Gallery 184)
Rival artists Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) and Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1864) were the two best-selling designers of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan. Kunisada was the popular favorite during his lifetime, famous for realistic portraits of Kabuki theater actors, sensual images of beautiful women and the luxurious settings he imagined for historical scenes. Kuniyoshi is beloved by today’s connoisseurs and collectors for his dynamic action scenes of tattooed warriors and supernatural monsters—foreshadowing present-day manga and anime—as well as comic prints and a few especially daring works that feature forbidden political satire in disguise. The exhibition presents a selection of 100 outstanding works, drawn entirely from the MFA’s preeminent Japanese collection, including large, multi-sheet images in brilliant color. Viewers are invited to decide for themselves which of the two artists is their personal favorite.
Black and White: Japanese Modern Art
September 30, 2017 – June 3, 2018 in the Japanese Print Gallery (Gallery 278A)
Centered around a newly acquired, large-scale calligraphy by Inoue Y?ichi (1916–85), this exhibition showcases a selection of avant-garde works in the monochrome aesthetic shared widely in Japan and beyond during the postwar period. This sensibility is rooted in Zen Buddhism, which values simplicity and austerity, and remains influential today. The works in the exhibition are the results of transnational exchanges between Japanese artists like Inoue and their American Expressionist contemporaries, including Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock, who drew inspiration from Asian calligraphy for their gestural paintings. Among the nine works on view are prints, ceramics and sculpture, primarily drawn from the MFA’s collection.
Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics
October 18, 2017 – April 1, 2018 in the Ann and Graham Gund Gallery (Gallery LG31)
Contemporary works by Takashi Murakami, one of the most imaginative and important artists working today, are juxtaposed with treasures from the MFA’s renowned collection of Japanese art. The exhibition reveals how Murakami’s contemporary vision is richly inflected by a dynamic conversation with the historical past, framed by a creative dialogue with the great Japanese art historian, Professor Nobuo Tsuji. Together, Murakami and Professor Tsuji have chosen the objects on view in the exhibition, including paintings and sculpture created by the artist in direct response to Japanese masterpieces from the MFA’s collection, such as Soga Sh?haku’s 36-foot-long Dragon and Clouds (1763), and the Heiji Scroll (second half of the 13th century)—one of the most famous Japanese works of art outside of Japan.
Peabody Essex Museum
All the Flowers are for Me, On view May 20, 2017 to December 3, 2017
Persian and Turkish architecture, textiles and miniature paintings inspire the precise, stylized floral forms that compose Anila Quayyum Agha’s sculptural chamber of light and shadow. This luminous installation provides an opportunity to contemplate the differences and commonalities that shape our lives and relationships. Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, and now living in the US, Agha is acutely attuned to the social codes that inform the lives of Muslim women and all immigrants. She describes this work as her effort to create a sense of how women can reclaim and safely open up private space to welcome others.
In the early 20th century, Indian artist viewed the village as the true locus for India’s identity, distinct from that of the British colonial cities of Calcutta, Bombay and New Delhi. By mid-century, India had gained independence and its cities were replenished with all kinds of people fulfilling their dreams. In the cities, the drive toward modernity co-existed with the enduring presence of the spiritual in unexpected ways.
This installation includes paintings from PEM’s Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection. Images of confrontation, hope, fracture and change traverse shifting grounds rich with contradictions.
Explore PEM’s superlative Chinese export art collection — the most comprehensive and celebrated collection of its kind — through nearly 30 selected works, including furniture, paintings and decorative objects. Created by Chinese artists in the 18th and 19th centuries for European and American markets, these works display a mastery of material and form that made them the most coveted luxurious items of their day.
Come and experience the liveliness of a drinking party, the opulence of a royal wedding and poetic evocation of spring on a delicate dish. With more than 30 highlights from the museum’s wide-ranging Chinese collection spanning 3,000 years, this exhibition celebrates China’s artistic achievements crystallized in seasonal festivals, religious ceremonies and celebrations. Discover plants and animals, myths and symbols and decipher the Chinese character for “Double Happiness.”
New Art Center
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Wen-hao Tien’s installation, Weed Out, is the result of her hunt for traces of wilderness in the city, namely, plants that normally go unnoticed — or, if noticed, are usually pulled out or mowed over. These plants are weeds, considered by many to be unsightly nuisances.
For this installation, Tien transplanted weeds from across New England into a living sculpture, which will continue to grow and change throughout the exhibition. An audio recording of words from various languages sheds light on linguistic habits that align with the treatment of weeds. These “weed words” have jumped from one dialect to another, just as many plants flourish in unexpected places, and are valued quite differently depending on both the location and the viewer.
What are “pure” words and plant species, versus “invasive”? How do powerful forces such as migration, rejection, and assimilation affect cultural norms as well as the natural world? Tien’s installation invites viewers to dwell on these questions by interacting with the growing sculpture. Tien will regularly supply more “weeds” to an interactive installation, which visitors can weed-in or weed-out, as they wish.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Wen-hao Tien is a visual artist, educator, and Assistant Director of Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies.
Initially growing up in Taiwan, Tien later moved to the United States to pursue graduate studies. Her studio artwork focuses on language and translation, and explores culture and identity through a unique cross-cultural lens. She is also known for her contemporary Chinese calligraphy and painting.
A long-time Cambridge resident, her professional background includes 15 years working in the Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS) community. Tien holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University and is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts at Lesley University’s College of Art and Design.
For more information, download New Art Center’s Weed Out press release here, or visit New Art Center’s exhibition page here.
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University
All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology
On April 22, 2017, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology celebrated its 150th anniversary year by opening All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology. Unveiled within a beautifully restored 4th floor gallery, this new exhibition features an astonishing array of over 600 objects from Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, many on display for the very first time. Together they are woven into a compelling narrative tracing the early history of the museum’s collections and the birth of American anthropology as envisioned and shaped by the museum’s second director Frederic W. Putnam.
Visitors enter the world of a late 19th-century museum and are transported into the midst of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition where Putnam and the Peabody presented their anthropological vision and collections to a wider world. The exhibits display remarkable and historically significant items including the dog sledge of Arctic explorer Admiral Robert Peary, exotic materials traded and collected by 18th-century Boston ship captains, and stunning archaeological works of art excavated from Ohio’s Turner Mounds. The Peabody Museum is pleased to open its doors and collections to the 21st-century public and invite them to be immersed in the fascinating story of a Victorian-era museum’s rise alongside the then-emerging field of American anthropology.
War is a persistent attribute of human cultures through time, and weapons are crafted with a practical, and deadly, intent. Nearly as pervasive as war itself, is the practice of decorating objects used to wage it. Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures is a new Peabody Museum exhibition that presents the varied beauty and craftsmanship of war objects drawn from cultures around the world. From maces, clubs, daggers, and spears, to shields, helmets, and entire suits of armor, this exhibition offers museum-goers more than 150 striking examples of weapons that are also extraordinary works of art.
What would compel a warrior to deliberately imbue his weapon with beauty that stands in such stark contrast to its intended purpose? And why are war objects so much more common and elaborately decorated than those crafted for peace-making? Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures probes intriguing questions, unveils the stories behind some of the most stunning war objects ever created, and explores the passion and purpose of the people who made them.
Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures opens to the public Saturday, October 18 at 9:00 AM at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, Mass. It will remain on view through 2017.
Curated by Steven LeBlanc, Ph.D., archaeologist and Director of Collections (retired), Peabody Museum.
Reusable Universes: Shih Chieh Huang features the work of Shih Chieh Huang, who combines his longstanding fascination with technology and the materials of modern life to transform mundane manufactured objects into novel and remarkably complex sculptural forms. Huang elevates circuit building, transistor rewiring, and other hardware operations into an art that connects not only with our senses but our sense of humanity between today’s virtual and analog existence.
At the Worcester Art Museum, Huang plans to create his most ambitious immersive environment to date—a kinetic sculptural installation consisting of over one hundred various-sized elements. In addition to the exhibition, the artist will create onsite his Organic Concept, an infinitely scalable sculpture made from rolls of painter’s plastic and box fans. The creation will be a public performance in the Museum lobby on July 20, 2017. Afterwards, Organic Concept will be temporarily installed in the Renaissance Court.
Reusable Universes resonates with the spirit of innovation and curiosity that continues to ground Worcester today. Huang’s art also will provoke the viewer to consider society’s rapidly changing relationship with technology. By constructing grand works of “low-tech” art made from high-tech parts that are intentionally built to look unfinished, Huang endeavors to recapture the curiosity and wonder of early technology that will inspire visitors to likewise experiment and build anew.
Renaissance Woman in Asia: Florance Waterbury and Her Gifts of Asian Art
Painter, world traveler, collector, and noted Chinese art scholar describe the diverse roles and interests of Florance Waterbury. Rising to prominence with a 1922 one-woman show in New York as a still-life painter, many of which depicted Southeast and East Asian objects she collected during her travels, her fascination with Asia slowly transformed from its visual forms to its art historical study. With the publication of her important study on Chinese ritual bronzes in 1942 Waterbury became a recognized scholar. During this time she began giving several gifts to the Worcester Art Museum, many of which helped shape the Museum’s early Chinese art collection. This exhibition includes a selection of Asian paintings she gave to the Museum.