Monday, October 5, 2009

Upcoming at the Asian: Emerald Cities: Opening October 23, 2009

The Asian Museum is working hard to put together their next show titled “Emerald Cities.” and it looks to be (as always) a gorgeous exhibit. The pieces are part of a collection amassed by the former tobacco heiress, Doris Duke. During a honeymoon tour to Southeast Asia in 1935, she became fascinated with the regions’ culture. In later life, she gathered countless antiques and artworks on her worldwide excursions and assembled notable collections of Islamic and Southeast Asian art.

Head of a Buddha image. Approx. 1800. Thailand; Wat Phra Chettuphon, Bangkok. Stucco. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S84+Courtesy Asian Art Museum

Largely housed at Duke Farms in a converted coach barn, her collection eventually comprised more than 2000 artworks and other objects including woodcarvings, furniture, traditional costumes, weapons, theatrical masks, and musical instruments as well as utilitarian household utensils and pottery. Other items were stored in an indoor tennis court and an indoor shooting gallery. When I attended the press preview of upcoming exhibits at the Asian, the gentleman presenting the slide show remembered his excitement and wonder when he first opened the door to the “Barn” and saw the building filled, floor to ceiling with exquisite works, rare, unseen by the public in a decade and utterly priceless.

 King Nimi is carried through the heavens on a divine chariot, a scene from the Nimi Jataka. Approx. 1875–1925. Thailand. Paint on cloth. Gift of Dr. Sarah Bekker, 2008.78

After Doris Duke’s death in 1993, her Southeast Asian art collection became the responsibility of the trustees of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. After careful consideration, the trustees decided that Doris Duke would have wanted the objects to be shared with the public, and approved a plan to donate the collection to appropriate museums. The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore received the largest donations. In total, the foundation donated nearly 700 objects to some twenty museums across the US and abroad.

 Lidded offering container. 1800–1925. Thailand. Lacquered wood with mother-of-pearl. Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.105.A–B

Before donating the collection, the foundation commissioned a book by Dr. Nancy Tingley, formerly a curator at the Asian Art Museum, to document the history and significance of the collection. The book, Doris Duke: The Southeast Asian Art Collection, is available in the museum store and can be downloaded free of charge from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s web site.

Via their blog and links to their uploaded lectures on iTunes, the Aisan Art Museum is also educating people about Burmese history.There is a wealth of information available at the Asian web site, including pieces on two reformer kings of Thailand and Burma, maps, architecture and art work and of course, opening dates and ticket prices.
All images courtesy of the Asian Art Museum

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