Archive of Posts by Cristina Lichauco

Assistant Registrar, Asian Art Museum

In with the new

June 31 is the end of the museum’s official business year, so over the past few weeks staff throughout the museum have been busy going over the happenings and accomplishments of the last twelve months. For registration, part of this has included checking that the year’s new acquisitions are in order.

Every year is a little different when it comes to acquisitions. Factors such as current art trends, the economic environment, and serendipity all interact with curatorial priorities and exhibition plans. But one thing I’ve noticed this year is an increase in the number of gifts of work by living artists. With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite such gifts from the past year.

The White Wild Kerria Rose, 2004 from the series Ceramic Representations From Natural History, By Sugiura Yasuyoshi (Japanese, born 1949), Stoneware with white, dark brown, and gold glazes; cloth texturing and carving, Gift of Paul and Kathleen Bissinger, F2009.15

The White Wild Kerria Rose, 2004 from the series "Ceramic Representations From Natural History", By Sugiura Yasuyoshi (Japanese, born 1949), Stoneware with white, dark brown, and gold glazes; cloth texturing and carving, Gift of Paul and Kathleen Bissinger, F2009.15

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Rotations make the museum go ’round

Ever since the doors to Lords of the Samauri opened, us behind-the-scene folk have received a lot of questions about what we’re working on now. As much as we would like to, we’re not just hanging around the gallery enjoying the show. At any one time, multiple exhibitions are in various stages of production, not to mention ongoing work with new acquisitions, loans, and the care of objects in storage. But at this particular moment what we’re really gearing up for is the rotation season.

“Rotation” has a pretty specific meaning here at the Asian Art Museum. It refers to the process of periodically removing all light-sensitive works from the permanent galleries and replacing them with fresh works from storage. Rotations occur approximately every 8 months and can involve switching up to 10% of the works currently on view. This particular rotation season is extra busy as we will also be rotating our two current exhibitions, Photographic Memories and Lords of the Samurai, for a total rotation of around 280 objects.

Framed prints waiting to go on view in the next Chinese gallery rotation

Framed prints wait to go on view in the upcoming Chinese gallery rotation

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A final peek behind the scenes

Lords of the Samurai officially opens today and already the ground floor buzz is strong. For those of us who work on bringing together exhibitions, it is always a little strange to walk into the galleries that we have spent weeks sequestered in and to find them full of crowds, conversation, and fearless children staring down suits of armor. Always the objects look a little bit different — like they were not fully alive until that first visitor walks through the door.

As we begin to move on to an assortment of other projects that have been patiently waiting in the wings, I thought I’d wrap-up our Samurai Behind-The-Scenes series  with a few photos that never quite made it to the blog, featuring a (very) small part of the incredible team of museum staff and distinguished visitors who helped make this show happen. Enjoy!

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Return of the nine-planets

Now that we’re done installing the exhibition Lords of the Samurai — opening this Friday (although if you’re a member of the museum you can sneak a peek on Thursday) — it’s time for us exhibition folks to take a bit of a breather and have some light fun.

In this spirit of fun and games, and as a follow-up to our popular Nine-Planet blog post, we now bring you a few more examples of the Hosokowa family crest as  found among the many objects now in the galleries.

Although frequently referred to as the “nine-planet” crest, according to Assistant Curator of Japanese Art Melissa Rinne this design actually derives from a concept in Indian cosmology known as the nine grahas  (see the Wikipedia entry here).

How many of these nine-planet crests will you be able to find on your next visit?

Nine-planets 2

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How to dress a Samurai

Have you seen our Samurai about town? If so, you’ve probably marveled at his costume and how complicated it is to put on.

The real suits of armor featured in Lords of the Samurai are even more complex.  Samurai armor consists of many pieces arranged to provide maximum body coverage without (ideally) sacrificing mobility. If you haven’t already checked it out you can learn about armor parts by visiting Know Your Armour on our Lords of the Samurai web page.

Lords of the Samurai features six suits of armor. Each one takes as much as a full day to assemble, largely due to the fragile nature of the centuries old materials.

The first step in installing a suit of armor is to unpack the individual pieces. Armor is transported disassembled, with each section carefully packed into a custom box with appropriate support and protective padding.

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The nine-planet hunt

As we unpack and condition check the numerous objects featured in Lords of the Samurai, one of our many small pleasures is spotting the ubiquitious nine-planet Hosokowa family crest. Can you spot a crest among the rolled paintings pictured below?

Can you find the nine-planet crest?

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Samurai on the way

From behind the scenes of Lords of the Samurai: Eisei-Bunko Museum director Jun’ichi Takeuchi and Asian Art Museum curator Melissa Rinne examine a carved lacquer tea container (chaki) featured in the exhibition.

Crazy crates

Walking into our exhibition staging area these days is a bit of a challenge. What used to be a vast open work space is now full of the distinctive dry sawdust scent of crates. Dozens of crates full of treasures, all lined up in neat rows or tucked into the odd corner with just enough space for a small person to shimmy between.
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Packing Samurai

Now that we have said our heartfelt goodbyes to The Dragon’s Gift, museum staff are busy preparing for the opening of Lords of the Samurai. The period between the close of one exhibition and the opening of another is often called a “dark period” but that does not mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes. Right now registration and conservation staff are undertaking the delicate task of preparing more than 160 objects for travel to the museum.

The Eisei-Bunko Museum is the home of the Hosokowa Family Collection. Many of the objects featured in Lords of the Samurai are kept here

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