Our own Senior Curator of Chinese Art, Michael Knight, will be giving a talk on the arts of the Yongle reign (1403-24) of China’s Ming dynasty. The Yongle (“Eternal Happiness”) emperor was certainly among the most dynamic of the Ming emperors, and also the most active in the arts. What cool things will you learn?
Archive of Posts by Dany Chan
Dany Chan is Assistant Curator for Exhibition Projects at the Asian Art Museum. She serves as curatorial coordinator for special multicultural exhibitions and performs curatorial duties related to the identification, acquisition, preservation, exhibition, and interpretation of a variety of Asian art objects.
Thanks to all who participated in this little word game. Actually, you guys are right on the mark! The characters read:
Take out the hairpin,
See the reflection of the stream.
Lie in bed with books around,
Wake up to comb hair, half drunk.
– Xu Bing
These lines are adapted from a Tang-dynasty poem by Yu Xuanji 魚玄機 (842-72) titled, “Curing Yourself of Lovesickness” 遣懷.
Contemporary art and high fashion have long been partners-in-crime. Browsing the September 2011 issue of Vogue, I was delighted to come upon contemporary artist Xu Bing 徐冰 in one of the editorials! Xu is pictured here with a modeled Calvin Klein Collection shift, which, in my opinion, is a perfect pairing of a master of line and form in fashion (Klein) with a master of line and form in calligraphy (Xu). In fact, we are hoping to have Xu participate in our upcoming Chinese calligraphy exhibition (so, fingers crossed!).
In the third episode of season one of Star Trek: The Next Generation, titled “Code of Honor,” Captain Picard welcomes the Ligonian leader, Lutan, aboard the Enterprise. In the two screenshots below, we see Picard presenting, as a welcome gift, a clay horse sculpture of ancient China:
Picard identifies the sculpture as a Song-dynasty work of the 14th century (Data corrects him, claiming the 13th century). However, both of them are off the mark. According to my professional eye, this glazed horse should be from the Tang dynasty (618-907)–it is a quintessential Tang horse. Compare it with this one in the collection of the Asian Art Museum:
Notice the similarities in the glazing colors and the robust form of the horse. The horse was a prized animal in China, especially in the Tang dynasty when it represented the power and might of the empire. The Tang empire is considered to be a golden era in China’s history both in culture and in the military. So it makes sense that Picard would gift the noble Tang horse to Lutan, but I blame the writers of this episode for not having done their homework. They should have visited the Asian Art Museum!
Historically, many battles have been fought over the body of the woman. So we knew that the images of Chinese women presented in the Shanghai exhibition would be a hot topic of discussion. Interestingly, the most passionate reactions expressed by the public have been focused on a group of images that have these two characteristics:
- The images were for commercial use, and
- The majority of them date to the 1920s and 1930s.
I am curious to understand why that is. So in this multipart series (I don’t even know how many blog postings I will need!), I will attempt to make connections that may have been missed or misread, using the artworks and the available texts in the exhibition, such as object labels, wall panels, and exhibition catalogue. But right off the bat, I must say, I am having fun with this topic and it is an incredible challenge!
Within the first day of the opening of the Shanghai exhibition on February 12, 2010, a public engagement of unexpected proportions with the art on display began. Individuals have been writing up a storm on comment cards, comment books, news articles, and online blog postings that expressed their emotional responses to the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the exhibition material. Added to the writings are lots of verbal feedback in various conversations with visitors, stimulating interesting buzz around the museum. I do not want to miss out on this exciting community discussion! This blog series, A Curator’s Notes, is where I will contribute my two cents on, and inside knowledge of, the controversial issues and hot topics presented in Shanghai at the Asian Art Museum.
Nanjing Road in Shanghai has been compared to Fifth Avenue in New York. In the 1920s and 1930s, it was the mercantile and commercial hub of the city. As I was strolling along through the now pedestrian-only street, I got a nice surprise: I realized that I was standing at the exact same intersection that has been pictured in this 1930s poster that will be in the exhibition Shanghai:
After having looked at this poster for the past six months, the image has been burned into my memory. So, with this image in mind, I sought to take pictures of the same frame.
During my recent trip to Shanghai, I became somewhat obsessed with this figure of Hai Bao, the official mascot of the World Expo 2010 to be held in Shanghai in May 2010. Hai Bao’s name can be translated as “Shanghai Baby,” and he appears all over the city (both in Puxi and Pudong) on billboards, shop posters, and bus advertisments, just to name a few.
Punch, or the London Charivari, was a popular British magazine of humour and satire (1841-2002) that gained an international reputation for two things: 1) writing with wit and irrevance, and 2) using cartoons and comics to take on world politics and society during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The magazine had served as a model for Shanghai’s most popular, and historically most important, illustrated newspaper in the late 1800s, the Dianshizhai Pictorial (1884-1898), and Punch‘s renowned cartoons also influenced the development of Chinese cartooning that experienced a “golden age” in 1930s Shanghai.