Archive of Posts by Nicole Harvey

I'm a bookie. But not the kind that does good maths. I help run the book department for the Asian Art Museum's Store. Yes, it is very glamorous and no, I haven't read every book. Apart from occasional missives via the internet, I take a lot of photographs, try to be a good listener, and occasionally make some art. I respond well to criticism, but better to cups of tea.

Your Handy Dandy Holiday Gift Guide

If you’re still working on your holiday shopping, make our museum store the ultimate destination. Our wonderful wares are as diverse as their price tags, so you’re bound to find the perfect gift for the special people in your life. Here are some ideas for your gift giving needs:

Get Cozy

Who doesn’t like a warm pot of tea?  Brew a single serving with inlaid celadon (delicate, pale green ceramic) teacups from Korea. Got company? Share with Chinese Yixing (clay) or Japanese iron teapots. Get the most out of your brew with books detailing the history and highly codified ritual that surround the noble camellia sinensis, or just learn exactly how long you should be steeping your oolong.

Books on tea shown, $16.99-$32.50
Tea vessels, $30+
Tea whisk, $18.00

Practice, Practice, Practice

Begin your Chinese instruction one stroke at a time: Buddha Boards and Chinese Character a Day get you just a little closer to your goal of mastering the art.  If you’ve practiced calligraphy, you’ll know your mistakes can add up.  With the Buddha Board, all you need is water—your less-than-perfect work will evaporate, leaving you with a clean slate.  Chinese Character a Day offers 365 days of education: the journey begins when you want to begin.

Buddha Boards, $12.95-$34.95
Chinese Character a Day, $16.95

Make Your Own Adventure

Stir up storytelling time with robots.  Build Your Own Paper Robots comes with a CD that allows you to print 2D paper into 3D mecha fun.  Great for older kids or anyone with engineering acumen.  For fans of readymade cubic construction, Monster Village Sets include over 90 blocks that can make mobile monsters (includes manga storybook/instructions, not for children under age 3).

Build Your Own Paper Robots, $9.98
Monster Village, $27.50

Shine and Sparkle

Dim days and long nights call for a little added brightness.  Calligraphic-inspired jewelry in rhodium-plated silver glows white-hot.  Next to platinum, rhodium is the hardest of metals, ensuring that these one-of-a-kind pieces won’t tarnish or corrode.


Whose Space? Our Space!

An unusual rotation is taking place in the Museum Store, one that re-imagines space and meaning, collaboration and inspiration, politics and culture.  It all sounds rather weighty and intellectual, but in fact is the start of a really good time culminating in our next MATCHA on Thursday, July 26. Thanks to Space Bi, Bay Area artists will be Taking Up Space.

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Gift Ideas for Dad

We all know dads are hard to buy for. Come Fathers’ Day, it seems like you’re choosing between something unexciting he needs, like socks, or something funny but superfluous that will end up forgotten in a desk drawer. This year, break out of the Father’s Day rut with something stylish, useful, and oh-so-manly from the museum store—we’ve got something for every kind of Dad.

Art Dad
Wataru Sugiyama sculpture of a dogWataru Sugiyama sculpture ($250)

This whimsical dog just arrived; we so want to take him to the park and throw a ball.





Beer Dad

Nambu cast iron bottle openerNambu bottle openers ($30-$45)

These chunky fellows won’t let Dad down when opening his beverage of choice, and they look great on the bar. A variety of designs are available.


Geek Dad

Earth Toy blocksEarth Toy interlocking blocks ($35.00+)

If Dad’s the type who’s always stealing the kids’ LEGO these are the way to go. Earth Toy blocks are made from natural ingredients such as cedar bark, coffee beans, and green tea, mixed with polypropylene. Their subdued palette makes them great for the office, too.



Wine Dad

Sugahara wine glassesSugahara glasses ($35-$70)

These beautiful Japanese stemless wine glasses are perfect for the dad with sophisticated tastes and a cellar to match. And we also have glasses for the whisk(e)y connoisseur.



Book Dad

If you want to go small and personal, Chin Music Press’ titles are a combination of art object and book, tactile but still great reading. The collection Kuhaku ($28.50) is an old favorite, but my first choice would be Todd Shimoda’s newest book, Subduction ($25.00) which combines science and philosophy in an intriguing mystery novel.

If you really want to impress an art dad, Phaidon’s massive The Art Museum ($200) is ideal. Compiling the entire history of art from cave painting to the present, it culls its source material from the best museums in the world (including ours). Not something you’d want to take on a bus, it’s as much a piece of furniture as book, clocking in at nearly 1,000 pages and almost 18 pounds.

My dad and I are much more likely to get into a conversation about imperialism and 19th-century politics, so Peter Hopkirk’s classic The Great Game ($18.00) is what I gave him a few years ago. This year I’m considering Dragon Fighter, the new autobiography from the Uyghur activist Rebiya Kadeer. Yeah, I think I get my history nerdism from him.

If you’re stumped for a present, drop by the museum store and take a look. The fact that Saturday is Members’ Day (double discount!) might actually reward your procrastination.

Brand new, you’re retro

I’ve an admission to make: I’ve been playing a little game, waiting for someone to call me out on the fact that I’ve placed a book of 17th century paintings in a section reserved for contemporary South Asian art.  But you’ve got to admit: on the surface, it’s not an easy call.

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Gifting with Purpose

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has visited the museum store that we undergo some fairly significant changes for each exhibition.  While visitors can usually expect to find Korean & Chinese ceramics, Southeast Asian textiles, antiques and oddities, as well as artist-produced goods from Asia and the Bay Area, exhibitions are an opportunity to show off cultural connections.
But this time around, we’re doing things a little differently.

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I Wayan Wija



Although you might guess that things around the Museum are winding down–we’ve less than a month of the Bali exhibition left–think again.

The rare opportunity to see noted puppet master I Wayan Wija brings an added benefit: Wija has brought a number of his puppets and miniatures, several of which will be available in the Museum Store through his Asia Alive residency, which runs until August 28th.

Current favorites include the frogs and lion (with wagging tail), and quite a few of the miniatures, which are essentially small, unmounted paintings done in the style of the wayang (puppets).

Ratih, the Balinese goddess of romantic love and lust...and everlasting pleasure

Ratih, the Balinese goddess of romantic love, lust, & everlasting pleasure

Unicorns: why not?
Beauty & self-esteem

And then there’s my personal favorite:

Because komodos in love are the best kind

If you can’t make one of the performances or talks, stop by the Museum Store to see the work of one of the world’s greatest living masters.

Language of Cloth: Behind the Scenes

cap from Asi's collection

When someone mentions Bali and Java, what do you see?  Some speak of impossibly verdant jungle broken by blue expanses of sea and sky, sharp-toothed deities in wood and stone, dancers dripping with gold ornament, the press of tourists.

Perhaps because I have never visited Indonesia, I tend to think of its art and craft, the dislocated souvenirs of Paradise.  Like the pieces on view in the galleries, they’re my link to places I may never visit, and so become microcosms of a word-of-mouth world.  But there’s one thing I don’t need imagination for, and that’s batik.

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It may be the year of the rabbit…

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In order to read a Chinese newspaper, around 4,000 characters must be committed to memory.  According to one of my favorite professors who spent time in China during the Open Door policy of the late 70s: “Give yourself about a dozen years to get a good grasp of it.”

Chinese, for anyone who has studied it, is a highly complicated language that requires a reader to quickly glean from the root (or radical) some piece of meaning.  Consider that every foreign concept that comes into China requires a new word.  The word for computer, then, is not computer, but closer to “electric brain.”  Try this link for a clearer breakdown of the process.

If this seems like a strangely digressive introduction of artist Xu Bing, who will be speaking at the Museum this Friday, maybe you don’t know Xu’s work.

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Naughty and/or Nice


Something I’ve noticed about the Zhang Huan sculpture in Civic Center: it serves as an excellent meeting place.  If you tell your friends to wait for you in Civic Center, they’ll often be found fifteen minutes later, standing in U.N. Plaza.  If you tell them to meet you next to the massive, multi-armed statue, there’s little room for error.
In case you weren’t in the neighborhood last Saturday, the sculpture in the plaza was the meeting place for several hundred participants of Santarchy (aka Santacon).  My thanks to everyone for making my Saturday, it never quite feels like the holidays until I see this thoroughly San Francisco phenomenon.

But make no mistake, although the event originated here, we don’t keep the fun for ourselves.  Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, Okinawa, Seoul–even Manama, Bahrain–all host their very own versions of Santarchy.  Hopefully no one got run over by any reindeer or naughty elves last Saturday.  Did anyone spot the Santas in the Museum on Saturday?