Archive for 'Collections'

3D printing for everyone

A few months ago I got an email from a young entrepreneur with a product to push.

As you can imagine, I get a lot of unsolicited emails trying to sell the museum products and services. I’ll be honest with you—most of them just get deleted. But this one stood out. Will Drevno had something we couldn’t ignore.

I replied right away.

Now we have the privilege of being one of the first users of the Dreambox. It’s a 3D printing vending machine. Cool doesn’t even begin to describe this.

The Dreambox team installing the 3D printing vending machine.

The Dreambox team installing the machine.

The team at Dreambox have taken a consumer-level 3D printer and modified it for use in a vending machine context. The printer sits in a plexiglass case, so you can see it working. Using a tablet interface, visitors can purchase the model that just printed. We’re offering models of objects from our collection; at the moment there are just two, but we’ll be adding more soon.

This is a trial for us and for Dreambox. They’ve had a machine on campus at Berkeley for a while, but this version is their first production model. That means they’re tweaking the interface and the models as they go along, making changes based on observation and visitor feedback. As you’d expect with a new piece of equipment, things don’t always go exactly to plan, but the Dreambox team is on call to sort out customer issues.

For us, we’re building on what we learned in our earlier Scanathon, where we had artists photograph objects from the collection to create 3D models. We’re interested in how our visitors might want to use these objects; taking them home is one option.

So next time you’re at the museum, stop by and check out the machine in South Court, near the store. Maybe buy yourself a little Nandi, or just watch it print for a while. And tell us what you think. We’re all learning from this one.

After a Night Rain

Chen Xianzhang, After a Night Rain.

After a Night Rain by Chen Xianzhang, 1428–1500. China. Ink on paper. Museum purchase, B68D6.

Our librarian John recently translated a poem from a work in our collection. Below is the original Chinese text and his beautiful English translation; above is the calligraphy. We hope you enjoy it.

陳獻章  : (雨夜後詩)

蒼山收雨鵓鳩靈

曉雨松花對曉晴

風日醉花花醉鳥

竹門啼過两三聲

 

After a Night Rain

—-Chen Xianzhang

When it rains in these blue-green hills

The pigeons become ghosts:

(unseen,

unheard).

Yet,

When sparkling-dry daybreak comes

& the pines and flowers,

alike,

Greet the brilliant dawn,

Then

The birds, like the flowers, flutter

Drunkenly

In the brilliant breeze,

Even now,

I hear their cries penetrate the

Bamboo gate.

A Model Week: 3D Scanning at the Museum

 

Model of Nandi the Bull printing on a MakerBot 3D printer

Model of Nandi the Bull printing on a MakerBot 3D printer.

UPDATE: The event was featured this week in Wired.

This week we embarked on an exciting new technological journey. Along with friends from Autodesk and the MakerBot community, we hosted a 3D Scanathon at the museum.

What on earth does that mean? Well, because this is the future, it’s possible to take 3D scans of objects using ordinary things lying around your house. Like your phone. Autodesk recently released the iPhone app of 123D catch, a free application that allows you to create digital 3D models using photos. That means you can make a 3D model in minutes; it’s perfect for a museum like ours, because we allow photography in our collection galleries, phones are small and portable, and you can’t use flash photography to create the scans. So on Monday and Tuesday, a group of artists and (let’s face it) geeks came to the museum and photographed obejcts. They then uploaded the images to 123D Catch, which gives you back a nice 3D model (don’t ask me how that bit works).

Now, that’s super fun. But the next bit is really cool. Because if you have a 3D printer, (like one of these) you can print those objects. I mean literally print a physical object. I know, right? The models are made from ABS plastic (what Legos are made from) or other plastic filaments. The printing process can take a while; our larger models were printed overnight, taking about 11 hours. The little Nandi pictured printed in about half an hour on our friend Gian Pablo‘s MakerBot, which he kindly brought in for the second day. Nandi the Bull is featured on MakerBot’s Thingiverse, a place where artists and other enthusiasts can share their models, and use models to create new things (like the iPhone 4 case Christian from Autodesk made for our chief curator).

Christian holding the iPhone case next to Scene from the epic Ramayana: Kumbhakarna battles the monkeys

Christian with the iPhone case next to the original lintel, which depicts a scene from the epic Ramayana: Kumbhakarna battles the monkeys.

So what’s next? We’re hoping that artists will create remixes of our objects, as they did when the Met held a similar event earlier in the year. We want to scan more objects (and heopfeully our visitors will download the app and scan some, too). And after that, who knows? It’s limited only by our imagination. Well, ok, there are a few technical limitations. Still. Next time you see someone wearing one of those “where is my jet-pack?” t-shirts, point them at a 3D printer.

 

Staff Picks: Violent Offerings

In this occasional series museum staff introduce you to their favorite object in our collection. We rotate our galleries every six months, so we’ll have fresh picks when new objects go on view.

Cabinet for storing offerings, 1700-1800. Tibet. Painted wood. Museum purchase, 1997.17.a-.c.

Cabinet for storing offerings, 1700-1800. Tibet. Painted wood. Museum purchase, 1997.17.a-.c.

Facilities Manager Erik Cline has a penchant for the grotesque, which I guess is why he chose this Tibetan cabinet.

Erik Cline

Why do I like this object? Nothing too high-minded or intellectual here; just your average offerings cabinet decorated with flaming skulls,
intestines, flayed skin, severed limbs, eyeballs, and an ocean of freakin’ blood!

Staff Picks: Ritual Wine Vessel

In this occasional series museum staff introduce their favorite works from our collection. We rotate our galleries every six months, so we’ll have fresh picks as new objects go on display.

Ritual wine vessel (the so-called Yayi jia), approx. 1300-1050 BCE. China, Henan province. Bronze. The Avery Brundage Collection, B61B11+.

Ritual wine vessel (the so-called Yayi jia), approx. 1300-1050 BCE. China, Henan province. Bronze. The Avery Brundage Collection, B61B11+.

Our librarian John Stucky goes with one of our outstanding Chinese bronzes: John Stucky, librarian

This huge object is so overwhelmingly powerful it awes me every time I walk by it. It’s a tour de force of the ancient Chinese bronze caster’s skill. Few things in human history have been created that have as much potency as these ancient bronzes.

Staff Picks: Achala Vidyaraja

In this occasional series, museum staff introduce their favorite pieces from the collection. We rotate works in our galleries every six months, so we’ll have a fresh batch of picks when new objects go on display.

The Buddhist deity Achala Vidyaraja (Fudo Myoo), 1100-1185. Japan. Colors on wood. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S146+.

The Buddhist deity Achala Vidyaraja (Fudo Myoo), 1100-1185. Japan. Colors on wood. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S146+.

Anita DeLucio of Facilities tells a great story about this depiction of the Buddhist deity Achala Vidyaraja (Fudo Myoo in Japanese).

Anita

During an event at the museum, I saw a young man dressed all in black, his bare arms covered in tattoos, standing in front of this sculpture. He glanced at the deity and then at his arms, noticing similarities in design between a sculpture that was more than nine hundred years old and the ink that had been painfully etched onto his skin. His arms had flames similar to those behind the deity. This moment in which centuries, cultures, and design collided is one of my favorite memories since I’ve worked here at the Asian.

Staff Picks: Friendly Duck

In this occasional series, museum staff introduce their favorite works from the collection. Objects in our galleries are rotated every six months, so we’ll have a fresh set of picks when new things go on view.

Vessel in the shape of a duck (detail), approx. 200-300.  Korea; ancient region of Gaya. Earthenware. The Avery Brundage Collection, B63P13+.

Vessel in the shape of a duck (detail), approx. 200-300. Korea; ancient region of Gaya. Earthenware. The Avery Brundage Collection, B63P13+.

Larry Oliver

Larry Oliver from admissions chose this darling duck from our Korea galleries.

This charming piece shows how a seemingly simple object can convey the friendly nature of a living creature.

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Picks: The Mughal Cup

In this occasional series, members of staff introduce you to their favorite pieces in the museum. We rotate the works in our galleries every six months, so we’ll have a fresh set of picks each time new objects go on display.

Cup with nineteenth-century French fittings, 1650-1750. Northern India or Pakistan. Nephrite, enamel, gilding, silver, and garnets. The Avery Brundage Collection

Cup with nineteenth-century French fittings, 1650-1750. Northern India or Pakistan. Nephrite, enamel, gilding, silver, and garnets. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60J961.

Idit Agam from our store chose this Mughal cup:

Idit, museum store

My first reaction coming upon this piece was to laugh at the audacity of whoever decided this delicate little cup, with its meticulous raised floral design, needed the “improvement” of gilded silver fittings and a few garnets here and there, but I love it as a tangible reminder that the histories of the empires of Europe and Asia are not easily teased apart.

 

 

Fish, Food

Carp Shaped Hanging Basket,  Lloyd Cotsen Japanese Bamboo Basket Collection.

Dootsu Toshosai, Carp Shaped Hanging Basket, Lloyd Cotsen Japanese Bamboo Basket Collection

I have worked at the Asian Art Museum for over 20 years and there are several objects in the galleries that I never get tired of looking at. In the Japanese gallery—way at the end by the tea room —we always have a beautiful collection of bamboo baskets from the Cotsen Collection on display. The baskets get changed out every 6–8 months and I look forward to seeing the new selection each time. At the moment this area is especially interesting because  the tea room objects have been selected by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, and one of the contemporary pieces from Phantoms of Asia has found its way in there.

Section of dried salmon. Transfer from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mr. Ney WolfskillIf you wander a ways down the Japanese gallery to the case full of diminutive netsuke (the sculptural toggles used to attach pouches to a kimono),  look for this fish with amazing details including actual fish skin.

White Miso Glazed Trout from Nojo, Hayes Valley.This usually makes me hungry for Japanese food, so at lunch time I walk over to Nojo on Franklin St in Hayes Valley for some White Miso Glazed Trout or their delicious noodles.

 

 

Art and Science: Shrine of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

We tend to think we see everything about an object when we look at it with our naked eyes. This gem-encrusted shrine from Nepal is a great example. Above, you see the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in a miniature shrine, with two attendants on either side. From amidst a sea of swirling filigree elements, they emerge from two dimensions into three as bodhisattvas literally made from gems.

At first you might think that the large colored stones might be rubies or sapphires. But the color of many of these stones is an illusion—they are simply transparent quartz crystals with colored foil placed behind them. And if you look at the shrine from the side, you can see how the illusion works.

However, the redness of the many small ruby-like stones on the plaque is no illusion. But are they really rubies? Ultraviolet photography reveals the truth: many of them glow yellow instead of red, which shows that they are foil-backed crystal. The real rubies glow red under UV light, and as you can see these gemstones have been strategically placed in the crowns of the two side figures. There are also real rubies in the parasol at the center of the shrine, and in the eyes of the makara, or mystic crocodile, who occupies the summit of the shrine. The rest are just rock crystal.

UV image of the shrine of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

UV image of the shrine of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

Exactly why the artist chose rubies in certain locations and crystal in others remains a mystery. Were these side figures more ‘sacred’ than the others? Or was the artist concerned with symmetry rather than any specific meaning?

While we can’t be sure about the rubies, we do know something about some of the other stones here. Red coral, for example, symbolizes the sun, and it turns lavender under UV light. Turquoise, for its part, turns pale blue under the UV light; in Tibetan medicine, this stone is thought to purify the blood and remove toxins from the liver. It is also seen as an index of health: the bluer and clearer a piece of turquoise, the better the health of its wearer. From this perspective, the shrine incorporates medical powers into its structure. And why not? After all, the central figure is Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist figure who protects believers from all fears.

As museum researchers continue to examine this shrine and others like it in the collection, we’ll share our findings with you. But in the meantime, stop by the museum and examine this shrine in person. Who knows what details you’ll discover.