Archive for 'General'

Happy Lunar New Year!

Red Envelope - Year of the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year! It’s Year 4712, the Year of the Horse.

Pick up a snazzy red envelope this weekend at the Asian Art Museum during our free Target Sunday. The envelopes contain discount admission tickets good for a future visit. We’ll have a limited quantity on hand, so get them while you can! Then enjoy our day of Lunar New Year festivities, including acrobatics by Red Panda Acrobats.

Can’t make it? Keep an eye out for us at the Chinatown Community Fair or visit us at the museum on Feb 15 or 16.

All-too familiar catastrophic art

Lower garment and shoulder cloth depicting the tsunami of 2004

Lower garment and shoulder cloth depicting the tsunami of 2004, 2006-2007, by Mila Sungkar (Javanese, born 1960). Silk. Acquisition made possible by Mr. and Mrs. M. Glenn Vinson, Jr.

Seven years ago the museum acquired a remarkable textile from the Indonesian island of Java. Made by the artist Milla Sungkar, the cloth depicted her reaction to the devastating tsunami of 2004. After seeing images of the completely inundated province of Aceh in North Sumatra, and hearing about the more than 170,000 people killed by the tsunami, she expressed her grief in a batik textile depicting the catastrophe.

Lower garment and shoulder cloth depicting the tsunami of 2004

Lower garment and shoulder cloth depicting the tsunami of 2004, 2006-2007, by Mila Sungkar (Javanese, born 1960). Silk. Acquisition made possible by Mr. and Mrs. M. Glenn Vinson, Jr.

Nine years have passed since Aceh and neighboring regions in South and Southeast Asia were ravaged by that earthquake and tsunami. Yet images like the one depicted on this textile are still familiar. In the years since Aceh, we have seen the devastation from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and more recently, from typhoons in the Philippines. In November of 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines) became the strongest cyclone ever to hit land in recorded history. Over 6000 people died in the Philippines alone, and thousands more were left injured and homeless.

As has become all too clear, global warming is a factor in the increased intensity and frequency of super storms. A few days after the typhoon, in a remarkable speech at the United Nations climate talks in Warsaw, the Philippine delegate Naderev Saño spoke for the people of his country and around the world urging global leaders to take substantive and meaningful action on global climate change. He spoke with tears streaming, still not knowing the fate of all of his own friends and relatives. Milla Sungkar conveyed her anguish through art; Naderev Saño through this speech.

Let us hope they are heard.

Newly on View: Shinohara “Boxing Painting”

Shinohara's boxing painting

Boxing Painting, Feb. 16th, 2009-A, 2009, by Ushio Shinohara (Japanese, b.1932). Acrylic on canvas. Gift of Collette and Peter Rothschild.

There’s something new in the Japanese art galleries. Take the escalator to the second floor, turn right, and then right again through the door—you’ll see a large abstract painting of irregular circles and drip-lines, created by punching a canvas with boxing gloves dipped in paint. Beside it is a big hanging scroll in ink on paper depicting Daruma, the first patriarch of Zen Buddhism.

Bodhidharma (Daruma), 1911, Nakahara Nantenbo (Japanese, 1839-1925). Ink on paper.

Bodhidharma (Daruma), 1911. By Nakahara Nantenbo (Toju Zenchu; Japanese, 1839-1925), Meiji Period (1868-1912), Hanging scroll; ink on paper. Museum purchase.

Why are these two side by side? What unites them is the forceful application of paint or ink—so forceful that in each case the medium splashes and splatters around the site of impact. Separated by 100 years, both works celebrate the uncontrolled, messy edges of art-making.

It might be interesting to know that both Ushio Shinohara, the New York-based artist whose “Boxing Painting” is on the right, and the Zen monk Nakahara Nantenbo, who painted our Daruma, often create (or created) their work in front of live audiences. The performative aspects of these works—the drama of the paint or ink hitting the surface, the spontaneous pattern that emerges in that moment, and the suspense of seeing the artists’ next moves—are as important here as the finished product.

View the video installed on a tablet next to Shinohara’s “Boxing Painting” to get a feel for the power, rhythm, and velocity of the artist’s attack on the canvas. You can also view this movie trailer that features Shinohara and his wife.


Taking Action After Typhoon Haiyan

Our hearts go out to those impacted by the horrific and devastating Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda). The reports are appalling enough to potentially stun some of us into saddened inaction. However, it’s now easier than ever to come together and lend a hand to our fellow brothers and sisters.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are several resources on how you can help, such as the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and Asia Society Philippine Foundation, Inc..

The New York Times has compiled a list with a link to GuideStar (an organization committed to nonprofit transparency), which outlines its “expert-recommended” agencies to assist with informed charitable decision making. These are merely suggestions for getting started, because at times like this, it’s all hands on deck.

IDCA Awards: Silver!

You may recall that we were finalists for the IDCA awards for our Lost Warrior campaign and our website. Well, the results are in, and we received silver in both categories.

Congratulations to the winners: Paris 3D in the website category and Pablo Picasso vs Marcel Duchamp at Moderna Museet in the Exhibition Communication category. It was an honor to be up against such great projects.

Thanks again to our amazing team:  Carbon Five, who designed and built the website; JVST, who built the Lost Warrior site; Calvin Kai Ku, who made the lost warrior come to life; our senior management team, who supported both these projects; and of course our remarkable marketing department.


Our Crush

You guys, we have a secret: the Asian Art Museum has a total crush on JVST.

Ok, here’s the story: JVST is this digital design firm who came to visit us a while ago. They took a look around and thought we were cool enough to visit again. In fact, they were so hella intrigued that the next thing is they called us up to ask if they could do projects for the museum! I know, right? We were like, “Yes! Hells yes.”

So then they made our gorgeous Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy page (which is the exhibition that starts next week). (PS The website features Dae Advertising’s handsome image, and we are muy simpatico with Dae, but we digress.)

Anyways the point is that we think JVST is so rad and SO HOT.  Whenever we have a meeting with them, we can’t even wait to see the genius new plans they’ve thought up. Ok, we’ll be honest: just thinking about them gives us butterflies, seriously.

But we don’t know if they dig us like that too, is the thing. Except just listen to this:  they sent us a CAKE today, you guys! Just because we happened to mention it was our birthday. Which: wha???? And here’s a picture of it (don’t mind our dirty fingernails).

We have two words for you: Salted. Caramel.

K, so now here’s the question: do you think they’re into us? Because we totally hope so!

Chinese Calligraphy: What’s the Point?

It was a Friday night at my house, and to celebrate I was watching hit 1970s British period drama Upstairs Downstairs. Suddenly, a scene unfolded that reminded me of our upcoming Chinese Calligraphy exhibition and my confusion about the whole thing. Let me tell you about it.

I’ll set the stage: we have Mr. Hudson, a servant and strict adherent to the Victorian era’s hierarchical social values. And then there’s one Thomas—young, handsome, iconoclastic and, significantly, a chauffeur of motor-cars. When the two meet, sparks fly!

One day, Mr. Hudson is hunched over at the table, writing inexplicably with ink and quill. Just then, Thomas comes in from an afternoon drive, takes off his motor-car gloves, and peers over Mr. Hudson’s shoulder. “What’s this?” he asks.

“It’s handwriting,” answers Mr. Hudson in an imperious tone, “something of a hobby.”

“Handwriting! That’s very nice,” Thomas says. “What sort of stuff do you write, apart from Christmas cards?”

Mr. Hudson, a little flustered, replies, “What do I write? Well, I copy out passages from newspapers.”

“Copy!” says Thomas. “What’s the point?”

Which is what made me think of our Calligraphy show and my original question about the thing: what’s the point?

But where Thomas was right, I was wrong, as I’ve since discovered. Chinese calligraphy often reproduces poems that already exist, but it’s not a craft as with Mr. Hudson’s handwriting. It’s something abstract and amazing, once you get it: each character is an image in itself, and each style unique to the calligrapher. Seeing Guernica for the first time, you might not know its name, but you’ll know it for a Picasso. (Speaking of which, guess who was mad into Chinese calligraphy? Yes, Picasso.)

A lot of the museum’s materials on Chinese calligraphy emphasize the rigorous discipline of the art. That of course is important and interesting to some, but whatever—just think about making each letter of a poem a masterpiece in itself, so that beautifully written takes on a double meaning. One final thing: you know what else is beautiful to look upon? Thomas of Upstairs Downstairs. Just sayin.

Staff Picks: Daughters of Mara

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

Daughters of the demon Mara, 1470-1480. Burma; Ajapala's temple, Pegu. Glazed terracotta. Museum purchase, B86P14.

Daughters of the demon Mara, 1470-1480. Burma; Ajapala’s temple, Pegu. Glazed terracotta. Museum purchase, B86P14.

Head of Publications Tom Christensen, whose most recent book is 1616: World in Motion, selected this relief of the daughters of Mara.

Tom Christensen

As the father of two young women, I was interested in the story of Mara’s daughters and their devotion to their father, which inspired this poem.




Sympathy for Mara

Mara’s daughters were bad girls
perhaps but they were loyal
daughters, not hesitating
to tempt the meditating
Buddha with their arsenal
of wicked tricks and come-ons:
hey Daddy want to have some fun

After all their dad was God
of Death and Desire and how
cool is that compared to dry
as dust Siddhartha pointing
to the earth like some old fart
ascetic all ribs and bones
radiant and luminous
no doubt but not so much fun
for goodtime girls like Mara’s

The Buddha had enlightenment
but he didn’t have daughters

Phantoms of Asia: Art Everywhere

We’ve wrapped up week two of the Phantoms of Asia installation (read about week one here) and a crazy week it has been. Because this exhibition encompasses the entire museum, the install team has had the challenge of juggling simultaneous installation in several galleries at once.

Phantoms of Asia Curator Mami Kataoka surveys "Mountain Gods" (2011) by Aki Kondo, being installed in the Tateuchi Thematic Gallery.

Tateuchi gallery was the first major transformation. The brilliantly colored walls of Deities, Demons, and Dudes with ‘Staches have given way to a contemporary white space exploring the theme of sacred mountains.

Read more

Maharaja Final Weeks: Best Times to Visit

We’re about to say farewell to Maharaja: the Splendors of India’s Royal Courts, so of course the galleries are getting crowded. If you’re anything like me, you’re kicking yourself for leaving it so late and trying to balance your desire to see the show before it closes against your fear that you won’t enjoy it because there will be too many other latenicks crowding the art. Well, we’re here to help you out.

If you have a flexible schedule, Tuesday morning is a great time to come. It’s our quietest period, so you may even have some galleries to yourself. We’re open from 10 am; grab a coffee from Ma’velous on Market St and then wander over for a morning of art.

Of course, Tuesdays are quiet for a reason—most of us are working. That’s why we open late Thursdays. Come down after work and enjoy discounted entry ($10 gets you in to Maharaja) from 5 pm to 9pm. Afterwards you can grab a bite to eat in Little Saigon; we’re fans of the phó at Turtle Tower, just a couple of blocks away on Larkin St.

If you don’t mind crowds and you don’t want to blow your budget, Target Free Sundays are the way to go. Thanks to Target, on the first Sunday of every month we offer free general admission, with Maharaja only $5. It can get busy so we recommend coming in early. One of our visitors suggests breakfast at Brenda’s (which also gets mighty crowded), followed by a stroll down the hill to the museum. Our last Target Sunday before Maharaja closes is April 1, so put it in your diary now.