Sunday, March 13, 2005


Asian art gallery's ship has come in

By Charles J. Adams III
March 12, 2005

Thanks to a donor's generosity, the Sackler and adjoining Freer galleries at the Smithsonian house one of the most important collections of its type in the world.

The first exhibit you see as you pass through security at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution looks more like archaeology than art.

Make no mistake, though, it is art. As the gallery catalog explains, it is “a meditation on interconnections between the life of the artist and historical links among Asian cultures.”

The artist is Cai Guo-Qiang, and the art is the stark, dark, splintered skeleton of a sunken Japanese fishing boat mired in a massive pile of gleaming white, smooth Chinese porcelain cups, saucers, bowls and figurines.

In place until April 24, “Reflection” represents the trade routes from Asia to other points on the globe.

More than that, the 48-year-old Chinese artist said the contrast of the boat and the cargo is a compelling visual image. And, that spilled cargo includes broken “Guanyin,” a Buddhist sacred being.

“It is a risky image,” Cai said. “I grew up worshiping Guanyin's image.”

But, when he visited a ceramic factory where the statues are made, he noticed broken and rejected Guanyins and imagined how they might figure someday in a work of art.

The resulting, stunning installation graces the street-level gallery at the Sackler. The bulk of the treasures there are buried in the subterranean chambers and corridors that connect it to the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, which also features Asian and Near Eastern art. Together, the Sackler and Freer museums hold one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world including, of course, Asia.

Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987) was a physician and medical book publisher from New York City who endowed the Smithsonian with $4 million to build the gallery and 1,000 works of Asian art to fill it. It opened in 1987.

Employing seductive lighting in the warren of underground rooms, the designers of the Sackler have created a tranquil sanctuary where those treasures may be contemplated.

The gallery does not remain staid and stale. Several special collections and international loan exhibitions are placed there regularly, and the permanent collection is continually replenished.

The most recent addition is the Vever Collection of 11th- to 19th-century Islamic prints, arts of villages in India and contemporary Chinese ceramics.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?