THE BIG PICTURE
3 MILLION VISITORS, AND GOING STRONG The museum’s 10th anniversary at Civic Center ended auspiciously when we welcomed our 3 millionth visitor(s). Jeff and Mashi Johnston arrived at the museum with their son Zak (aged 5) on Dec 31 to participate in our 28th Annual Japanese New Years Bell Ringing Ceremony. The family from Berkeley was heralded with noisemakers, confetti and good cheer from other visitors. Jeff and Mashi were thrilled. Mashi said, “Zak is just beginning to learn about his Japanese heritage,” making their visit even more meaningful. Young Zak was uncomfortable being in the limelight—until he saw the enormous chocolate cake waiting for him and his parents to carve up and share with museum guests. By the time it was his turn to ring the bell, he was really feeling the auspicious energy. Now on to our 4 millionth visitor. n
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4 22 SPRING 2014 • VOL. IV, ISSUE I The Asian Art Museum Magazine
MAGAZINE STAFF Jay Xu, Ph.D., Director, Asian Art Museum David Owens-Hill, Creative Director, Brand Amy Browne & Jason Jose, Graphic Designers Kazuhiro Tsuruta, Museum Photographer Editorial support provided by Diablo Custom Publishing (www.dcpubs.com)
FROM THE DIRECTOR JAY XU Happy New Year! Fresh off our holiday programming, I wish you and your family a healthy and prosperous 2014—the Year of the Horse, which, according to tradition, is marked by speedy victories and unexpected romance. But before we get too excited, let’s take a moment to say goodbye to a thrilling 2013, our 10th anniversary at Civic Center. 2013 ended auspiciously with the welcoming of our 3 millionth visitor to the museum. Check out “The Big Picture” on the previous page to learn more about this proud milestone.
Published by the Asian Art Museum Chong Moon-Lee Center for Asian Art & Culture 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 415.581.3500 • www.asianart.org • email@example.com Copyright © 2014 Asian Art Museum
MUSEUM HOURS: Tues–Sun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 AM–5 PM Thurs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 AM–9 PM Mon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Closed The museum will close early to the public on the following dates: Wed, Feb 19 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Closing at 4 PM Thurs, March 13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . Closing at 7 PM Fri, April 25 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Closing at 4 PM Visit www.asianart.org for additional closings and special hours.
beginnings and resolutions aimed at self-improvement. This makes it the perfect time to welcome Yoga: The Art of Transformation, opening February 21. This major exhibition features more than 130 masterpieces of sculptures, paintings and other media illuminating the beliefs and practices of various yoga traditions. On page 6 of this issue, the museum’s associate curator of South Asian art, Dr. Qamar Adamjee, talks about how the exhibition goes beyond poses and delves into yoga’s obscured history, explaining the evolution of the practice into a global phenomenon. Keeping with the spiritual bent, Jeff Durham, our assistant curator of Himalayan art, writes on page 12 about how the museum’s Tateuchi Gallery will be transformed into a physical mandala (a geometric Buddhist meditation map) for the new special exhibition Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism. This mindbending show—featuring 15 artworks from the museum’s collection—opens on March 14. This period of new beginnings is also marked by the arrival in early March of Dr. Pedro Moura Carvalho, the museum’s new deputy director of art and programs (see page 3). Pedro will help guide our vision of presenting exhibitions and programs that stimulate discovery, discussion and excitement. Hopefully, in the spirit of the Year of the Horse, his work will speedily win your hearts and excite your minds. Once again, Happy New Year! n
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Cover: Babur and his retinue visiting Gor Khatri, page 22b from a manuscript of Baburnama (The Book of Babur), 1590s. India; Mughal dynasty. Opaque watercolor, gold and ink on paper. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, W. 596.
Victory and romance aside, the New Year is always a rousing time of joy and celebration. It’s also a period signifying change, new
INTERESTING GOINGS-ON FROM INSIDE THE ASIAN ART MUSEUM, THE BAY AREA AND AROUND THE WORLD
Image courtesy of Xuan Canxiong
2 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
READ ALL ABOUT IT! GENIUS AT WORK Long fascinated with the written word, acclaimed Chinese artist Xu Bing (winner of a MacArthur Fellowship—popularly known as “genius grants”) continues to demonstrate his fascination through a new publication, one that, oddly enough, contains no written words at all. Xu, whose video animation The Character of Characters was included in the museum’s 2012 exhibition Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy, has published Book from the Ground: From Point to Point, a 128-page fictional narrative told entirely through marks and symbols that Xu has collected from around the world. Because the book’s story—a day-in-the-life account of a simple businessman— is told through symbols, anyone—no matter their native tongue or reading skills—can decipher the context. Genius, indeed. n
ON A HIGHNESS NOTE Have you seen the museum store’s plush stuffed rhino, modeled after the famous ancient Chinese bronze rhino in the museum’s collection on view in Gallery 14? Well, the plush one has been serving as a goodwill ambassador with its abundant cuteness. We sent one of the adorable items to Kensington Palace as a gift to Prince George, the newborn child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We received a very nice thank-you note from the palace on behalf of the young man who is currently third in line to the British throne. Now our goal is to get a royally approved stuffed rhinos to populate one of the nurseries on “Downton Abbey.” Talk about product placement. n WELCOME ABOARD! After an intensive nine-month international search, the museum welcomes Dr. Pedro Moura Carvalho as our deputy director for art and programs. He will be responsible for providing strategic oversight and management of the museum’s collection and exhibitions, as well as education and interpretive initiatives.
A scholar of Islamic art with deep interests in
cross-cultural artistic traditions, Pedro has been serving as chief curator and deputy director for curatorial, collections and exhibitions at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, since 2011. He is a native of Portugal and holds an MA and Ph.D. in art and archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. SAVE THE DATE: SOUK RETURNS TO FORT MASON CENTER, OCTOBER 25–26
Keep an eye out for a Q&A with Pedro in the next
issue of Asian. n
Every two years, the Society for Asian Art, the museum auxiliary group, organizes a souk (Arabic for “market”) offering shoppers a chance to pick up one-of-a-kind Asian-themed treasures at discount prices. Proceeds from the sales go to support museum programs. The 2012 souk had nearly 3,000 items for sale, and this year’s promises to have even more. So mark your calendar for the souk at Fort Mason Center, October 25–26—just in time for holiday shopping.
your home and helping support the museum, your donation of said items is tax deductible, so everybody wins. For more info, visit www.societyforasianart.org/souk. n
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In the meantime, got any Asian items collecting dust? The Society can take them off your hands to sell at the souk. Besides uncluttering
EDUCATION & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
Dessa Goddard, Bonhams; Barbara Liddell and Betty Alberts with participants in the National Docent Symposium reception
THE HUMAN SPARK IN TRANSFORMATIVE ART EXPERIENCES Do you remember the first time you had a transformative art expe-
to life are the goals of the Asian Art Museum’s docent and story-
rience? Mine was during museum tours and painting walks along
telling programs. Docents study the artworks on display and care-
the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., with my high school art
fully craft their tours to share interesting stories about the art and
class taught by Walter Bartman. Seeing monumental American
the times they came from. Docents aim to spark curiosity, inspire
landscapes in the Smithsonian, I was amazed and humbled while
close looking and engage in conversation about art, culture and
still inspired to try harder in my own painting.
ideas radiating from the objects. Storytellers bring the art to life
For Asian Art Museum Commissioner David Lei, his lifelong
4 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
passion for Asian art followed an encounter in a museum with a
through engaging retellings of related myths and folktales, often in character voice and with dynamic body gestures.
teacher of another sort—docent and longtime Asian Art Museum
Last October, docents from the U.S. and Canada converged in
supporter Helen Desai. In David’s words: “I always liked the view
San Francisco for the National Docent Symposium. The Asian Art
of the Japanese Tea Garden from the galleries, but the objects did
Museum was a premier partner in this event, which, every other
not speak to me. Although I am Chinese with educated parents,
year, brings together nearly 500 docents and museum staff who
they seldom talked to me about Asian art. This all changed in
administer docent programs for four days of workshops, keynote
1968 when I took a docent tour from a very nice blonde lady and
lectures and museum experiences, each time in a different city.
was blown away by the symbolic meanings and the connectivity of
The Asian Art Museum’s docents mobilized to host a stunning
the objects to my life. Ever since, it has been a wonderful journey
array of events that allowed the museum to shine for this influen-
of curiosity and learning. Years later when I became active with
tial national constituency of art and culture lovers. The event also
the Asian, I recognized the docent to be Helen Desai.”
connected our docents and storytellers with a wider community of
Sparking transformative art experiences and connecting art
peers with shared interests in placing the visitor at the center of their
EDUCATION & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
efforts to connect art to life. The docents, led by the Docent Council
The following comment from a participant in the brush-painting
and National Docent Symposium chairwoman Gail Uilkema and her
workshop reflects our success in delivering a transformative art
committee, collaborated with museum staff and storytellers to pres-
ent several well-received offerings that were filled to capacity. The delegates experienced the museum in candlelit splendor during a reception on the symposium’s second night, which featured a welcome by museum director Jay Xu, music in the galleries, music and dance performances on the front steps and throughout the courts and Samsung Hall, and, of course, plenty of time to meet and explore the galleries with our knowledgeable docents and engaging storytellers. The museum store was also a
As a result of this experience, I have a vastly increased appreciation of Asian art. The hands-on intro to painting is a winner. The storytelling was a real bonus!
hit with guests. Docents Linda Lei and Bob Oaks introduced our popular Na-
Our docents and storytellers are truly invaluable in awakening a
ture in Art school program in a hands-on workshop for 50 people,
sense of excitement and encouraging curiosity among our diverse
exploring East Asian brush painting.
The museum’s manager of school and teacher programs,
In May, the museum will graduate a new class of about 42
Caren Gutierrez, teamed up with docents Jane Dalisay and Bob
docents who have given countless hours over three years to learn
Oaks to present a workshop for 50 people on the topic of creating innovative school programs using digital tablets to show short videos in galleries to convey cultural aspects of art. I joined docent-training committee members Linda Lei and Bob Oaks as well as nearly 70 others in a session on docent training in the new
knows how many countless stories like David Lei’s emanate from these invaluable volunteer groups. The Asian Art Museum’s docents and storytellers are essential to our educational mission, and we honor their dedication and tireless support. n
Ideas—which was attended by most of the 400-plus delegates—
to feature our docent programs and storytelling for families.
Deb Clearwaters is the director of education and interpretation at the Asian Art Museum.
Helen Desai, Michelle Wilcox, Dinny Chase and Ginny Meyer
Docent Carolyn Young
The Asian Art Museum Docent Program is generously supported by The Charles D. and Frances K. Field Fund, Bonhams and Society for Asian Art.
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Images courtesy of Quincy Stamper
millennium. Finally, we hosted two booths in the Showcase of
the collections and best practices in gallery education. Who
Babur and his retinue visiting Gor Khatri, page 22b from a manuscript of Baburnama (The Book of Babur), 1590s. India; Mughal dynasty. Opaque watercolor, gold and ink on paper. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, W. 596.
YOGA The Art of Transformation
FEB 21–MAY 25, 2014
Yoga is regarded around the world as a path to health and spiritual insight. Many are aware of its origins in India. But the motivations that compelled countless individuals to pursue yogic paths over the past 2,500 years are less well known. Few are familiar with yoga’s rich diversity—the different schools of practice that developed over the centuries, and yoga’s varied meanings for practitioners and those they encountered. The many types of yoga familiar to practitioners today—Raja Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and others—are relatively recent developments in yoga’s long history and have emerged (in the forms we now know them) only in the past 120 years, formulated by Indian and Western teachers. 2000–1000 BCE, contain fleeting references to flying long-haired sages that suggest an ancient mystic tradition. But it is not until several centuries later that we find the strongest evidence for the emergence of yogic techniques and goals.
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Yoga’s origins are debated. The Vedas, the primary texts of orthodox Hinduism, composed around
YOGA: The Art of Transformation By around 500 BCE, yoga started to acquire its more familiar
The range of practices that we
meaning. During this time, wandering ascetics of the Hindu,
know as yoga today is the product of
Buddhist and Jain religions developed practices for controlling
some 2,500 years of transformation.
the body and breath as a means of stilling the mind. Their goal
Yoga: The Art of Transformation
was to transcend the suffering that is inherent in human existence.
Texts from around 400–200 BCE laid the groundwork for much
resource—visual culture—to illuminate
of what later came to constitute yoga. These texts introduced the
key aspects of yoga practice as well as
concept of an individual self that is equivalent to the all-encompassing
its hidden histories. With sculptures,
Absolute, a supreme, immeasurable, and transcendent essence that
permeates all creation (often known in Hindu systems as brahman).
prints, photographs, books and films,
The pivotal text Yoga Sutras, by Patanjali, was compiled between the
it is the first art exhibition to survey the
2nd and 4th centuries from earlier yoga and meditation traditions.
centrality of yoga in Indian culture.
Its overarching purpose, as with nearly every other Indian religious
The exhibition focuses on the
and philosophical system, was to resolve the problem of suffering. In
continuities and ruptures that emerge
subsequent centuries, numerous traditions emerged, including new
texts that adapted, expanded and reinterpreted the knowledge base
(whether in the 10th or the early
that constitutes yoga. A yogic physiology of the body was also first
20th century) adapt yogic practices and goals to their current
outlined in this period.
times. The exhibition’s themes include an exploration of the key
In yoga, the body is both what must be transcended as well as
elements of yoga practice and yogic conceptions of the body; the
the necessary tool for attaining enlightenment. The paradox of the
role of teachers; the importance of place in yoga practice; the
yogic body is powerfully expressed in sculptures and paintings
associations between yoga and power; and the ways in which
that represent austerities—rejections of material attachment—
yogis have been understood and imagined in Indian and Western
through various acts of renunciation and extreme self-denial.
cultures. The exhibition concludes with the emergence of modern
Sages and yoga-practicing ascetics perform austerities to
yoga as a regimen for health, fitness and spiritual well-being.
generate a transformative, purifying heat and create spiritual
The exhibition’s 135 impressive artworks, from 25 museums
knowledge and power. Fasting, celibacy, meditating for long
and private collections in Europe, the U.S. and India, including
periods in intense heat or cold and immobilizing the body in
the Asian Art Museum’s collection, shed light on yoga’s meanings
difficult positions are classic forms of austerities.
and philosophical depth, the practice’s significance within Indian
Many yogic paths adopted austerities as methods for breaking
culture and religion, its movements across communities, and the
bonds with society and generating the spiritual heat that enabled
genius of artists who transformed profound concepts into material
practitioners to “perfect” the body, expand consciousness and gain
form. The Asian Art Museum is the only U.S. West Coast venue
supernatural powers. Later hatha yoga traditions also assimilated
for this exhibition.
the austerities that held the body in challenging positions, and refined them into yogic postures (asanas). Today, it is widely recognized that yoga has quantifiable 8 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
health benefits. The origins of this acceptance lie at the turn of the 20th century, when Indian teachers and medical professionals began applying the concepts, vocabularies,
This exhibition was organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution with support from the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne and the Ebrahimi Family Foundation. Presentation at the Asian Art Museum is made possible with the generous support of Helen and Rajnikant Desai, The Bernard Osher Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Kumar and Vijaya Malavalli, Society for Asian Art and Walter & Elise Haas Fund.
symbols and measures of science to the yogic body. Through rigorous physiological experiments that were illustrated and published, these doctors refashioned hatha yoga as a scientifically legitimized therapeutic regimen.
Above: According to the Naths, an order of yogis associated with the practice of hatha yoga, creation begins with the limitless and eternal Absolute, a transcendent essence that permeates the universe. This painting, read from left to right, represents the origins of existence as a shimmering field of gold. Its emanations into consciousness (center) and form (right) are represented as a perfected Nath yogi, covered in ash and saffron. Through yogic practice, Naths sought to transform their physical bodies into “subtle” matter and merge with the luminous Absolute. Three aspects of the absolute, page 1 from a manuscript of the Nath Charit, 1823. By Bulaki (Indian, active early 1800s.) India; Rajasthan state, former kingdom of Marwar, Jodhpur. Opaque watercolor, gold, and tin alloy on paper. Courtesy of Mehrangarh Museum Trust, RJS 2399.
Left: Sadashiva, the Hindu deity Shiva in his role as the “eternal and supreme,” represents a higher level of the universe in which there are no distinctions among person, body, and world. Sadashiva’s five faces (here, the fifth is hidden behind the others, and the fourth sits atop the rest) signify five streams of knowledge. His other attributes are a third eye, an ascetic’s garb, and, clockwise from top right, a mace, conch shell, discus or noose, lotus, shield, snake, sword, skull cup, drum, and trident. By meditating on Sadashiva, devotees aim to achieve an essential oneness with the deity.
Opaque watercolor on paper. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Given by Col. T. G. Gayer-Anderson and Maj. R. G. Gayer-Anderson, Pasha, IS 239-1952.
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The five-faced Shiva (detail), approx. 1730–1740. India; Himachal Pradesh state, former kingdom of Mandi.
Left: Energy centers of the body (chakras) are typically aligned along the body’s central channel, but they are conceptualized somewhat differently in various yoga treatises, and their numbers vary. Today, seven is widely accepted as the standard number of chakras, and their symbols are fixed. Painted with mineral colors, this large page from a monumental manuscript depicts nine chakras on the body of a Nath yogi whose eyes are crossed in inward meditation. The artist, Bulaki, represented the chakras both abstractly and figuratively. The absolute emptiness (shunya) that is the sixth chakra (located near the roof of the mouth) appears as a black circle on the yogi’s chin; Kundalini Shakti, here the third chakra, is represented by a goddess sitting atop the snake coiled around the yogi’s waist. The chakras of the subtle body, page 4 from a manuscript of the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, 1824. By Bulaki (Indian, active early 1800s). India; Rajasthan state, former kingdom of Jodhpur. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, RJS 2376.
10 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
Above: An intricately carved ivory depicts, in three successive scenes, the future Buddha’s early experimentation with fasting until his limbs withered. At center, with his gaunt body encased in a delicate spiderweb of veins, he meditates in lotus posture during his six-year subsistence on a daily grain of rice. Hunched over, on the left, he remains in a state of despair. Ultimately, as seen on the right, he accepts a food offering that restores his robust body and sets him on the final path toward enlightenment. Fasting Buddha, 700–800. India; Jammu and Kashmir state. Ivory. Courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund, 1986.70.
Right: The Hindu deity Vishnu’s sun-and-moon eyes and fire-blazing mouth are among the Bhagavad Gita’s descriptions of Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu in his infinite cosmic form (Vishvarupa). This small but powerful painting depicts the universe as Vishnu standing upon the multi-headed serpent Shesha and holding in his four arms a discus, conch, lotus and mace. Various deities cluster in Vishnu’s upper torso, the phenomenal worlds appear as target-like circles at his waist, and the seven netherworlds constitute his legs. Vishnu Vishvarupa (detail), approx. 1800–1820. India; Rajasthan state, former kingdom of Jaipur. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Given by Mrs. Gerald Clark, IS 33-2006.
Left: The earliest illustrated manuscript depicting postures (asanas), Ocean of Life, dates from around 1600. This date is surprisingly late, given that yoga has its roots around the 5th century BCE, and considering how closely posture-based practice is associated with yoga today. Because gurus traditionally taught yoga orally and directly to disciples, Hindu texts describe asanas only very briefly and generally. None of the postures in Ocean of Life is described in earlier texts, and their descriptions are more detailed than in Sanskrit treatises written over the next century. Most of the 21 asanas in Ocean of Life are seated postures for meditation. generate “a kind of fire that burns up all impurities.” Headstand (Persian: akucchan), page from a manuscript of Bahr al-hayat (Ocean of Life), 1600–1604. India; Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh state. Opaque watercolor on paper. Courtesy of the Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, In 16.20a.
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A headstand, seen in this painting, is the one inversion depicted; it is said to
ENTER THE MANDALA: COSMIC CENTERS AND MENTAL MAPS OF HIMALAYAN BUDDHISM ON VIEW MAR 14 – OCT 26, 2014 | SECOND FLOOR, TATEUCHI THEMATIC GALLERY
The Asian Art Museum conserves a wide variety of art created by and for practitioners of Vajrayana Buddhism—also known as “Lightning Vehicle” Buddhism—a system of meditation, based on visualization, that is profoundly dependent on art and artists. Yet the Lightning Vehicle can be difficult to detect in a museum visit, spread as it is like an implicit order throughout our galleries. From a crowned Buddha in the arches of an Indian stupa (a monument enshrining the sacred remains of enlightened beings) to a Chinese Buddha in whose robes the entire universe is depicted, and from Tibetan thangka paintings to fierce Japanese Wisdom King sculptures, these artworks express and encode some of humanity’s most important philosophical and meditative systems. Some artworks are even thought to be so visually powerful that they “liberate on sight”—freeing viewers from the cycle of perpetual suffering. Why then might such imagery be difficult to detect in the galleries? The most obvious answer is that the imagery comes to us across a vast span of physical and cultural space and appears in multiple arrangements in the galleries. These Lightning Vehicle objects have been removed from the context of their original production and use, which further obscures the philosophical unity behind their diverse forms and functions. So the first question for us and our significant collection of Vajrayana art is: might it be possible to reverse the de-contextualizing dynamic, and instead create gallery conditions in which the objects can reveal their original function? Since many of these artworks were designed to occupy a space in the configuration of a mandala—a geometric meditation map—perhaps we could recreate the works’ original context by letting the artworks configure our gallery in exactly these terms: turning a gallery into a mandala. But what precisely is a mandala? A mandala is a model of the universe and the psyche, and a means of realizing their unity. Its basic form can be described as a quincunx, a center surrounded by four symbolic directions (totaling five, as in quin). In Lightning Vehicle Buddhism, each direction is presided over by a color-coded directional Buddha, each of whom represents a psychological defect and the means of its transformation into fuel for enlightenment. For example, green Amoghasiddhi sits in the northern sector of
12 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
the mandala and transforms frustration into success. By reciting the verbal formula (mantra) and creating the hand gesture (mudra)
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of the Buddha who epitomizes a practitioner’s characteristic defect, the meditator transforms that defect into its opposite. In planning our upcoming exhibition Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism (Mar 14–Oct 26), the curatorial and design teams have plotted the symbolic directions of the mandala along the gallery axes, which—in this circumstance—do not correspond to magnetic north. (The conservation team was wisely hesitant to request any magnetic repositioning of the museum.) The result is a mandala that can be entered physically in three dimensions, which is one goal of Lightning Vehicle meditation itself. In a sense, visitors who “enter the mandala” will get a virtual taste of what it
14 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
might be like to find oneself inside its nested geometries. n
Images (Page 12, left to right): The cosmic Buddha Vairochana, 1300–1400. Tibet. Colors on cotton. Museum purchase, City Arts Trust Fund, 1991.1. The Cosmic Buddha Ratnasambhava, 1300—1400. Tibet. Colors on cotton. Museum purchase, City Arts Trust Fund, 1991.2. The Cosmic Buddha Amoghasiddhi, 1300—1400. Tibet. Colors on cotton. Museum purchase, City Arts Trust Fund, 1991.3. (Page 13): The Cosmic Buddha Vairochana (detail), 1100—1200. Tibet. Colors on cotton. Acquisition made possible by the Avery Brundage estate, Sharon Bacon, Mona J. Bolcom, Dr. Edward P. Gerber, Jane R. Lurie, Margaret Polak, Therese and Richard Schoofs, Dr. and Mrs. William Wedemeyer, and anonymous friends of the Asian Art Museum, 1992.58. (Page 14, top and bottom): Taima mandala (details), 1300–1400. Japan. Ink, colors, and gold on silk. The Avery Brundage Collection, B61D11+. All images © Asian Art Museum.
ON VIEW JUNE 20, 2014
GORGEOUS Beauty can be boring. Artworks from SFMOMA and the Asian Art Museum take you beyond the boundaries of conventional “beauty” and into its extremes. What you consider breathtaking, others may consider repulsive. And sometimes eye candy can be an eyesore. Gorgeous is experimental and personal. Simply come with an open mind (no art knowledge necessary), let the objects do the talking, and you might be surprised.
United, Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation, and Lucy Sun and Warren Felson. The museum acknowledges Trustee Presenter Eliza Cash for her support and assistance in securing funding for the exhibition. Image: Torso of a female deity (detail), 1400-1600. Southern India. Stone. The Avery Brundage Collection, B63S3+. © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.
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This exhibition was organized by the Asian Art Museum in partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Presentation at the Asian Art Museum is made possible with the generous support of Fred Eychaner, Eliza and Dean Cash,
FROM THE GALLERIES
THE CARVED BRUSH A NEW EXHIBITION SPOTLIGHTS THE PAINTINGS, SEAL CARVINGS AND CALLIGRAPHY OF QI BAISHI ON VIEW THROUGH JUL 13 | SECOND FLOOR, GALLERY 18
One of the most acclaimed Chinese artists of the 20th century,
city with an established painting tradition. There, he developed
Qi Baishi (1863–1957) transformed China’s elite brush painting
his own distinctively modern style. Like a poet who communicates
tradition into a modern, emotionally resonant art form that has
deep meaning in a few words, Qi rendered his subjects with just
been appreciated by people from many different classes and
a few brush strokes. With economy of form and composition, he
cultures, in China and the West. In a special exhibition, The Carved Brush, the Asian Art Museum showcases 17 of Qi’s sought-after works of calligraphy and painting, which feature vibrant colors, rich ink tones, and expressive brush strokes. The installation, which runs through July 13, also includes seven of Qi’s innovative and influential seal carvings. The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view a single installation dedicated to his masterful artworks, many from private Bay Area collections. Born into a peasant family in Xiangtan, Hunan, Qi had little formal schooling and began training for work as a carpenter at age 15. As a youth, according to some popular sources, he stumbled upon a Chinese painting manual and began to paint flowers,
the spiritual essence of his subjects. After settling in Beijing in 1917, he rose to become one of the most influential and admired Chinese artists of the 20th century. The impressions of Qi’s unique seal carvings serve as signatures on his paintings. “When I cut seals,” he wrote in his journal, “I do not abide by the old rules,” and his seal carvings reflect his unorthodox, modern style. His paintings are notable for their childlike charm and spontaneity. Combining swift brushstrokes and fine detailing, Qi broke new ground in the traditional Chinese art of brush painting. He also broke through class and cultural barriers to attract a global
animals and insects. He later studied fine line painting (gongbi)
audience, including contemporary collectors who treasure his
with artists including Hu Zizhou and established himself as a local
forceful, flowing works. The Carved Brush brings together Qi’s
painter in Hunan.
painting, calligraphy and seal carving in a unified installation that
In his 40s, Qi traveled to Shanghai, the nearest cosmopolitan
16 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
combined representational elements and abstraction to capture
showcases the range and power of this master artist. n
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FROM THE GALLERIES
Pg. 16: Iron-Crutch Li (detail). Ink and color on paper. Courtesy of the Collection of Michael Gallis, R2013.39.2 Pg. 17: Ink landscape (detail), 1938. Ink on paper. Courtesy of The Mozhai Foundation, R2013.40.1 Left: Iris and Butterfly. Ink and color on paper. Courtesy of The Mozhai Foundation, R2013.40.2
18 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
Right: Sailboats at Sunset, 1938. Ink and color on paper. Courtesy of the Collection of Michael Gallis, R2013.39.1
EDUCATION & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
THURSDAY NIGHTS AT THE ASIAN EXHIBITIONS, PERFORMANCES, HAPPENINGS AND INTERACTIVE EVENTS—ALL AT DISCOUNTED ADMISSION THURSDAY NIGHT PROGRAMS | FEBRUARY THROUGH SEPTEMBER | PROGRAMS BEGIN AT 6:30PM On March 6 and April 3, after-hours visitors can experience Yoga:
each of the six programs, a local contemporary artist will create a unique
The Art of Transformation, the world’s first major exhibition exploring the
experience for visitors, inspired by the museum and its neighborhood.
2,500-year history of the spiritual practice.
Participating artists include Michael Arcega, an interdisciplinary artist
On May 1, drumming bands will compete in an explosively energizing
who works in sculpture and installation; Binta Ayofemi, a faculty member
event. Other Thursday Night Programs include a performance by Saya
at California College of the Arts, whose multimedia and performance
Woolfalk, a multimedia artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for
work explores architecture and social space; and Chris Fraser, who
the Arts, who examines cultural hybridity.
works with architecture and light to probe aspects of nature and culture.
August, the Artists Drawing Club will return to the Asian Art Museum. In
Collaborators also include Amanda Hughen, Jennifer Starkweather, Ajit Chauhan and Jung Ran Bae. n
Lead funding for the Asian Art Museum’s Thursday Night Programs is provided by Wells Fargo.
SPRING 2014 | 19
On the fourth Thursday evening of the month, from March through
EDUCATION & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
VIEWING YOGA FROM MANY DIFFERENT POSITIONS THE ASIAN ART MUSEUM’S EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTER OFFERS A RANGE OF MODERN CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES ON YOGA
Chiraag Bhakta Photo Credit: Timothy Palmer (@suprememoves) *PMH Studio—SoMa, San Francisco, California
FROM SPIRITUAL PRACTICE TO POP CULTURE When South Asian–American artist Chiraag Bhakta was growing
In conjunction with the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition
up in New Jersey in the 1980s and ’90s, he felt that yoga rep-
Yoga: The Art of Transformation, Bhakta will mount his
resented Indian culture. Over time, he became interested in how
pop-culture yoga collection on a 22-foot wall in the museum’s
Western marketers rebranded and commercialized yoga, removing
its South Asian face. “Even though yoga is a practice and philosophy that was part of my culture,” he explains, “my experience with it, as an Indian American, didn’t feel too inviting in many ways.” Since moving to the Bay Area seven years ago, Bhakta, a 20 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
graphic and digital artist, has collected Western yoga ephemera from the 1950s through the early ’80s—including books, posters, educational materials and corporate advertising targeted to vari-
“Yoga,” Bhakta explains, “is a way to bring up the colonization and commercialization of cultures. This piece reflects my relationship with yoga, as an Indian American. It’s not about the individual materials I collected but about the overall voice that’s on the wall, which is pretty overwhelming and suffocating. Even with subjects like yoga, my perspective usually gets drowned out by the dominant white Western voice, which is crazy to me.” n
ous demographic groups. “That was when yoga started making a big impact on West-
Chiraag Bhakta has designed a special, limited-edition book to be produced
ern culture,” he adds, “and marketing materials helped lay the
in association with his installation. The book is available for purchase from
foundation for that popularity.”
the museum store.
EDUCATION & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
VOICES FROM THE BAY AREA’S YOGA COMMUNITY The museum’s Education Resource Center will also feature a video
an entry point. And if it draws a person in, I’m excited about it .…
projection of interviews with contemporary leaders in the Bay Area
Because there’s yoga everywhere in the Bay Area, anybody can do
yoga community. According to Allison Wyckoff, manager of public
yoga. There’s chair yoga, baby yoga. It transcends age, religion,
programs for the museum, the videos will connect the exhibition to
gender, and I love that about yoga .… I love that it’s blossomed
the wide range of present-day yoga practices and present a variety
of perspectives on yoga, which means many different things to
points out in her interview that “we look at all the pretty pictures of
In India, according to Tanuja Bahal, executive director of the
people doing impossible things, and it seems sometimes ludicrous.
Milpitas India Community Center, yoga practice is everywhere. “[In
But the truth is, in challenging ourselves on the mat, we also learn
India,] even if you aren’t practicing yoga yourself or experiencing
how to challenge ourselves in the rest of life, or we learn we can
it,” she says in the video, “it’s happening around you .… I would
do things that we never thought were possible.”
pass laughing yogis every morning. You could be on the bus and
have a guy sitting next to you practicing his pranayama. So it is
founding editor of Yoga Journal, “Each culture, each era, each
very much around you, whereas in the United States, you have to
country, each person takes what they need and want and makes
seek it out. You have to find a place where you can practice yoga,
the practice new. It’s born again. Yoga is born again every morning
so it’s not quite as much a part of everybody’s lives.”
when I get on my mat, when you get on your mat. When a yoga
Monica Desai-Henderson, a San Francisco yoga teacher and
class starts anywhere in the world, the practice is born again. So
Asian Art Museum storyteller, observes in her interview that there
it’s this same practice, and it’s forever new because each person
are so many kinds of yoga here: “Yogalates, Yoga and Wine … it’s
experiences it.” n
Kaitlin Quistgaard, former editor in chief of Yoga Journal,
According to Judith Hanson Lasater, yoga teacher and
All visitors to the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation are invited to share their personal perspectives on yoga, in words or art, on the response wall in the museum’s Resource Center. Please note: the Resource Center opens to the public March 28. n
SPRING 2014 | 21
WHAT DOES YOGA MEAN TO YOU?
EDUCATION & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
SHOWCASING STUDENT ARTISTS THE ASIAN ART MUSEUM HOSTS SAN FRANCISCO’S NINE-DAY STUDENT ARTS FESTIVAL In March, the Asian Art Museum will celebrate student creativity
admission to the festival and the museum, including its special
in all its forms when it hosts the 2014 San Francisco Unified
exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation, which opens February
School District (SFUSD) Arts Festival. More than 10,000
21. All students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, in San
children from 250 San Francisco schools and community
Francisco’s public, private, independent and parochial schools,
groups will display their talents as visual artists, writers, film-
are eligible to participate in the arts festival.
makers, musicians, dancers and actors during the nine-day festival,
22 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
This year’s event will include visual artworks by thousands of students, live music and dance performances by more than 65
“This is the second consecutive year that the Asian Art Museum
student and community groups, screenings of student films and
has hosted this unique event,” says Caren Gutierrez, the museum’s
videos, poetry readings, multimedia installations and hands-on
manager of school and teacher programs. “Everyone is welcome
creative activities. Many of the student artworks, Gutierrez notes,
to attend, and the museum will stay open on Monday, March 17, so
will be juxtaposed with or integrated into the museum’s collections.
that as many performers and visitors as possible can take part in
All performances, as well as event celebrations featuring city officials,
this community festival.” Students and their families will have free
will be in Samsung Hall.
EDUCATION & PUBLIC PROGRAMS
All photos by Max Kellenberger
The annual student arts festival is presented by SFUSD’s Visual
participation by students in its surrounding neighborhood. In
and Performing Arts Office, in collaboration with the Asian Art
many public schools in the community, school district specialists
Museum, the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco
teach art-based lessons and encourage festival submissions
Arts Commission. For 28 years, the student arts festival has attracted
that are directly connected to the museum’s collections.
thousands of San Francisco youth, families and teachers, along
They also work to make sure that local schools will be able
with visitors from the extended Bay Area community. More than
to attend festival exhibitions, performances and events at the
a quarter of a million school children have taken part in the
museum. “This arts festival is a true community collaboration,” Gutierrez
of SFUSD’s pioneering Arts Education Master Plan, launched in
says. “Many of the participating students and their families will be
2006, which promises daily arts education for every student in
visiting the Asian Art Museum for the first time, but the museum
San Francisco in kindergarten through 12th grade.
is much more than a venue for the event. It’s a true partner in this
The Asian Art Museum works closely with SFUSD to encourage
inspiring citywide celebration.” n
SPRING 2014 | 23
festival since its inception in 1987. The event is a core element
Georgia Fulstone, Carol Costigan and Marianne Peterson
Jamie Chen, Gorretti Lo Lui and Supervisor Jane Kim
Suno Kay Osterweis, Chong-Moon Lee and Elizabeth Pang Fullerton
Elizabeth Pang Fullerton, Anita Lee, Mayor Ed Lee, former Mayor Frank Jordan and Jay Xu
The Ong Dance Company
Korea Foundation Senior Program Officer Hye-Young Kim, Hyonjeong Kim Han, Korea Foundation Chief Assistant to the President Jae Seung Moon, Korea Foundation President Hyun-seok Yu, Professor Chin-sung Chang and Korea Foundation Director Sung-won Bae
Frank Norton, Martha Hertelendy, Dr. Azucena Arguelles, Carmen Colet, Nancy Brennan
SCENE AT THE ASIAN
With many wearing traditional Korean hanboks, guests brought their own grand style to the gala and opening events for In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art during the Joseon Dynasty. Events included a gala as well as Jade Circle and memberâ€™s receptions. The museum also welcomed friends from the Korea Foundation, which sponsored the recent Korean Culture Day. n
Elizabeth and Nicholas Unkovic
Supervisor Norman Yee, Elizabeth Pang Fullerton, Supervisor Jane Kim, Supervisor David Chiu and Jay Xu
SCENE AT THE ASIAN
Lydia Maureen Zane Hetzel
Linda and David Lei, Jay Xu and guest
Proximities 2 featured artists Barry McGee (center) and Michael Jang with guest
SCENE AT THE ASIAN
Frances Campra and guests
End-of-year celebrations—such as our 28th annual Bell Ringing ceremony—were only a small part of our recent offerings. Nearly 200 attended the 2013 Annual Meeting, recapping the fiscal year and looking forward to the next 12 months of exhibitions; guests joined Glen Helfand and Allison Harding, curators of the Proximities series, at an opening reception during Proximities 2: Knowing Me, Knowing You; and Kathy and Paul Bissinger opened their home and collection to members of the Connoisseurs’ Council. n
AAM Council guest with members Linda Lynch and Joy Y. Boatwright
26 Bill Rothmann, Laine Buckingham, Ann Tanenbaum and Lewis Schlossinger
MAUREEN AND MEL HETZEL MEMBERS SINCE 1986, JADE CIRCLE MEMBERS SINCE 2010 YOU ARE LONGTIME SUPPORTERS OF THE MUSEUM. HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN ASIAN ART? Maureen: It has been a step-by-step process. We started going to the museum’s programs and got swept up in it. The lectures help us see things in new ways, deepening our appreciation of the art. Mel: At the same time, we started collecting Asian art—we have an eclectic collection of Chinese jade, snuff bottles, Japanese textiles and ceramics—and we wanted to learn more about what we were acquiring. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME JADE CIRCLE MEMBERS? Maureen: We think the museum is a treasure, and we enjoy knowing we are helping the museum move forward. Mel: We also serve on the board of the Society for Asian Art and help fundraise so that the museum can continue to grow. WHY IS THE MUSEUM SUCH A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOU? Maureen: I love how the museum incorporates old and new; it just speaks to me. And it is a forever learning experience. Mel: We’re constantly learning new things. And as Jade Circle members, we have met a lot of friends who share our interests. n
INTERESTED IN BECOMING A MEMBER?
Jade Circle members enjoy concierge service for booking group visits, private tours and exclusive access to the Richard H. and Marianne Peterson Room and Garden.
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPRING 2014 | 27
For more information, call 415.581.3794
ITEMS TO ENGAGE AND INSPIRE BEYOND YOUR VISIT 1
Indian textile artisans are increasingly using traditional techniques
West Bengal saris. Because of the many steps involved in making
in unexpected ways to create dynamic original looks for international
each one, these shawls take a long time to produce.
28 | ASIAN ART MUSEUM
The store also offers new shawls by natural-dye artist Ajit Kumar
The latest collection to be featured at the museum store includes
Das, from Bengal, whose work can be found in museum collections,
dramatic new handwoven scarves and shawls in cotton, wool and
including Londonâ€™s Victoria & Albert Museum. Das has worked
blends of silk and cotton, many using natural dyes. For some time the
with natural dyes for 40 years, having learned the art of painting on
museum store has offered traditional silk bandhani textiles, the oldest
cloth by observing traditional techniques of Hyderabadâ€™s Kalamkari
tie-and-dye tradition still practiced in India. This fresh collection
painters. Much of his work incorporates symbols from Tantric
showcases the bandhani technique in bold new ways, in addition to
religious art, as well as linear designs. Each shawl is a unique
scarves and shawls incorporating hand block-printing and stitching.
piece of wearable art.
A highlight is a wonderfully soft shawl made of hand-spun Khadi
Many of these items are one of a kind or of a very limited production.
cotton woven especially for these pieces. Fabric are layered and
All sales benefit the educational programs and exhibitions at the
stitched together with Kantha stitching, a running stitch popular in
Asian Art Museum. n
1: A bold black-and-white shawl displays a graduated pattern on handwoven wool. The effect of the bandhani technique on wool has a very different feel than the traditional silk bandhani. Approx. 22 x 68 in. $130. 2 and 3: Hand-painted shawls by natural-dye artist Ajit Kumar Das. The artist uses natural dyes to create linear paintings on hand-woven cotton. Das has been working with natural dyes for forty years, having first learned the art of painting on cloth by observing the traditional techniques of the Kalamkari painters of Hyderabad. His paintings are more self-expressive than traditional. Each piece is a unique and wearable artwork. Available in either orange/black or blue/black color combinations on natural cotton. $295 each. 4: Scarf with multiple block-printed fabrics incorporating traditional ajrak block printing. Approx. 16 x 86 in. $225. 5: Bandhani on handwoven wool, transitions from lively pink to radiant orange. Approx. 26 x 76 in. $145. Museum store: 415.581.3600 or email@example.com.
FEATURED EVENTS ONGOING PROGRAMS
FEATURED EVENTS IN-GALLERY TALKS
Fri, Mar 7, Apr 4, May 2, 3–3:45 PM
First Sundays, Mar–May, 11 AM–Noon, 2–3 PM, Education Classrooms or Samsung Hall.
Daily, 10:30 AM and 2 PM (45 minutes each)
A TALK BY MANOUSO MANOS
Sun, Mar 9, 2–3 PM, Samsung Hall. Free with museum admission.
Saturdays and Sundays, Feb 22– May 25, 11:30 AM. Meet near the information desk; suggested for ages 7–10. Free with museum admission.
Sat and Sun, Feb 22–May 25, 11:30 AM (30 minutes) Free with museum admission (kids 12 and younger always get in free)
JOURNEY OF SELF WITH YOGA MASTER B.K.S. IYENGAR:
THE AYURVEDIC KITCHEN PHARMACY: THE YOGA OF CULINARY SPICES
YOGA: THE CALIFORNIA
Thurs, Apr 17, 6–7:30 PM, Samsung Hall. $20 museum members; $25 general admission.
Thurs, Mar 6, 6–9 PM Museum-wide. Free with museum admission. YOGA: SOUNDING
YOGA AND ART SERIES: KATHAK YOGA
Fri–Sun, Apr 25–27, Noon–4 PM North Court. Free with museum admission.
Thurs, April 3, 6–9 PM Museum-wide. Free with museum admission.
YOGA POP–UP PROJECT
Thurs, Feb 6, Feb 27, Mar 27, Apr 24, May 22, 6:30–7:30 PM, $5 museum admission, pay what you can for the class. Mats provided for $3.
AN AFTERNOON WITH
FAMILY FUN DAYS
First and third Sundays, Mar–May, 10:30 AM–2:30 PM (10:30–11 AM stART tour for kids ages 3–7; 11 AM–2:30 PM art making and self-guided activities; 11:30–11:45 AM gallery parade). Free with museum admission.
FOR MEMBERS ONLY YOGA TOUR
Every Sat during Yoga: The Art of Transformation TOUR, TALK AND TEA
Sat, Mar 29, Apr 12, May 17, 11 AM
STORIES! THE WICKED, THE WILY, THE WISE
Sun, 1–1:45 PM Free with museum admission (kids 12 and younger always get in free)
DIRECTOR’S COUNCIL IN CELEBRATION OF ENTER THE MANDALA
Wed, Apr 2 CONNOISSEURS’ COUNCIL DINNER VISIT TO REVEREND FABIAN’S HOME AND COLLECTION
Sat, Apr 5 MEMBER APPRECIATION DAY
Tues, Apr 15, 10 AM–5 PM PATRON LUNCHEON
Thur, May 8 CONNOISSEURS’ COUNCIL VISIT TO ALEXANDRA AND DENNIS LENEHAN’S HOME COLLECTION
NAVARASA DANCE THEATER
Sun, May 18
With Aparna Sindhoor and Guru Anil Natyaveda. Sun, Mar 30, 1–2:30 PM, Samsung Hall. Free with museum admission.
INTERESTED IN BECOMING A MEMBER? Members enjoy free, unlimited
admission, including special exhibitions,
artist demonstrations, performances
BY GAMELAN SEKAR JAYA
and other events. For more
Sun, Apr 6, 2–4 PM, Samsung Hall. Part of Target First Free Sunday
information, call 415.581.3740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THIS IS JUST A SNAPSHOT. WANT THE FULL PICTURE?
Check out our calendar at www.asianart.org/events. You’ll find talks, art activities, tours, fun for the family. Don’t miss out.
Yoga: The Art of Transformation Feb 21 – May 25, 2014
JULY Gorgeous June 20 – Sep 14, 2014
Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism Mar 14 – Oct 26, 2014
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS: WWW.ASIANART.ORG
Non-Profit Organization U. S . Po s t a g e P A I D Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
ASIAN ART MUSEUM Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art & Culture www.asianart.org 200 Larkin Street San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Yoga: The Art of Transformation, Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism, The Carved Brush.
Published on Mar 20, 2014
Yoga: The Art of Transformation, Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism, The Carved Brush.