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DEPARTMENTS In this issue

Art Bites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2–3 In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection . . . . . . . . . 4–15 Collection Connection . . . . . . . . . . 16–17 Education & Public Programs . . . . . . 18–19 A Cultural Ambassador’s Extraordinary Legacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20–22 Community Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Partnerships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24–25 Proximities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26–27 The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning . . . . . . . . . . .28–29 Lion-Sized Generosity . . . . . . . . . 30–32 Retail Selections . . . . . . . . . . . . 34–35 Scene at the Asian . . . . . . . . . . . 36–38 Member Profile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Calendar of Events . . . . . . . . . . . .40–41






From the director Jay xu

SUMMER 2013 • Vol. III, Issue II The Asian Art Museum Magazine

Magazine Staff Jay Xu, Ph.D., Director, Asian Art Museum Stacy Rackusin, Membership Manager David Owens-Hill, Manager of Creative Services Kazuhiro Tsuruta, Museum Photographer Editorial support provided by Diablo Custom Publishing (

China’s Terracotta Warriors was a record-breaking exhibition.

Contributors Qamar Adamjee Laura Allen Amelia Bunch Glen Helfand Deborah Kirk Forrest McGill

whose support made the exhibition possible.

The excitement didn’t die down from the first day of the exhibition to its final hour. But the success we enjoyed was not only because of the iconic nature of these figures. We could not have achieved such an excellent show without our talented, creative and dedicated staff, and, of course, you, our members After the wild popularity of Terracotta Warriors, I look

Diana Rico Emily Sano Jamie Shaw Susan Wels Gloria M. Wong

forward to a calm and meditative summer—just the right time for viewing In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection. You’ll read about it in this issue’s feature story. What strikes me most about the exhibition is its focus on dynamic art display and the shifting of works to reflect special occasions and the changing moods of seasons.

This summer also brings us Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning, a small but

powerful exhibition showcasing one of the most famous objects to have survived from the ancient Published by the Asian Art Museum Chong Moon-Lee Center for Asian Art & Culture 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 415.581.3500 • Copyright © 2013 Asian Art Museum

Visit for summer hours and seasonal closings. Cover image: Waves and rocks, attrib. to Hasegawa Togaku (Japanese, d. 1623), Momoyama period (1573–1615) or Edo period (1615–1868), 1600s. Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, light colors, and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection.

an iconic work from the collection of the British Museum on its first tour of the U.S. Our curator Qamar Adamjee has planned a thought-provoking installation that provides context for this fascinating object. Learn more on page 28 of this issue.

On top of it all, in line with our mission to find new connections between contemporary and

traditional Asian art, this summer we kick off our presentation of Proximities, a series of three intimate exhibitions of contemporary works from artists throughout the Bay Area. Each piece reflects the artist’s personal proximity to Asia and Asian history. The exhibition invites visitors to contemplate their own relationships to Asia and Asian art. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

I look forward to seeing you in the coming months. Our beautiful, recently acquired Japa-

nese bronze lions (thank you, Marsha Vargas Handley!), which have been installed on the front steps, will be basking in the sun, eager to greet you. n

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Museum Hours: Tues–Sun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 AM–5 PM Thurs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 AM–9 PM Mon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Closed

world. It would be difficult to overstate the symbolic and historical significance of the Cylinder,


Interesting goings-on from inside the Asian art museum, the bay area and around the world The Asian Art Museum prides itself on delivering top-notch programming, but we’ll be the first to tell you that interesting happenings are all around us. Sometimes these events are directly related to our awe-inspiring collections, excellent educational programs and world-renowned exhibitions, and sometimes they aren’t; either way, the following collection of brief notes sparks fresh connections across cultures and through time, and highlight unique experiences that ignite new art, new creativity and new thinking. Stay current: We post interesting tidbits on our blog—follow along at

2 | Asian Art Museum


Digging to china(town)

big trouble in little china(town)

More than 100 years ago, San Jose had the nation’s biggest Chi-

America’s smallest Chinatown is in Washington, D.C.—and it’s

natown outside San Francisco. But in 1887, a fire burned the shops

getting smaller. Struggling to survive amid a diminishing pop-

and homes of the thriving community to the ground. While much

ulation and the encroachment of gentrification, the town now

of the town was reduced to rubble and ashes, a construction proj-

spans just three city blocks. Chinatown, a documentary by film-

ect in the 1980s uncovered hundreds of buried treasures. Rene

maker Yi Chen, explores the impact of corporate business on

Yung’s installation City Beneath the City (Stanford Archaeology

local culture, looking back at the neighborhood’s earliest incep-

Center, through June 30) mingles contemporary art with 60

tion and forward into its uncertain future. n

artifacts, and explores the culture and society of the lost city. n More info:

More info:


Photo courtesy of Asian Contemporary Art Week

Asian Contemporary Art Week is Now We love New York in the spring, but this year we’re pining for the Big Apple more than usual. Asian Contemporary Art Week, an initiative of Asian Contemporary Art Consortium, presented a whole season—not just a week—of contemporary art from Asia (March through June). If you make the trip back East soon, check out some of the amazing installations and programs still going on. n Image: Morning Glory (detail), 2011, by Sopheap Pich (Cambodian, b. 1971). Rattan, bamboo, wire, plywood, steel bolts: 210 x 103 x 74 in. Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art through June. For more info about Asian Contemporary Art Week:

Eau de yakuza Jean Paul Gaultier’s summer scents are sporting some fine ink. Torso-shaped bottles are all tatted up with delicately rendered images—flowers, rolling waves, carp fish and birds—modeled on traditional Japanese tattoos. The containers are lovely; presumably the perfume smells nice, too. n


Rijksmuseum Renovation might be excited to hear that the Rijksmuseum has reopened to the public. A 10-year, $500 million makeover has stripped the massive building of awkward add-ons, restoring it to its original 19th-century glory. We can’t make it, but we hope you’ll walk the orange carpet and think of us. n

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If Girl with a Pearl Earring didn’t sate your appetite for Dutch masters, you

By: Emily J. Sano

On view June 28–Sept 22, 2013 Members preview Day June 28, 10 AM–5 PM

6 | Asian Art Museum

For informtion on becoming a member and experiencing special previews, receptions and events please call 415.581.3740 or email In addition to preview day, members enjoy free, unlimited admission, including special exhibitions, live artist demonstrations, performances and other events.

Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation, traces his interest in Japanese art to the 1970s, when he fell in love with a Japanese garden on a sightseeing trip to Kyoto. That moment ignited an admiration for the arts of Japan that led him to assemble an impressive collection of masterworks in wood, painted scrolls, lacquered boxes and doors, armor, vases, small metal sculptures and folding screens spanning more than 1,000 years.

This exhibition was organized by the Asian Art Museum in collaboration with Lawrence J. Ellison. Presentation at the Asian Art Museum is made possible with the generous support of Union Bank. Media sponsors: NBC Bay Area, the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco magazine.

Access to Larry Ellison’s collection has

ed screens, for example, he noticed one

Art Museum to rotate works, which, de-

been extremely limited. Most of the art-

day that he had no paintings with snow

pending on the length of time on view, may

work is kept at his private California resi-

in them, so he made a special request to

be put away for several years before being

dence, a Japanese-style home surrounded

seek screens and scrolls of winter scenes.

displayed again. The Ellison estate has as

by a traditional garden, where only a few

The fresh flowers that grace every room

many as six places that can accommodate

visitors have had the opportunity to see

of the house also add to the awareness of

hanging scrolls and five areas for screens.

them. The exhibition In the Moment: Jap-

seasonal change through their arrange-

Works of art are changed there every two

anese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection

ment, blossoms and leaves.

weeks—a demanding schedule that re-

offers the public a first-time look at this private collection, and the accompanying catalogue makes its contents available for future research.

Ellison’s practice of rotating objects in

All we have in life is this very moment.

temporary displays in his home—based on

–Sen no Rikyu

Japanese social customs—inspired the exIn addition to seasonal change, mod-

quires a robust collection of paintings!

hibition’s organization and major themes.

A primary reason Japanese art collectors

ern conservation concerns lead Ellison to

rotate objects in their homes is to stay at-

rotate artworks. Exposure to light is dam-

Japan, paintings were put out for special

tuned to the seasons. Sensitive to seasonal

aging to works on silk, paper, lacquer and

occasions. Buddhist rituals and memori-

change, collectors respond to plants that mark

wood. That reason also inspires the Asian

al services, for example, would be occa-

In temples and secular residences in

the passing seasons, such as camellias in winter and plum blossoms in early spring, followed by beautiful but short-lived cherry blossoms. Irises, which bloom in May, signal the beginning of summer. Autumn is marked by pampas grass and chrysanthemums; bright orange persimmons on an otherwise bare tree signal the end of fall and the beginning of winter. For the Japanese, attention to season also applies to foods, so certain fresh mountain vegetables like young fern and bamboo shoots are enjoyed in the spring; unagi (roasted eel) in the summer; rice with chestnuts in autumn; and nabemono, or stews of meat, fish, vegetables and noodles, in winter. Larry Ellison follows this seasonal

principle in choosing screen paintings and hanging scrolls to place on platforms and hang in tokonoma (display alcoves) in several rooms of his house. As he collect-

Death of the Buddha (detail), Nanbokucho period (1333–1392) or Muromachi period (1392–1573), 1300s. Japan. Hanging scroll; ink, colors, and gold on silk. Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection.

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See the America’s cup

sions to display a special kind of painting.

June 26–28

The painting of the death of the Buddha

This summer, in anticipation of the America’s Cup Challenger Series that will launch on San Francisco Bay in September, the America’s Cup trophy will be on view at the Asian Art Museum. The cup’s presentation coincides with the opening of In the Moment, an exhibition of art from the collection of Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO and owner of ORACLE TEAM USA, defender of the 2013 America’s Cup.

(Nehan-zu) in the Ellison collection represents the most spiritually profound moment in the Buddhist calendar. Typically, on the 15th day of the second lunar month—usually in March—temples marked the occasion with special ceremonies and the reading of scriptures. Large paintings like this scroll would have been used as the focus of ceremonial worship.

Secular events were celebrated in

much the same way. For a birthday celebration of an important family member, for example, it was common to put out paintings that symbolize a wish for longevity, such as paintings or sculptures depicting cranes and turtles. Crane and turtle symbolism is not native to Japan but came out of Chinese Confucian traditions and artistic motifs. The Ellison collection includes a number of these types of paintings by important Edo-period artists, including Ito Jakuchu, Nagasawa Rosetsu and Maruyama Okyo.

Ellison enjoys selecting pieces to

show special guests. For these occasions he normally chooses one of his favorite works. I have seen him request the Okyo screens of a dragon and tiger for

8 | Asian Art Museum

Right: Crane (detail), seal of Ito Jakuchu (1716– 1800). Edo period (1615–1868). Hanging scroll; ink on paper, H. 45½ x W. 11½ in. Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection. Opposite, top: Dragon and tiger (detail, right screen), by Maruyama Okyo (1733–1795), Edo period (1615–1868), approx. 1781–1788. Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on paper. H. 67½ x W. 150 in. (each). Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection. Opposite bottom: Scenes from The Tale of Genji (detail, right screen), by Kano Soshu (1551–1601). Momoyama period (1573–1615). Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, colors and gold on paper. H. 68 x W. 145 in. (each). Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection.

display when entertaining visitors, or the waves and rocks attributed to Hasegawa Togaku. Although Ellison is proud to own some of the most exciting screen pairs depicting classic Japanese narratives that have come to light recently—such as the superb battle scenes from The Tale of the Heike and the elegant images from The Tale of Genji—his personal favorites seem to be scenes from nature.

Ellison’s early collecting focused on

screens and scrolls of flowers and birds, and military themes such as armor, hel-

mets and depictions of battles. Ellison pur-

about the property. It was terrific then to

chased items from local shops in San Fran-

find a scroll of a cat painted by the monk

cisco or the Peninsula and other places he

Bokusho Shusho in the early 16th century,

visited. A prized 12th-century Heian-period

which was the first painting of a cat that

Buddha, for example, was acquired from

Ellison acquired. The pond on his estate

a shop in Honolulu. As I began to work

has numerous large goldfish, or koi, and

with Ellison to collect in a more focused

it attracts a variety of wild waterbirds,

manner, the biggest surprise to me was his

including ducks, geese, cormorants and

love of paintings and sculptures that de-

both white and blue heron that he loves to

picted animals.

watch with binoculars from his house. It is

To anyone visiting Larry estate it be-

little wonder, then, that the collection con-

comes immediately apparent he loves

tains numerous works of art that feature

cats. Signs in the driveway request driv-

nature. It is through these subjects that

ers to adhere to speeds no greater than

artists are best able to capture life that is

5 mph because a number of cats roam

truly “in the moment.” n Emily J. Sano, pictured here with Larry Ellison, is director emerita of the Asian Art Museum and works as a private curator and art consultant to the Larry Ellison Collection of Japanese art. Her Ph.D. is from the department of art history at Columbia University, New York. Her museum career began in Texas at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth and the Dallas Museum of Art before she joined the Asian Art Museum, where she led the museum’s move from Golden Gate Park to San Francisco’s Civic Center. She is a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government for promoting Japanese art and culture.




accompanied by a substantive, richly illustrated catalogue, edited by Laura W. Allen, Melissa M. Rinne and x 11.5 in., 176 pages. Available at the Asian Art Museum store in early June. Hardcover: $50; softcover: $35. More info: 415.581.3600 or

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Emily J. Sano. Hardcover and softcover, 10.25

Maize and cockscomb (detail) Approx. 1700s, Edo period (1615–1868) Pair of six panel folding screens; ink, colors and gold on paper Maize, or corn, was a popular motif for Japan’s Rinpa painters, who cherished the decorative potential of its large undulating leaves, patterned cobs and feather-like tassels. Earlier Rinpa artists favored plants with traditional seasonal and poetic resonance, whereas later Rinpa painters included more exotic flora like maize, a plant first imported to Japan in the 1500s by the Portuguese. Another shapely summer plant, cockscomb, is paired with maize in this set of screens. As in many Rinpa paintings, the plants are depicted with a high level of botanical accuracy, creating dynamic tension between naturalistic forms and abstract, shimmering gold background. Other Rinpa elements here are the stylized curves on the stream, and the rock’s mottled surface, created through the tarashikomi technique, in which diluted ink or color is dripped onto an already wet surface. Cranes and deer (detail) By Soga Shohaku (1738–1781), Edo period (1615–1868) Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and light colors on silk

10 | Asian Art Museum

Cranes and deer are associated with Fukurokuju, the god of happiness, wealth and longevity. With the addition of pine, plum and bamboo trees, these paintings overflow with auspicious symbolism in a seasonal pattern: the plum tree blossoming in snow at the start of spring; the bush clover around the deer’s legs at the beginning of autumn.

This imagery is conventional in Japanese painting, but the way it is portrayed here is anything but ordinary. Two cranes look at their chicks with

intense, if slightly comical, expressions that border on the bizarre. The deer looks back with a sharp expression undercut by a strangely lumpy form, emphasized by ink shading.

The artist, Soga Shohaku, was perhaps the most idiosyncratic of the individualistic painters in 1700s Kyoto. He remains one of the most popular artists

in Japan, celebrated for his unique treatment of even the most common painting subjects.

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Standing Prince Shotoku at age two Kamakura period (1185–1333), 1200s–1300s

12 | Asian Art Museum

Colors and lacquer on wood with crystal inlay According to legend, Prince Shotoku (574–622) was only two years old when he first proclaimed his devotion to Buddhism, taking two steps, facing east and calling out praise of the Buddha. Painted and sculpted representations of this moment show a plump half-nude boy wearing vermilion trousers that cover his feet. One knee is very slightly bent—indicating his step forward—and his small hands are joined in prayer.

Due to his important role in promoting Buddhism in Japan, Shotoku was deified after his death in 622. Worship of Shotoku was widespread among aris-

tocrats and commoners and flourished in connection with belief in Amida (Amitabha), Buddha of the Western Paradise. This sculpture is among the earliest of more than 200 surviving statues of this type. Its crystal eyes, coloring and naturalistic treatment give the figure a lifelike quality typical of sculpture created during the Kamakura period (1185–1333).

Young cat sleeping under flowering saxifrage (Yukinoshita) (detail) By Maruyama Okyo (1733–1795), Edo period (1615–1868) Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper We can almost feel the warmth of sunshine in this tranquil scene of a cat curled up under the white flowers of a saxifrage plant. Its artist, Maruyama Okyo, was a close observer of nature who put great emphasis on sketching from life. Each hair of the cat’s fur is depicted with a separate stroke. The saxifrage (visible in the full image) is an unusual subject in Japanese paintings, though it grows in many regions of the country. The scene’s intimacy tempts us to wonder whether Okyo came across this cat on a sketching trip in the countryside. Or was this cat sleeping in the artist’s own garden?

Two puppies at play Kamakura period (1185–1333), 1200s Lacquer on wood with crystal inlay One puppy pins another to the ground—momentarily—while nipping at its playmate’s leg. The puppies’ short, curly tails and oversized heads suggest their immaturity, and tiny whisker holes above their mouths and crystal eyes enhance their lifelike feeling. Scholars theorize that this pair was carved in the 1200s, a time when many religious sculptors carved realistic of this period have survived, a closely related wood sculpture of a seated puppy belongs to the Kyoto temple Kosanji. Further study is necessary to determine the function of these early animal sculptures and whether they were made by one master or separate artists of the same lineage.

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images for Buddhist temples. Although few animal sculptures

14 | Asian Art Museum

Auspicious pines, bamboo, plum, cranes, and turtles (detail, right screen) By Kano Sansetsu (1590–1651), Edo period (1615–1868) Pair of six panel folding screens; ink, colors, and gold on paper Auspicious imagery forms an important type of painting in East Asia, exemplified by these cranes and turtles in a landscape of plum, bamboo and pine. Cranes and turtles represent longevity, while the plants, known as ”three friends of winter,” are prized for endurance during the coldest months of the year. Screens like these were probably commissioned to commemorate life events such as a child’s birth or a couple’s wedding.

The combination of brilliant color and gold, strong brushwork, and powerful forms is a hallmark of Kano-school painters, who served Japan’s military

leaders. Based in the imperial capital of Kyoto, away from the main school in Edo (present-day Tokyo), the artist Kano Sansetsu had the freedom to develop a distinct personal style. He is admired for juxtaposing naturalistic wildlife with dynamic forms, seen here in the jagged rock surfaces and the exaggerated curves of pine trees. Seated male shinto deity Heian period (794–1185), 800s–900s Wood

All artwork courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection.

SUMMER 2013 | 15

As the material embodiment of native Japanese gods, or kami, statues like this one (pictured at left) are kept within the innermost sanctuaries of Shinto shrines, protected from the view of worshipers and even priests. Here, the deity is represented in human form, wearing the loose-fitting robe and formal headgear of an aristocrat. His hands, clasped at his chest under flowing sleeves, would have once held an upright ceremonial staff. It was not until the 800s that sculptors created representations of native gods using the styles and techniques of Buddhist sculpture. Though the wooden surface of this artwork is now badly deteriorated, it retains the solidity and solemnity of similar works carved from single blocks of wood during the Heian period (794–1185).


More on the second floor

The screens and paintings on display in the second-floor Japan galleries reflect the three major painting traditions featured in the exhibition In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection—the Kano school, the Rinpa tradition and the art of innovative 18th-century Kyoto painters.

The kano school Exotic equestrian sports captured the interest of Japanese warriors in the late 1500s. In this screen, the riders are Tatars (also known as Tartars), nomadic tribes that lived north and west of China. A lively polo game occupies the center of this screen; in the left screen (not shown), excited hunters converge upon prey.

Hallmarks of the sumptuous Kano-school style are on display here: the distinctive features and costumes of the Tatars appear to

be based on Chinese painting models. These borrowed details are combined in action scenes unfolding in a panoramic landscape richly decorated in mineral colors and gold. n Tatars playing polo and hunting (detail, right screen), attrib. to Kano Soshu (Japanese, 1551–1601), Momoyama period (1573–1615). Six-panel folding screen; ink, colors, and gold on paper. Museum purchase, B69D18.a.


16 | Asian Art Museum

Samsung Hall Loggia

Want to learn more?

Tateuchi Thematic Gallery

Take the escalator or elevator from South Court to the Japan galleries on the second floor.


The RINPA TRADITION The Rinpa artist Fukae Roshu illustrates a scene from Tales of Ise, a 10th-century Japanese anthology of stories and poems about a nobleman’s romantic pursuits. In this episode, the hero is on a journey through the mountains. Encountering a Buddhist monk on the road, he asks him to deliver a poem to a woman he has left behind in the capital.

Signature elements of the Rinpa style seen here are the artist’s simplification of landscape; his emphasis on sensuous curving

forms defined in color rather than outline; and use of the texturing technique known in Japanese as tarashikomi, in which ink or pigment is pooled on an already wet surface, noticeable here in the lichen on the rocks at right. n The Path through Mount Utsu (detail), by Fukae Roshu (Japanese, 1699–1757). Edo period (1615–1868). Two-panel folding screen; ink, colors and gold on paper. Gift of the Connoisseurs’ Council with additional funding from Elizabeth and Allen Michels, B86D3.

Innovative 18th-century kyoto painters Maruyama Okyo established an innovative style characterized by a synthesis of Kano-style ink brushwork and compositions with Western techniques of shading and perspective. The synthesis is on display in this dramatic composition, of twisting tree branches projecting out to meet above the still waters of a stream.

Pine, bamboo and plum trees are considered the “three friends of winter” in East Asia, auspicious plants that endure winter and

revive at the beginning of spring. Here the pine and bamboo are pushed to the right and left corners, as if to assert the supremacy of the plum tree, known for its first showy display of blossoms while the snow is still on the ground. n Pine, bamboo and plum (detail), by Maruyama Okyo (Japanese, 1733–1795). Edo period (1615–1868), approx. 1700s. Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and gold on paper. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D55+, B60D56+.

SUMMER 2013 | 17


Contemporary Artists offer dynamic new ways to experience the Museum

18 | Asian Art Museum

The Artists Drawing Club features thought-provoking projects that heighten visitor engagement Each month, the museum’s Artists Drawing Club invites a local

work. The exercise raises questions about ownership, authentici-

contemporary artist to create a unique experience for visitors

ty, appropriation in the digital age, and an economy of prints and

inspired by the Asian Art Museum and the surrounding neigh-


borhood. Through these interactive, experimental projects, the

Thursday night events provide perspectives on the museum, its

pret an object, or set of objects, from the museum’s collection in

collection and the world.

her event Rendition. Odutola, who draws intricate portraits from

On June 20, the Artists Drawing Club will feature Vietnam-

photographs, will take an aspect of each chosen object—color,

ese American photographer Binh Danh’s project Step a Little to

subject or tone—and incorporate the motif into a completely new

the East: Backdrops from the Asian Art Museum Collection. The

drawing. Rendition will actively merge aesthetics, cultures and

event explores projections of desire and transports participants


across time and space in an imaginative visit to East Asia. Partici-

pants will pose for a portrait in front of a backdrop created by the

will work with collaborators to present, an event in-

artist (and printed with an image from the museum’s collection)

corporating readings, performances and art inspired by the

and will use these photographs to explore their personal motiva-

museum’s groundbreaking exhibition of the Cyrus Cylinder.

tions for visiting the museum.

One of the most famous surviving objects from the ancient world,

the Cylinder was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform on the or-

On July 25, Filipino American artist Lordy Rodriguez will

On August 22, Nigerian-born artist Toyin Odutola will reinter-

On September 12, Iranian American artist Ala Ebtekar

direct Copy Right/Copy Left, a participatory and experimental

ders of Cyrus the Great after he conquered Babylon in 539

project. Using the language of cartography, Rodriguez creates

The Artists Drawing Club event will include a sound in-

drawings that explore imaginary, abstract terrain. In this Artists

stallation/performance in Samsung Hall in collaboration with Ata

Drawing Club event, visitors will copy core elements of one of

Ebtekar, Ala’s uncle, who works primarily in sound (and is also

Rodriguez’s drawings, layer text found in the museum over it and

known as Sote) to draw connections between the contemporary

assemble the pieces into a reproduction that becomes a new art-

world and the legacy of the Cyrus Cylinder. n



Inspiring Educators to Inspire Students Local teachers learn new tools and techniques to boost creativity in the classroom This summer, two innovative, in-depth Teacher Institutes will

pretation of artworks. They will also explore connections between

bring insights from Asian Art Museum collections into Bay Area

art and writing, and create lessons and activities inspired by the



Discovering Connections, from July 16 to 19, will help high

A second Teacher Institute, Japan: Art, Artifacts and Folk-

school teachers explore the potential of art to empower students’

tales, will be held July 29 to August 2, in collaboration with UC

creativity and critical thinking. Now in its third year, this Insti-

Berkeley’s History-Social Science Project. The program, fund-

tute—a collaboration between the Asian Art Museum, the Fine

ed by the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership, will

Arts Museums of San Francisco and the San Francisco Museum

train elementary school teachers to create model lessons, based

of Modern Art (SFMOMA)—will help teachers hone techniques

on Common Core State Standards, about Japanese culture using

for incorporating the study of visual images in interdisciplinary

art, artifacts, folktales and nonfiction texts.


Educators will make day long visits to the Asian Art Museum,

for interdisciplinary learning, even if they lack the resources for

the de Young Museum, an off-site SFMOMA exhibit at the Con-

museum field trips, says Caren Gutierrez, the Asian Art Museum’s

temporary Jewish Museum, and the Legion of Honor. In these

manager of school and teacher programs. “Through training

museum settings, they will develop strategies for the careful ob-

and continuing support,” she says, “we are building strong

servation of art and lines of inquiry to challenge students’ inter-

partnerships with Bay Area schools and communities.” n

The Teacher Institutes will give educators tools to use art

TEENS BEHIND THE SCENES Art Speak internship program Opens eyes and changes lives Each year, local high school students get a very special opportunity: to learn and work behind the scenes at the Asian Art Museum. As part of the Art Speak internship, this year’s group of three interns completing the program worked directly with museum staff and artists, developing essential job skills such as public speaking and time management. The engaging, fast-paced internship—a commitment of up to eight hours a week for nine months, for which the students are paid—has a big impact. “This experience has challenged me to think about what I want to do in the future,” says 11th-grader Violet Bryant. “I’ve been exposed to so many mediums and different ways to look at art.”

“There’s a whole world of art in addition to art making,” says Allison Wyckoff,

the museum’s manager of public programs. “I want the interns to learn that you can be passionate about the arts, but you don’t have to sacrifice a steady paycheck to work in a creative industry.” 10–12. Visit for more information. n Our interns: Violet Bryant (left), June Jordan School for Equity; Amanda Seigel (middle), Lowell High School; Kyla Candido (right), The Urban School Lead funding for the Asian Art Museum’s Art Speak program is provided by Placer Partners and the Sato Foundation.

SUMMER 2013 | 19

Applicants must be San Francisco Unified School District students in grades

Scientist and businesswoman Masako Martha Suzuki (left) poses with her sister, Tomoye Takahashi.

A Cultural Ambassador’s Extraordinary Legacy Masako Martha Suzuki—whose life’s mission was to raise awareness of Japanese art and culture—offered tireless support, expertise and friendship to the museum Born in San Francisco in 1921, Masako Martha Suzuki—a brilliant microbiologist, businesswoman and collector of Japanese art—was passionate about fostering understanding between Japanese and American cultures.

It was a personal mission grounded in her own experience. Suzuki was study-

ing at UC Berkeley when the United States declared war on Japan in 1941. She and her family were forcibly taken to the Tanforan detention center in San Bruno, then interned at the concentration camp in Topaz, Utah, with other Japanese Americans

“Martha wanted to make sure that the incarceration of an ethnic race never

happened again,” explains her longtime friend Diane Matsuda. Suzuki’s deep generosity to the Asian Art Museum over three decades was a way of promoting crucial cross-cultural understanding.

SUMMER 2013 | 21

from the Bay Area.

Although she died on February 16, 2012, at the age of

cessful Japanese import, wholesale and retail companies in the

90, her presence and influence are very much alive at the

nation. In 2010, the government of Japan awarded her and her

museum, says Elizabeth Bacchetti, director of legacy giving.

sister the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays—the

Suzuki and her sister, Tomoye Takahashi, founded and directed

highest honor conferred on Japanese foreign nationals—for her

the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, which

work as a cultural ambassador to improve U.S.-Japanese rela-

has been instrumental to the growth of the museum’s Japanese

tions. That same year, on National Philanthropy Day, the Asian

department and has supported greater public awareness of Japa-

Art Museum honored Suzuki, Takahashi and the Takahashi Foun-

nese art and culture, as well as the history of Japanese Americans.

dation as outstanding philanthropists.

The Tea Room on the museum’s second floor bears Suzuki’s name,

“Without question,” Sano notes, “Japanese art was

and she created a charitable remainder trust that will benefit muse-

her favorite area of interest, and she was pleased that San

um programs for years to come.

Francisco could boast of a museum

Most of all, according to former

that was dedicated to the arts of Asia.

director Emily Sano, Suzuki was an in-

Martha was very proud of her Japa-

spiring role model. “She was dedicated to the institution and supported the educational values of the museum’s mission,” Sano says. “Her own educational background was strong, and she was always excited about learning. Her contributions to the museum were huge.”

During World War II, Suzuki was

permitted to leave the camp in Topaz and complete her university degree in

22 | Asian Art Museum

Minnesota. She then returned to the

Martha was very proud of her Japanese heritage, and she was happy when the museum could show works of art that demonstrated the high quality and sophistication of Japanese art and culture.

nese heritage, and she was happy when the museum would show works of art that demonstrated the high quality and sophistication of Japanese art and culture.” As CFO of Takahashi, Suzuki planned the company’s annual gifts to the museum. She also headed the foundation’s annual grant-making activities. Asian Art Museum director Jay Xu says hundreds of thousands

Bay Area and accepted a job at UC

have been fortunate recipients of her

Berkeley as a microbiologist. In the

generosity, commitment to excellence

1950s, she left that position and began

and passion for sharing the cultural

working at the Takahashi Trading Company, founded by her sister

legacy of Japan. Suzuki’s dedication, he says, has enabled the

and brother-in-law after the war. In 1960, she married Risaburo

museum to serve its community as a bridge to understanding be-

Suzuki and moved with him to Japan, where she cultivated local

tween East and West.

artisans and encouraged them to produce quality products for

the American market. She had a fine eye, Bacchetti says, and she

Japanese art and cultural projects. One of them, she recalls, was the

was extremely interested in Japanese Mingei folk crafts—espe-

building of a scaffold for a huge Japanese temple bell from the 16th

cially the ceramic wares of the potter Shoji Hamada—and partic-

century. With funding from Suzuki and the Takahashi Foundation, a

ular varieties of woodblock prints.

Japanese builder constructed a traditional scaffold—assembled like

Suzuki also collected cars, a passion she inherited from her

a puzzle, without nails or glue—to support the 2,100-pound bronze

father. The last car she bought was a limited-edition BMW that

artifact. Each year, according to Japanese custom, the museum rings

took five years to create and reached speeds of 180 mph.

the bell 108 times to welcome the new year and banish all the bad luck

from the past year.

“Martha could be quiet and reserved,” Sano reflects, “but

Suzuki, Bacchetti adds, was often happy to support specific

she demonstrated her independent personality with her love of

fancy automobiles and good clothes.”

members. “She was interested, lively and involved in everything

we do to focus on Japanese culture. She was passionate about all

She was also a brilliant businesswoman. As chief financial

officer of Takahashi, she helped turn it into one of the most suc-

“Martha pulled back the log and rang the bell,” Bacchetti re-

of it and thoroughly engaged. That was her calling.” n


San Francisco supervisors David Chiu (left) and Eric Mar (middle) welcome Kai Ming Head Start students and parents while Kai Ming executive director Dr. Jerry Yang (right) looks on.

Opening Doors for local Families

A generous initiative sponsored by PG&E enables free access to the museum Preschool students from Kai Ming Head Start experienced China’s

seum before, so it was eye-opening for them to see everything it

Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy with their classes

offered. It was a good opportunity for them to see not only the

this spring as part of the museum’s free access for schools. In

Terracotta Warriors exhibition, but to learn about all the other cul-

April, 150 of their parents and siblings also got a chance to take

tures represented in the museum.”

in the rich legacy of the First Emperor’s burial complex, thanks to the Pacific Gas & Electric–sponsored Supervisor Community Group Initiative and the efforts of San Francisco district supervisors David Chiu and Eric Mar.

Under the initiative, in its fourth year, PG&E selects one of

the museum’s special exhibitions annually and provides sponsorship support for San Francisco’s 11 district supervisors to host community groups to visit the exhibition. Past participants in this initiative include the Arc of San Francisco (District 6), Mission Neighborhood Centers (District 9) and the Filipino Community Center (District 11). This year, PG&E underwrote access to the Terracotta Warriors exhibition, and the museum reached out to

For Mar, visiting with the families was its own rich reward.

“I loved joining many curious Richmond District children and their families from Kai Ming Head Start in exploring the intriguing exhibition,” he recounts. “The terracotta warriors are an astounding artifact of Chinese culture and human history. The museum is a San Francisco jewel that helps link ‘ABCs’ [American-born Chinese] like me to our roots in Asia while also raising general awareness of Asian art—past and present. Thanks to the Community Group Initiative for creating more equitable access for the Richmond District and other San Francisco neighborhoods!”

Chiu pointed out the crucial impact arts exposure can have

on children. “I was excited to have the opportunity to invite Kai

Mar (District 1, the Richmond) to arrange free access for parents

Ming Head Start families from my district to see the terracot-

of the Kai Ming students.

ta warriors,” says Chiu. “The arts are so important in fostering

creativity and ingenuity for youth, and that’s why the Community

“The families had a wonderful time,” says Kai Ming’s exec-

utive director, Dr. Jerry Yang. “Many had never been to the mu-

Group Initiative is such an invaluable program.” n

SUMMER 2013 | 23

Chiu (District 3, which includes Chinatown and North Beach and


JVST, a San Francisco digital design agency, was a key partner in the museum’s innovative Lost Warrior campaign. After a visit to last year’s Maharaja exhibition, the JVST team was inspired by the museum’s mission to offer their pro bono assistance—which the museum enthusiastically accepted. And the rest was history. JVST is the museum’s Digital Marketing Agency of Record.

24 | Asian Art Museum

“Oh, you guys are the Asian agency!” We heard that a lot during our agency’s first couple of years. And

it’s true that our staff at JVST was more than 85 percent Asian

enormously successful Terracotta Warriors campaign. We were

(Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese), so the characterization wasn’t

thrilled to develop the general marketing materials, but our favor-

entirely inaccurate. Since then, things have balanced out a bit, but

ite part was the Lost Warrior project.

we still wonder what kinds of assumptions others made about our

little family. Was it good to be the “Asian” agency? Did people think

ry about the exhibition that would generate awareness and draw

we worked only on soy sauce and video-game accounts?

crowds, and that’s how the Lost Warrior was born. The marketing

staff developed an idea for a campaign where somehow, on the

Which is why visiting the Asian Art Museum last winter made

The result of our first major effort together has been the

The museum wanted to tell a compelling, imaginative sto-

such an impression on us. We discovered an institution with a

journey from China to the Asian Art Museum, one of the terra-

mission to offer new, more diverse perspectives on what it means

cotta warriors got lost. To get him back, the museum would ask

to be Asian, working to change exactly what we were up against

the public for help directing him to the museum. But the museum

(and with such amazing art!). So we reached out and asked how

wanted to flesh out the campaign with a strong web and social

we could help.

media component, and that’s where JVST came in.


The JVST team, our design firm (and friends), mugs for the camera.

We designed a website,, to digi-

whelmingly enthusiastic. Early buzz about the exhibition drove

tize the quest for the Lost Warrior. People could help by tweet-

some impressive attendance numbers—opening weekend atten-

ing and posting photos on Instagram if they saw him, using the

dance set a new record for the museum (60 percent more visi-

hashtag #lostwarrior. A special map on the site captured social

tors than the previous record!).

media posts and charted the locations of Lost Warrior sight-

ings (that is, sightings of the actor playing the Lost Warrior).

and we couldn’t be prouder to call the Asian Art Museum our

The website tracked the warrior’s movements throughout the

clients and—more importantly—our friends. n

We were thrilled to contribute to the Lost Warrior campaign,

Bay Area. The campaign was wildly popular, and the website was a key

component of its success. Along with the efforts of the museum’s marketing staff, we drew in tons of people with little knowledge of the museum. The map spread awareness about the museum’s Civic Center location, and the social media response was over-

—James song James Song is co-founder and creative director at JVST, a full-service advertising and design agency based in San Francisco, specializing in innovation and high-impact work tailored to inject brands into cultural currents. JVST prides itself on being media and technologically ambidextrous, culturally edified and out to shape what’s next. For more information, visit

SUMMER 2013 | 25


Proximities 1: what time is it there? On view May 24–July 21, 2013 | second floor, Tateuchi Thematic Gallery

The three-part exhibition Proximities takes place in a single gal-

of an abundantly blooming cherry tree, for example, was shot in

lery over the next several months, but it’s rooted in a larger di-

Antioch, Calif., but wistfully conjures a place far away. The photos

alogue, and metaphorically in various spaces. The show is os-

and video by Lisa K. Blatt were filmed in Shanghai, but the sites

tensibly about conceptions of an unwieldy, geographically and

appear otherworldly, as does the house of a Persian poet in Ala

culturally vast idea termed “Asia,” but it’s also about engaging

Ebtekar’s exploration of Iran’s ancient past and glowing future.

different communities and considering the Asian Art Museum’s

Considering place through objects is the theme of the painting

connection to contemporary art—from Asia and beyond. The se-

installation by Tucker Nichols, who has an extensive academic

ries emerged from conversations about

background in Asian art, but whose

institutions and audiences, and how the

work isn’t often considered through that

museum is connected to the large com-


munity of artists who live and work in the Bay Area. As the show’s curator, I began by questioning my own relationship to the museum and to the idea of Asian art. In many ways, it’s a specialized field, and one that has aspects of identity em-

Proximities is about bridging some boundaries between the Asian Art Museum and artists you might not expect to see in it.

The tone of the works varies. Eli-

sheva Biernoff’s trompe-l’oeil postcards express a bit of sadness for animals faced with extinction. A key theme of the show is travel. James Gobel’s new mixed-medium painting is a celebratory abstraction of an imagined voyage

bedded: do you have to be schooled in

to Manila, while Andrew Witrak uses

Asian art or part of the family to fully

cocktail umbrellas and stock photos of

appreciate what is on view in the muse-

beach resorts to express the deceptive

um? Sometimes it can seem that way. Proximities is about bridg-

breeziness of tropical paradise.

ing some boundaries between the Asian Art Museum and artists

you might not expect to see in it.

Import/Export—will survey themes of family, community, trade

The second and third shows—Knowing Me, Knowing You and

The first of the shows, Proximities 1: What Time Is It There?

and commerce. All will make use of the museum website, blog

(named after a film by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang), fea-

and social media presence to further bridge the elastic psycho-

tures seven artists who look at an aspect of Asia from a variety

logical distance between here and there, and between artist, mu-

of experiences—from scholarship in Chinese art to imagining a

seum and viewer. n

vacation in Bali. Each of the artists addresses the idea of a myth-

–Glen Helfand

ical, fantastical place that they may or may not have visited, and considers it from a California distance. Larry Sultan’s photograph

Glen Helfand, guest curator for Proximities, is an independent writer, critic, curator and educator.

proximities 2: knowing me, knowing you oct 11–dec 8, 2013 proximities 3: import/export dec 20, 2013–feb 23, 2014

SUMMER 2013 | 27

This exhibition was organized by the Asian Art Museum. Presentation at the Asian Art Museum is made possible with the generous support of the Graue Family Foundation, Columbia Foundation, and an anonymous donor. Images opposite: (top) People’s Park, Shanghai, China May 23, 2007 9:35 PM (detail), 2007, by Lisa K. Blatt (American). Photograph, mounted on aluminum. H. 40 x W. 60 in. © Lisa K. Blatt. Courtesy of the artist. (Bottom left) Trouble in Paradise #2 (detail), 2013, by Andrew Witrak (American, b. 1977). Cocktail umbrellas, Styrofoam. H. 12 x W. 54 x D. 72 in. Courtesy of the artist. (Bottom right) The Shape of Things to Come (detail), 2012, by Ala Ebtekar (American, b. 1978). Acrylic on archival pigment print on found poster. H. 41 x W. 27 in. Courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim. Photo: Wilfred J Jones.


The cyrus cylinder and ancient persia: a new beginning On view Aug 9–SEPT 22, 2013 | SECOND floor, Tateuchi Thematic Gallery

Few objects surviving from the ancient world have captured

the 2,500th anniversary of the formation of the Persian empire

the imagination like the Cyrus Cylinder. Modest in size and

by Cyrus the Great. The Cylinder became the emblem of the

appearance and made more than 2,500 years ago, the Cylinder

celebration and also came at this time to be called “the first

remains an international symbol of tolerance and justice.

declaration of human rights” as an expression of Iran’s cultural

The Cylinder, made of clay and inscribed in Babylonian

heritage. The British Museum loaned the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran

cuneiform script, records the victory of the Persian king Cyrus the

for the occasion. The Iranian royal family presented a replica of

Great (ruled approx. 559–530 bce), founder of the Achaemenid

the Cylinder to the United Nations headquarters in New York. It is

empire, over Babylon in 539 bce. More

still there on display and translated into

significantly, it mentions Cyrus’s return

all six official U.N. languages. Today, the

of enslaved people—possibly referring

Cylinder appears on postage stamps

to the Jewish people—in Babylon to their homelands, along with religious objects that had been seized from their places of worship. The





Cylinder was as a foundation deposit— an object buried under the foundation of an important building to sanctify it. The Cylinder itself was never intended

issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran,

Modest in size and appearance and made more than 2,500 years ago, the Cyrus Cylinder remains an international symbol of tolerance and justice.

to be seen or used again. Its text,

In 1879, a British Museum-led archaeological expedition in

Babylon uncovered the Cylinder from beneath the ancient city’s walls and its text was translated in London shortly thereafter. The figure of Cyrus was already well known in 19th-century Europe through the Bible, the works of classical Greek historians and later European intellectuals and artists. The translation of the Cylinder’s text increased its historical value, as it seemed to support portions of biblical narratives.

For Iranians, the Achaemenid dynasty and its achievements

occupied a key place in their cultural identity and history well before the 20th century. A major celebration in 1971 marked

people at the 2010–2011 exhibition in Tehran. Besides modern Iranians, the Cyrus Cylinder also holds special significance for Zoroastrians and Jews. The one great god (Ahuramazda) of the Zoroastrian religion was also the deity worshiped by the Achaemenid kings, especially by

however, was written on other tablets and circulated in antiquity.

and it was seen by up to half a million

the successors of Cyrus the Great. In Jewish history, Cyrus ended the period of Babylonian captivity and enabled the Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

The Cyrus Cylinder is among the few objects in world history

to withstand the tests of time and serve as a shared locus for individuals and groups with varied perspectives. The meanings that have accrued around this physically modest object over the course of many centuries are what make it an influential icon today. n –Qamar adamjee Qamar Adamjee, Ph.D., is the associate curator of South Asian art at the Asian Art Museum. SUMMER 2013 | 29

The exhibition is organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and generously supported by Tina & Hamid Moghadam and Bita Daryabari & Dr. Reza Malek in collaboration with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Image (left): The Cyrus Cylinder, 539–538 bce. Achaemenid period (550–330 bce). Clay. © Trustees of the British Museum.

30 | Asian Art Museum

Lion-sized generosity In May, the Asian Art Museum installed two exquisite bronze Japanese lions to flank the main entrance. Dating to the 19th century, the lions now rest on two granite plinths that experts believe were originally intended to support lions when the 1916 building served as the city’s main library. Today, these lions not only complete the building’s original exterior design, they contribute a vibrant sculptural element to Civic Center Plaza. Chief curator Forrest McGill discussed the lions with donor Marsha Vargas Handley, a long time supporter of the museum, who made this generous gift in memory of her late husband, Raymond G. Handley. He was an art collector and real estate developer who established the Xanadu Gallery in the Frank Lloyd Wright building on San Francisco’s Maiden Lane, where Marsha now serves as managing director. Forrest McGill: Marsha, we are so appreciative of your donation of the great lions. Could we begin with the story of how you acquired them? Marsha Vargas Handley: My husband and I attended the International Asian Art stand. Raymond loved anything large, and these lions caught his eye. He loved them.

Left: Guardian lion, 1850–1900. Japan. Bronze. Gift of Marsha Vargas Handley in memory of Raymond G. Handley, F2011.16.1 © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

SUMMER 2013 | 31

Fair in New York in 2001, where we saw these lions at [dealer] Michael Goedhuis’

FMcG: So the deal was struck, and they were sent to California? MVH: They were delivered to us at Dinah’s Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, which Raymond owned. He decided there was room

FMcG: The idea of lions in front of our building has reminded people of the lions of the New York Public Library, which are named Patience and Fortitude. Did these lions ever have nicknames?

for anything there. We had

MVH: No, we never named

a wonderful Japanese Mei-

them, unfortunately.

ji-period bronze fountain

FMcG: Any thoughts about the

and a pair of larger-than-

lions in relation to the other sculp-

life-size 19th-century Indi-

ture in Civic Center? There’s

an processional elephants.

an equestrian statue of Simón

We’d opened a Trader Vic’s

Bolívar, a statue of Abraham Lin-

restaurant at Dinah’s and

coln in front of City Hall, a George

decided that the ideal place

Rickey piece in front of the library,

for the lions was on either

and a Henry Moore in front of

side of the front staircase.

Symphony Hall, among others.

FMcG: After Raymond

There’s a good bit of sculpture in

passed away in 2009, you

the Civic Center already. On the

faced the question of what

museum’s side, we’re tickled to

to do with the lions.

be contributing!

MVH: Before he died,

MVH: I think the lions are very

Raymond wanted to have a small private museum and

Chief curator Forrest McGill with lions donor Marsha Vargas Handley

established a nonprofit foundation. In the beginning, the foundation was to provide humanitarian aid for Africa. His brother had been the American ambassador to Mali in the ’60s. Raymond became interested in Mali, and in the late ’70s and early ’80s drilled wells there to provide fresh water to people in arid villages. That started his interest in African art. Over the years, the foundation also supported an educational program that supplied

cause they tie in with what you

will see inside the building: Asian art. FMcG: It’s possible that the lateral plinths in front of the museum were originally intended for a pair of lions. I think there was a tradition 100 years ago of lions in front of libraries and museums. And the old Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park had a pair of stone lions in front, so having lions again is quite marvelous.

50,000-plus schoolchildren every year with ethnographic study

MVH: But those lions faced forward, which would not work in

programs. From 2000 to his death in 2009, we gave certain

the current museum. The Japanese lions face each other, which

items to the foundation each year to form what we called his per-

is why they work so perfectly here. It would be nice if we could

manent collection, and the lions were among those things.

learn where they started out, but we have never known. We were

FMcG: Why did it appeal to you to offer the lions to the Asian Art Museum?

32 | Asian Art Museum

appropriate in this setting be-

told that they had been in the garden of an English manor house for 100 years or so. That is where they ended up after leaving Japan in the late 19th or early 20th century. It’s interesting how

MVH: Well, instead of just arranging to sell these lions at auc-

they’ve traveled: if only somebody could have kept a diary of

tion or to an out-of-state museum, I thought I would rather see

their journey!

them remain in San Francisco so that we could enjoy them. FMcG: What do you think of the idea of the lions going in front of the museum? MVH: I think it’s wonderful. They are beautiful sculptures and have lived outdoors their whole lives!

FMcG: They’re well-traveled lions. And they’ve got a lot of personality. MVH: And a lot of movement. They will be attention-getters. And I think they will attract people to come inside. n

Asian art museum exhibitions Visit for details

Proximities 1: What Time Is It There? Through July 21, 2013

In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection June 28–Sept 22, 2013

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning Aug 9–Sept 22, 2013

PROXIMITIES 2: Knowing Me, Knowing You Oct 11–Dec 8, 2013

In Grand Style: Celebrations in Korean Art during the Joseon Dynasty Oct 25, 2013–Jan 12, 2014

Proximities was organized by the Asian Art Museum and presented with the generous support of Graue Family Foundation, Columbia Foundation and an anonymous donor. Image (Proximities 1): Trouble in Paradise #2, 2013, by Andrew Witrak. Cocktail umbrellas and Styrofoam. H. 12 in x W. 54 in x D. 72 in. Courtesy of the artist. Image (Proximities 2): Self Portrait as Someone Else, 2013, by Kota Ezawa (German-Japanese-American, b. 1969). Single-channel video. Courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery. In the Moment was organized by the Asian Art Museum in collaboration with Lawrence J. Ellison. Presentation is made possible with the generous support of Union Bank. Media sponsors: NBC Bay Area, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco magazine. Image: Tigers (detail, right scroll), by Maruyama Okyo (Japanese, 1733–1795), Edo period (1615–1868), 1779. Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and colors on paper. Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection. The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia was organized by the British Museum in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and generously supported by Tina & Hamid Moghadam and Bita Daryabari & Dr. Reza Malek in collaboration with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Image: The Cyrus Cylinder (detail), 539–538 bce. Achaemenid period (550–330 bce). Clay. © Trustees of the British Museum. In Grand Style was organized by the Asian Art Museum in collaboration with the National Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum of Korea based on the exhibition Scenes of Banquets and Ceremonies of the Joseon Dynasty held by the National Museum of Korea in 2009. Presentation is made possible with the generous support of The Korea Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Image: 59th Birthday Banquets for Queen Mother Sunwon (detail), 1848. Joseon dynasty (1392–1910). Eight-panel folding screen, ink and color on silk. Courtesy of the National Museum of Korea.


Nature-Inspired art by Japanese Artisans The Museum Store features distinctive works by two artisans who combine traditional techniques, organic shapes and new approaches to striking effect “Shizu Okino and Hiroki Fukushima work with traditional techniques in completely new ways,” says Peri Danton, manager of retail operations at the Asian Art Museum. “They represent what we look for at the museum store—contemporary craftspeople and artisans whose work resonates with what one sees in the galleries.” The work of these artisans brings home our promise to discover fresh connections—across cultures and through time—to ignite new art, new creativity and new thinking. For more information, call 415.581.3600 or email n Organic Artistry Out of her Bay Area studio, Shizu Okino hand-wraps rattan around carefully selected stones using the centuries-old weaving techniques of traditional Japanese basket making. Okino learned this skill from a visiting Japanese basketry teacher (a subject she initially wanted to master because she needed to repair her worn-out kitchen chairs), and decades later she is still perfecting her craft.

“I choose rocks for their shapes and irregularities, then

decide on the weaving to do with each one,” says Okino. “The mundane rock has a primal beauty in and of itself, but that beauty can be better appreciated if enhanced by the simple rattan ties, especially those derived from ikebana basketry.” Okino’s rhythmic loops provide a counterbalance to the organic asymmetry of the stones, and the resulting creations have a serene appeal that has struck a chord with museum visitors. n Below: rattan-wrapped stones are available for purchase at the museum store. (Prices start at $25.)


Exquisite Alchemy Over the past 40 years, Hiroki Fukushima has made his name in Japan with his sought-after handcrafted, metal decorative objects, hardware and jewelry. He moved to the Bay Area last year, and his professional home is now in the extensive studio facilities of the Crucible, an industrial art studio and learning center based in Oakland. The museum store introduces Fukushima’s work to the American audience with pieces such as his signature Rushes lamp—which features grassy blades that cast a silhouette on Japanese paper—as well as brush holders and stands. Fukushima’s work integrates elements of nature with a lightness and fluidity that contrast the metal’s elemental weight, taking advantage of the medium’s mutable quality.

While some might find it daunting to establish oneself

with a new audience after a successful career, Fukushima relishes the challenge. “If I stayed in Japan, it would be easier for me to do this,” he admits. “But each artwork is a fresh start, an expression of a new idea. To keep my motivation high, it is better to expose myself to different audiences.” n

Brush holder (with grass cotyledons), hammered iron, 4 x 6 x 31/2 in. ($125).

Left: brush stand in the shape of bamboo, iron, 6 in. tall ($150). Right: Japanese lantern with rushes, iron and aluminum with gold and silver leaf, 13 in. tall.


Opening week of China’s terracotta warriors: the first emperor’s legacy The museum celebrated the warriors’ arrival with an opening week full of festivities. Guests at the opening-night gala got a sneak peek of the galleries and enjoyed a seven-course banquet in a terracotta warrior–themed pavilion. The next night began with a special preview and reception for Jade Circle members, followed by the public’s first view of the exhibition, kicked off with 36 | Asian Art Museum

an event featuring New York City artist collective CHERYL, who led us all as we danced the night away in a party that filled the entire museum. n Top: opening night party attendees celebrate the warriors arrival. Above, left: Chong-Moon Lee, gala chair Gorretti Lo Lui, and director Jay Xu. Above, center: gala warriors Fred Levin, Matt Brooks, Kumar Malavalli, Chong-Moon Lee, Tony Sun, Tim Kahn, Jerry Yang and Joe Cotchett. Above right: the gala tent pavilion. Bottom: Extra Action Marching Band performs during the public opening party.


Connoisseurs’ Council holds traditional Acquisitions Dinner On May 6, the Connoisseurs’ Council held its acquisitions dinner for the purchase of artwork for the museum’s permanent collection. This year, co-chairs Richard M. Beleson and Marsha Vargas Handley acknowledged and thanked the service and contributions of two long-standing members of the group. Hanni Forester (council member since 1987) and David and Margo Buchanan (members since 1989) were celebrated in a wonderful evening of beautiful art and friendly curatorial competition. At the end of the night, the museum welcomed the addition of a thangka depicting the Buddhist lama Tashipel to its permanent collection.

The dinner was made possible by the generous

contributions of the Council’s co-chairs. Marsha Vargas Handley gave a substantial gift to the Con-

Above: director Jay Xu, co-chair Marsha Vargas Handley,

noisseurs’ Council acquisitions fund, and museum honorees David and Margo Buchanan and Hanni Forester, trustee Richard M. Beleson partially underwrote the and co-chair and trustee Richard M. Beleson; photo by dinner expenses. n

Orange Photography. Inset: The Buddhist lama Tashipel, 1210–1273, Tibet; Riwoche Monastery. Colors on cotton.

Celebrating institutional partners On March 28, director Jay Xu, board Development Committee chair Fred Levin and chief philanthropy officer Nancy Brennan hosted the annual Institutional Partners Luncheon in appreciation of the exemplary support of the museum’s top corporate, foundation and government funders. Representatives of 17 institutional supporters gathered to hear about the museum’s impressive accomplishments over the past decade and learn about upcoming projects. n Left: Anne Nelson of Union Bank, Manni Liu and Emily Wang of East West Bank and Linda Lei of the Society for Asian Art

Patron luncheon for members One of the benefits of supporting the museum at the Patron level is an invitation to a luncheon with our museum curators. On April 10, Membership hosted the annual Patron luncheon. This year, chief curator Forrest McGill opened with remarks, and each upcoming year. Members enjoyed dining in Samsung Hall while socializing and talking about art and culture with other members and curators. n Right: Barbara Boyle, Vivienne Miller, Fay Wilson and Jon Sigurdson

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curator briefly spoke about projects they are working on for the


Wenda GU Artist Talk At a reception on February 7, director Jay Xu and donors welcomed the opportunity to hear an extraordinary Chinese contemporary artist, Wenda Gu, speak about his more recent works and the progression of his career. Gu has been hailed as “arguably the most original and authentic artist to emerge in China since the revolution” (Arts Magazine, Sept 1989, New York). Gu’s first personal exhibition with the China National Symposium on Chinese painting history was organized by the China Art Research Institute and the Shaanxi Artist Association. The work used invented and deliberately misprinted Chinese characters and became known as the start of conceptual ink art in China.

Gu has since gained popularity with the inclusion of human hair

in various works. Of note is his 15-year global art project titled United Nations (recently on view at SFMOMA) in which he uses collected hair samples from more than one million people throughout the world. n

Michael Knight, senior curator of Chinese art; contemporary Chinese artist Wenda Gu; Christophe Mao of Chambers Fine Art; David Zhang

GUMP SOCIETY DINNER The annual event for members of the Richard B. Gump Society took place on May 9, with a talk and tour of China’s Terracotta Warriors, followed by dinner. Guests were treated to a behind-the-scenes talk by Marco Centin (shown at left), the museum’s exhibition designer. Centin highlighted the key themes in the exhibition and gave examples of his influences. Many remarked that his presentation made them look at the exhibition with new eyes, making the experience even more memorable. Gump Society members are donors who have notified the museum of their intent to make the museum a beneficiary of their estates. For more information on legacy giving, call 415.581.3775 or email n Once Upon a time in Xi’an More than 630 children and adults joined event co-chairs Patrice Wilbur and Alexandra Caban (shown at right) for the second annual Council Family Event, Once Upon a Time in Xi’an. The museum was 38 | Asian Art Museum

filled with different activities, complementing China’s Terracotta Warriors, giving kids the chance to “excavate a warrior”; make jewelry with Chinese coins; have their faces painted; get (faux) Chinese tattoos; make paper armor; and see a great show with dancers, jugglers and the Shaolin Warrior Monks. The children had a wonderful experience at the museum and made long-lasting memories. For the second year, ScholarShare generously served as the event’s Lead Sponsor. n


Marcie vu, Member Since 2003 What’s your involvement with the Asian Art Museum? I’ve always had an interest in art. I moved to the Bay Area in 2000 from New York and fell in love with this museum. I think it’s one of the best in the city, from the space itself to the exhibitions it brings. I became a member a few years ago, and recently I decided to become more involved in supporting the institution and its objectives, so I joined the AAM Council. You also have another special connection to the museum? Yes, when my fiancé and I thought about getting married, we considered wine country, but given my love for art, we were drawn to museums. We toured other museums, but in the end, the Asian captured our hearts. It’s such a beautiful, natural space with that commanding grand staircase. Also, the amazing Ming-dynasty exhibition was on view during our wedding. As our guests were coming in, they saw the huge Ming banners all lit up, and it was simply breathtaking. n Left: Marcie Vu with husband Michael Thiel on their wedding day.

round. Members enjoy free, unlimited admission, including special exhibitions, live artist demonstrations, performances and events. For more information, call 415.581.3740 or email

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Interested in becoming a member? Connect with 6,000 years of art and culture from throughout Asia year-

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Non-Profit Organization U. S . Po s t a g e P A ID Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

ASIAN ART MUSEUM Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art & Culture 200 Larkin Street San Francisco, CA 94102 USA

Asian Magazine, Summer 2013  

In the Moment: Japanese Artwork from the Larry Ellison Collection, Proximities, The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning.