Sunday, February 26, 2012
Newly on View at The Asian Art Museum
With exquisitely bad timing last October, the Asian Art Museum opened a touring show from London's Victoria and Albert Museum, Maharajah: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts, just as Occupy Wall Street was in full blaze.
The exhibit features a host of examples of conspicuous consumption, such as the solid silver coach above, by the historical One Percent of Royal India over the last 300 years.
Adding to the exhibit's underlying queasiness, the show also recounts the co-opting of this royal class by their British conquerers, with political roles becoming increasingly ceremonial as their baubles become correspondingly baroque.
So if you can't say something nice, sometimes it's better to say nothing at all, and since the Asian Art Museum is full of beautiful objects such as the ancient Chinese Buddha above, it might be better to focus on those.
There are 1,200-year-old Persian ceramics newly on view on the third floor...
...sitting next to a beautifully illuminated 19th century Quran from the same part of the world.
A room on the second floor has recently been hung with interesting modern Chinese art, such as Which Is Earth? No. 30 from 1969 by Liu Kuo-sung above.
There is an arresting wall-size photograph in the Korean wing from 1990 by Bae Bien-U that reminds me of the photography of Michael Starkman.
Finally, a nineteenth century screen of calligraphy by the Japanese Samurai Yamaoka Tesshu looks like some kind of perfection.