Friday, March 04, 2016
Triple Bill at the Asian Art Museum
A trio of new exhibits has opened at the Asian Art Museum as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, and admission is free this entire weekend (March 5th and 6th).
At a press preview, museum director Jay Xu interviewed exhibition curator Qamar Adamjee about Pearls on a String, a look at art from three different Muslim courts: in 16th century India, 17th century Persia, and 18th century Ottoman Empire Turkey.
The small exhibit is high concept, looking at the Indian writer Abu'l Fazl in India, the Persian painter Muhammad Zaman, and the Turkish "patron" Sultan Mahmud. It would have made more sense if the exhibit had been three or five times the size, but we'll have to wait for the planned expansion of the first floor of the museum to have enough space for that kind of exhibit. There are a few gorgeous pieces, most of them loaned from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Pictured above is the 1771 View of Istanbul in the "style of French painter Antoine de Favray."
The most amazing treasure is a bejeweled 18th century gun belonging to Sultan Mahmud I.
Besides being embellished with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, silver and gold, there are hidden compartments containing a gold dagger and writing instruments.
Hidden Gold is another high concept exhibit assembled from the museum's permanent collection, starting off in the atrium with a large raw nugget of gold from the Sierras.
I was expecting a bling display, but many of the objects are more subtle, like the 17th century Chinese Daoist robe made of silk and gold embroidery.
You can also meditate on the Mongolian 18th century statue of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future.
China at the Center, the mind-blower of the three exhibits, involves a pair of 17th century maps created by Jesuit missionaries and Chinese scholars.
The monumental 1674 A Complete Map of the World by Ferdinand Verbiest and his Chinese collaborators is also annotated to within an inch of its woodblocked print.
Matteo Ricci's 1602 A Complete Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the World is one of the most beautiful maps ever made, with China at its center.
Check it out over the rainy weekend.