A Centennial for Asian Art at the Met

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SHAFAQNA –

Maxwell K. Hearn remembers when he first arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1971. “There were only two spaces for Asian art: the Great Hall Balcony, which housed Chinese ceramics, and an adjacent gallery of Chinese Buddhist art,” he recalled. “Douglas Dillon, then chairman, and Thomas Hoving, the director, surveyed the museum and realized that Asian art was the weakest department. They also recognized that it was too important an area to neglect.”

Since then the number of galleries devoted to Asian art has grown to over 50, and the Met now has one of the world’s greatest collections. To celebrate the department’s centennial year (it was founded in June 1915), the museum will present an unusually large number of exhibitions and installations: 17 in all, six of which have already opened.

“The growth of the department is not only an extraordinary story of the Met but also of the New York collectors who wanted to be a part of it,” said Mr. Hearn, who is known as Mike and who took over running the Asian art department in 2011 when James C. Y. Watt retired.

Photo

A work by Martin Creed donated to Bard. CreditCourtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

“In 1981, when the Chinese paintings galleries opened, we had only enough A-class paintings to rotate them once,” Mr. Hearn recalled, explaining that these works are light-sensitive and cannot be continuously on view. “Sixteen years later the collection had grown so much we actually expanded the galleries.”

Many of the museum’s earliest benefactors — Benjamin Altman; J. P. Morgan; H. O. Havemeyer and his wife, Louisine; and Abby Aldrich and John D. Rockefeller Jr. — helped form the foundation of its Asian art collection. It has since expanded its holdings to include contemporary art.

Part of its growth has been in response to increased interest from the museum’s visitors, including those from Asia, who come to the Met wanting to see how curators tell the different stories of Asian art. “We have a dual obligation to present and display Asian art so that it not only educates American audiences who may never have been to Asia but also demonstrates a sophisticated appreciation of Asian cultures to visitors from that part of the world,” Mr. Hearn said.

The centennial celebration formally kicks off on Feb. 19, the Lunar New Year, but on Feb. 14 the museum is opening “Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met,” which will examine the history of collecting Japanese art since the 1870s.

Over the year, shows will also touch every corner of Asia, including art of Tibet and Nepal, Korea and India. Even the museum’s Costume Institute is paying homage to fashion from China. Its big spring show “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which opens May 7, will explore how Western fashion designers have been influenced by traditional Chinese costumes; works of art and decorative arts; and cinematic portrayals of China.

WORKS TO BARD MUSEUM

Christmas is just a week away, but some museums have already opened their presents: big donations from longtime supporters. The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., has received 200 contemporary artworks from the New York collectors Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg.

“It’s an amazing gift that expands the reach of how our collection is represented over the last 20 years,” said Tom Eccles, director of the center.

“We have about 15 shows curated by students a year, and Marty has not only seen them but often collected works from them.”

About 90 artists are represented on the list of works going to Bard, including Marlene Dumas, Chris Ofili, Karen Kilimnik and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

“This gift is about combining my passion for art with philanthropy and education,” said Mr. Eisenberg, who has been on the museum’s board since 2003. “Since I got to every show and know what’s missing in the collection, I was able to fill many gaps.”

He added that other museums, including the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Museum of Modern Art, are also receiving art from his collection.

BOSTON MUSEUM GIFT

The political activist and collector Barbara Lee has given the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston 43 works by 25 female artists, including paintings, sculptures and photographs by such major figures as Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, Mona Hatoum, Cindy Sherman and Kiki Smith. Representing three decades of collecting, the gift increases the museum’s holdings by 30 percent.

“The I.C.A. introduced me to many of these artists,” Ms. Lee said. “I’ve had things in storage and don’t live in a home designed for contemporary art.”

Ms. Lee said she started collecting work by female artists because she felt they had “traditionally been under-recognized and underrated.”

It is the largest gift in the museum’s history and “will dramatically change the stories we can tell, for our visitors, the city of Boston and the next generation,” said Jill Medvedow, the institute’s director. She said she planned to mount an exhibition of the gift in a few years.

A CURATOR FOR PRINCETON

Since 2007, when John Elderfield left the Museum of Modern Art, where he had been chief curator in the department of painting and sculpture, he has been busy lecturing, writing and organizing exhibitions, including ones for the Gagosian Gallery, where he is a consultant. Now, Mr. Elderfield will be the first Allen R. Adler Distinguished Curator and Lecturer at the Princeton University Art Museum. (Mr. Adler, an investor who is a longtime member of the museum’s advisory council, and his wife, Frances Beatty Adler, a Manhattan dealer, gave the museum $4.5 million to fund a curator and support scholarly and educational initiatives.)

Starting in the spring, Mr. Elderfield will give a series of public lectures. By fall, he is expected to teach his first course in European modern art. “I feel strongly that students should be exposed to art historians who work closely with actual works of art,” Mr. Elderfield said.

He will continue, meanwhile, to put together exhibitions for Gagosian. The next one, to open on Feb. 17 at its 21st Street gallery in Chelsea, is “In the Studio,” a show of paintings of artists’ studios by some 40 artists from the 18th through the 20th centuries. He is also working on an exhibition of Cézanne portraits that will be on view at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 2017-18.

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/

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