Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gifts to the Collection: 1987-2012

Where: Sackler Gallery

When: through December 15, 2012

The Sackler's collection was founded by Arthur Sackler, but other people have given gifts to the museum since it opened 25 years ago.  This display is a selection of those gifts.  I had been expecting a quite large exhibit, but it's only one room, so you can linger all you like and still see everything in a short period of time.

There is a case filled with seals used by artists to sign their work - I was reminded of an exhibit I saw quite a long time ago at the Freer on Chinese calligraphy where I first learned about these seals.  Two of the seals were carved from peach pits - a idea for recycling that I confess had not previously occurred to me!  There are also on display two scholar's rocks.  I had heard of these before, at the National History museum's orchid display in 2011.  Scholars would collect large interesting rocks that reminded them of mountains.  The idea is that by contemplating these objects, the mind and spirit would be refreshed in the same way that they would by walking in the mountains.  I'm not sure I buy into this line of thinking, but the rocks were interesting.

Pictured above is one of several kingfisher-feather ornaments on display.  These are made of actual feathers, which are then cut into shapes and glued into cells in a metal substrate.  I'm not sure I know exactly what this is, but the jewelry is beautiful - the picture really doesn't do justice to the urquoise color.  Another item that caught my eye was a painting, "Two Celestial Ladies," from the Ming Dynasty; the flowing lines reminded me of Art Nouveau - although it was painted centuries before that artistic movement.

Verdict: This is a great small show.  Easily managed in a lunch hour, it gives the viewer a sense of what's in the general collection without being completely overwhelming.

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