Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Thanks to the Donors

Where: Sackler Gallery

When: through December 13, 2015

The Sackler and Freer Galleries, although they owe their existence to the tremendous generosity of their naming donors, are the recipients of additional gifts each year.  Some patrons give works of art; others give money that allow the museum to make purchases.  Several new and anticipated gifts are currently on display at the Sackler in its South Galleries, close to the museum's shop.

Interestingly enough, two of the donors are from the field of mental health.  Both Dr. Arthur Sackler and his friend Dr. Paul Singer (whose collection of Chinese art Sackler in part financed and which was donated to the Sackler) were psychiatrists - is this coincidence or correlation?  Does the study of the human mind lead one to appreciate Asian art?

The exhibit does not have a theme per se.  As the wall notes indicate, "the only unifying element is the generosity of the donors."  And a fine unifying element that is.  I particularly liked a ceramic piece entitled Gathering Morning, an example of stoneware by Miyashita Zenji, pictured above.  The colors reminded me of a sunrise and the shape was very unusual - not symmetrical at all from front to back - a sort of rectangle that juts out in the front and back.  I've not seen a piece like it before, but I'll keep my eye out for more of Zenji's work in future.

I also enjoyed a statue of the Medicine Buddha.  He was worshiped in order to fend off disease, hunger, thirst, cold and mosquitoes.  I love the specificity of that last complaint.  The next time I'm bitten, I'll send a request to the Medicine Buddha and see if that's any more effective than bug spray.

Verdict: Seeing this display was an excellent reminder of the debt of gratitude I owe to the Smithsonian's donors.  Thanks to them, I've had many happy hours and learned a multitude of things.  This is worth a look if you're headed to the Sackler.

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