Friday, October 23, 2009

Asian Art Museum: Emerald Cities -Arts of Thailand and Burma

In the 19th-century Siam and Burma—two neighboring kingdoms in Southeast Asia—were renowned for their golden-roofed temples, lush gardens, and handsomely adorned palaces. Emerald Cities is the first major exhibition in the West to explore the rich but little known arts of Siam and Burma from this period. Many of the 140 stunning artworks—including gilded ritual vessels, mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture, colorful paintings, manuscripts, exquisite textiles, delicate ceramics, and more—were recently acquired by the museum from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and are on display for the first time.

The Asian has provided a wealth of information on their website, They even have put free lectures on iTunes that you can download for your iPod. The museum's mission, as stated by director Jay Xu, to enlighten, educate and entertain is something they take seriously. I will be reviewing the show in greater depth as soon as I recover from Open Studios (Reception tonight - ekkkk). But I can tell you, dear reader, that it's another beautifully organized, elegantly presented exhibit with a catalogue that's a "must buy." The museum's blog has some wonderful videos about the labor-intensive process of conservation which took five years (7500 hours) to restore and repair the neglect of decades of weather, fragile materials and war. Burma, alas, was the victim of another one of Britain's 19th century imperialist "little wars" which is the subject of one of the insightful essays in the catalogue.

The Asian Art Museum Blog is another resource with current entries on Burmese puppets, a tribute to Doris Duke, links to films on the current government of Myamar (Burma) and videos on conservation.

Tom Christensen, the publications designer for the Asian has an insightful post on designing a book dealing with the arts of this region. It's interesting that he chose Perpetua for the typeface which was designed by Eric Gill, the subject of a current post here.
"A challenge in this book was to come up with a design that is compatible with the decorative, sensual, spiritual, and ornate character of the art, without resorting to a proliferation of dingbats and flourishes—without creating too busy a page, full of gratuitous distractions"
Asian Art Museum: October 23 - Jan 10th, 2010

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