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In Focus: Ara Guler's Anatolia
December 14, 2013 - May 14, 2014
Ara Güler is famous for his iconic snapshots of the city of Istanbul in the 1950s and 1960s. But with an archive of more than 800,000 photographs, Güler's body of work contains far more than these emblematic images. On view are never-before-shown works by this legendary photographer. Featured are photographs of medieval Seljuk and Armenian buildings that Güler took in 1965, highlighting Turkey's cultural history. Pushing the boundaries of traditional curatorial practice, this exhibition also guides viewers into a critical debate about the way images are created: photography as documentation versus art.
Yoga: The Art of Transformation
Now - January 26, 2014
Through masterpieces of Indian sculpture and paintings, this exhibition explores yoga's goals; its Hindu, as well as Buddhist, Jain, and Sufi manifestations; its means of transforming body and consciousness; and its profound philosophical foundations. It is the first exhibition to present this leitmotif of Indian visual culture and examines the roles of yogis and yoginis played in Indian society over two thousand years.
More than 120 works, from the 3rd century to the early 20th century, illuminate yoga's central tenets as well as its obscured histories. Temple sculptures, devotional icons, illustrated manuscripts, court paintings, photographs, books, and films are on view. Borrowed from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe, and the United States, its highlights include an installation that reunites for the first time three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a 10th-century Chola temple; 10 folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures), which was made for a Mughal emperor in 1602 and has never been exhibited in the United States; and a Thomas Edison film, Hindoo Fakir (1906), the first movie ever produced about India.
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Ceramics from Thailand
Prehistoric clay vessels, many painted with dynamic red patterns, represent the flourishing of early ceramic production within the boundaries of the modern nation of Thailand. Many centuries later, potters in Thailand mastered the technology for making high-fired, glazed stoneware. Their jars and tablewares, used locally, were also shipped to distant international markets. This installation celebrates the variety of ceramic production within Thailand across four millennia
Perspectives: Rina Banerjee
Now - June 8, 2014
Drawing on her background as a scientist and experience as an immigrant, artist Rina Banerjee (b. 1963 in India, based in New York City) creates richly textured works that complicate the role of objects as representations of cultures. By juxtaposing organic and plastic objects—such as combining ornate textiles and animal forms with tourist souvenirs—she concocts fairytale worlds that are both enticing and subtly menacing.
Rina Banerjee created her latest site-specific sculptural assemblage, A world lost. Drawing inspiration from major river systems in Asia to create a fanciful-yet-sinister-world of collected objects, the installation touches on themes of migration and transformation. It's lengthy title conveys the sense of a long journey: A world Lost: after the original island, single land mass fractured, after populations migrated, after pollution revealed itself and as cultural locations once separated merged, after the splitting of Adam and Eve, of race black and white, of culture East and West, after animals diminished, after the seas’ corals did exterminate, after this and at last imagine water evaporated...this after Columbus found it we lost it imagine this.
Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran
Sublevel 1, Galleries connecting Freer & Sackler Galleries
In celebration of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's 25th anniversary, a selection from the Freer and Sackler's extraordinary collection of luxury metalwork from ancient Iran—an area extending from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea to present-day Afghanistan—is on view. This display explores the artistic and technical characteristics of these objects. Featured are works ranging in shape from deep bowls and footed plates to elaborate drinking vessels ending in animal forms, known in Greek as rython, that are largely associated with court ceremonies and rituals. Others, decorated with such royal imagery as hunting or enthronement scenes, were probably intended as gifts to foreign and local dignitaries. Depictions of kings and their royal attributes and pastimes helped define the power and identity of ancient Iranian royalty, whose rule continued well after the arrival of Islam in the 7th century.
Sculpture of South Asia and the Himalayas
On view are Hindu stone, bronze, brass, and terra-cotta sculptures from South India, dating from the 10th century through the 18th century. Highlights range from a majestic stone image of Shiva Dakshinamurti (Lord of the South) to a fierce gilded bronze of Palden Lhamo, the deity who protects Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. Also on view is the beloved elephant-headed deity Ganesh, who is the god of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles.
The Arts of China
A variety of of objects highlighting the Sackler Gallery's permanent holdings of Chinese art are on view. Much of the exhibition is dedicated to a comprehensive group of ancient jades and bronzes that spans more than three thousand years, from the Stone Age to the dawn of China's imperial period. Also on display are works from much later periods—paintings, calligraphy, and decorative objects that represent the refined tastes of imperial and aristocratic patrons. Early Chinese Buddhist art installation includes wall murals painted for the cave chapels at Kizil, a site in central Asia that participated in the east-west exchanges of the Silk Road .
Sculpture: Monkeys Grasping for the Moon
Sky-lit Atrium to Sublevel 3
This whimsical sculpture was originally created as a temporary display by expatriate Chinese artist Xu Bing (b. 1955) for the 2001 exhibition Word Play: Contemporary Art by Xu Bing. In order for it to remain on permanent view, it was re-created under Xu Bing's supervision and was given to the museum by the family of Madame Chiang Kai-shek in 2004 to coincide with the Year of the Monkey. This sculpture—suspended from the sky-lit atrium down to the 3rd-level reflecting pool—is composed of 21 laminated wood pieces, with each forming the word "monkey" in a dozen different languages. Based on a Chinese folktale, the monkeys linked arms and tails to form a chain to reach down to the pool below to capture the shimmering moon, only to discover it was a reflection. Moral: We often waste much time on futile goals.