Brush Up: Bodhisattvas

July 29, 2011

Maitreya, Buddha of the Future

“Brush up” is a new series you’ll be seeing on our blog– it’s a way for you to (re)discover the vast landscape of Asian art from home and enhance your visits to PAM! This first post is a primer on one distinctive depiction of a Bodhisattva, a spiritual being who is closely linked to the Buddha.

Buddha means “one who is enlightened” or “one who has awoken.” Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the historical Buddha or Buddha Shakyamuni, was not the first Buddha, nor he will be the last. Throughout the Buddhist world, beings who were enlightened in the past and who will be in the future are revered and worshiped.

Unlike the historical Buddha, Bodhisattvas have not yet passed into complete enlightenment, remaining to aid others in reaching enlightenment as well. They are depicted as still being attached to this world. To show this attachment, Bodhisattvas are often shown wearing elaborate jewelry and garments, which the princely Siddhartha Gautama renounced when he reached enlightenment.

Maitreya BuddhaIn addition to the jewelry, there are other visual clues that these statues are Bodhisattvas. They sometimes wear an animal skin over their shoulders as a symbol of royalty and have elegant hairstyles. Typical of many Tibetan Buddhist images, the top figure also has engraved details and semi-precious stone inlay.

Want to get a closer look? The top statue is on view now in 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection and the bottom is on view in our Himalayan Gallery. We also encourage suggestions– what do you want to learn about in “Brush Up”?~CM

Top Image: Bodhisattva, Tibet, c.1300. Silver with gilding and precious stone inlay, Pacific Asia Museum Collection. Gift from the Nancy King Collection, 2001.1.1

Bottom Image: Bodhisattva, India; Himachal Pradesh, c. 8th century, bronze, Pacific Asia Museum Collection. Museum purchase with funds provided by Dorrie Braun, 1987.1.1


Going Mad at Fusion Friday

July 21, 2011

Little-known fact: teapot balancing involves fire.Teapots and rabbits and tea leaves, oh my! Our members and visitors had quite the experience at our second-to-last Fusion Friday last week, a Mad Green Tea Party. With help from our friends at OPM Comedy, Bana Tea Company, and Xiem Clay Center, we had a lot going on. We even had a special treat for those following us on Facebook.

Artists-in-the-making working on teacupsRoving performers from OPM included Genghis Khan, a mysterious White Rabbit, Siamese twins, and a tea leaf reader. After having a little fun with our teapot balancer, they mingled with the crowd. Others were busy upstairs, where Linda Louie of Bana Tea Company gave a tea tasting and Xiem Clay Center held a paint-your-own-teacup extravaganza, with plenty of blue and white ceramic examples for inspiration. And there were some serious artists at work! More pics are on Flickr.

There’s only one more Fusion Friday to go (tickets are going fast! Get them here) and we’ll be doing it Island Style. But don’t worry– our Active Cultures series is right around the corner. There’s always something going on around here!


Our First Art and Coffee

July 14, 2011

Our inaugural Art and Coffee afternoon was a hit! We had a great group mingling over free coffee and pastries from our partners at Starbucks (thanks guys!), and Assistant Curator Yeonsoo gave a fascinating talk on one of her favorite pieces in our exhibition 40 Years of Building the PAM Collection.

Click to enlarge

Yeonsoo highlighted Landscape After Snowfall, a late Ming Chinese landscape painting that serves as a good introduction of eastern painting traditions– here, preference is given to evoking the essence of the landscape over true naturalism. This piece was painted on silk, a traditionally unforgiving material, and shows the skill of an artist who can afford no mistakes that would ruin the expensive material. It was also painted during the years when the Manchu invasion of China was imminent, leading Yeonsoo to hypothesize that this piece could be the result of the artist wistfully remembering a more peaceful time. She also discussed how such paintings were often created among friends, who would write poetry inspired by the image onto the work itself.

Art and Coffee is a new series we’ve started to celebrate this 40th Anniversary show and give our visitors and members a deeper understanding of the pieces we have on display. We’ll be continuing the series monthly through October 7, when the show closes. After that, who knows? We may just bring it back for the next exhibition, 46 North Los Robles. Stay tuned!

Want to come to the next Art and Coffee? Reserve your spot on Eventbrite!


The Making of an Exhibition

July 7, 2011

The installation team puts protective plexiglass over a scroll.

When you visit one of our exhibitions, it’s clear that our curatorial staff puts in a lot of time, attention and care into what our visitors see. But did you know what it takes to actually put one of these exhibitions together?

On July 8, our newest exhibition 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection opens to the public (members get a preview reception!), but our curatorial staff has been working for over two years to make this the best show it can be. It’s a balancing act of pulling delicate pieces out of storage, moving some of our favorites from the permanent galleries, and making hard choices about what best showcases our wide-ranging collection. Now, all this hard work is paying off as they put the final touches on this fantastic show.

Yam mask, New Guinea, mid 20th c.

For such a diverse array of works, it might surprise visitors how much some of them have in common. The exhibition’s five themes pair unusual works that are not often displayed together, like our striking yam mask from New Guinea alongside imperial calligraphy. Wisdom and Longevity reveals the continuity of tradition and respect for ancestors; The Art of Daily Life brings together objects that were used in everyday environments but were imbued with care and craftsmanship; Status and Adornment  demonstrates the artistry in personal objects and the function of art as a social signifier; The Beauty of Nature reveals the natural world as a source of inspiration to artists and their patrons; and Religion and Faith shares the expression of beliefs through the physical manifestation of art.  These five themes offer an introduction to the collection for first-time visitors and a chance to revisit favorite works for those more familiar with the collection.

Now our curatorial department is now on the home stretch– actually installing the exhibition! Since our Changing Exhibition galleries (where our major shows are held) are a large part of our total gallery space, we try to keep installation time to a minimum. As a result, in a single month one exhibition comes down and another goes up with a new coat of paint, new cases, and a new gallery layout. The experience has been a crash course for our Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Interns to learn the ins and outs of installing an exhibition. 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection is a rare opportunity to see some of the best pieces in the Pacific Asia Museum collection, so come check it out once it’s open on July 8, and let us know which piece is your favorite! ~CM