The collection of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum—more than 35,000 objects, ranging in date from the third millennium B.C. to the twenty-first century—is one of the largest and is the most comprehensive in the West. Each of the many civilizations of Asia is represented by outstanding works, providing an unrivaled experience of the artistic traditions of nearly half the world.
Posted: Friday, September 12, 2014
During the summer of 1644, the city of Nanjing lived beneath a cloud of anxiety and fear. The once-vibrant southern capital of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) had become home to the remnants of the Ming court, a bedraggled and shaken group who had fled south after the fall of Beijing in April of that year. The shock of seeing their capital fall, of witnessing their young emperor retreat behind the Forbidden City and commit suicide—these were the traumas that the court brought south to Nanjing. Even as they struggled to establish a temporary capital in the south, up north the Manchus prepared to complete their conquest of the empire. Like a city preparing for the arrival of a hurricane, Nanjing waited, and feared.
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Numerous representations of the sea are woven into the work of Claude Debussy (1862–1918). The French composer regularly referenced his awe of the sea and its power, and even noted that he had "intended for the noble career of a sailor" in a 1912 letter to close friend and composer André Messager. Although the sea had already played a recurring character throughout much of his piano music, the first appearance of this subject in Debussy's orchestral output was the final movement of his 1899 work Trois Nocturnes, "Sirènes," in which he gave life to the deadly mythological seductresses by adding a wordless female choir to the standard orchestral forces.
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014
"The Administrator of Kuaiji [Wang Xizhi, ca. 303–ca. 361] is all mannerist cliché.
As the study of calligraphy declines, I enjoy a free rein with a laugh.
Scornful of following known calligraphers like a maid,
I take the stone tablet of Mount Hua as my master."
In 1736, leading artist Jin Nong (1687–1773) wrote this iconoclastic quatrain that reflects a momentous turning point in the development of Chinese calligraphy during his time. Abandoning the venerated tradition defined by the classic elegance of its patriarch, Wang Xizhi, Jin Nong turned to an earlier, less-sophisticated model—stone inscriptions of the ancient Han dynasty (206 b.c.–a.d. 220)—for guidance.
Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Posted: Friday, May 23, 2014
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. This month affords us the opportunity to reflect on the various achievements and traditions of so many of our neighbors, friends, and family members. The Metropolitan's permanent collection and current exhibitions offer a calm and reflective setting for appreciating the art from this part of the world.
Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for Chinese Decorative Arts, located on the mezzanine at the north end of the Museum, are filled with extraordinary objects made in materials that include silk, lacquer, and jade. These galleries can only be reached by an elevator or a staircase from the Chinese painting galleries, however, so finding the artworks displayed there can be categorized as "extreme" museum-going: It takes true commitment.
Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014
The upcoming Met Museum Presents talk Journeys to Divinity, along with the current exhibition Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations, touch on how imagery functions to convey complex social and religious meanings—a concept occurring today in a myriad of contexts, as the Internet penetrates deeper into our communal experience. Gonkar Gyatso considers just such media in his construction Dissected Buddha, which draws from fragments of pop culture, mass media, and advertising in a way that appeals to a broad audience and breaks down both language and geographic boundaries.
Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014
As mentioned in a previous post, I conducted two survey trips in preparation for the exhibition Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations (on view through June 8), which focuses on eleventh- and twelfth-century connections and interactions between the Buddhist communities of Tibet and India. My trip to central Tibet in September 2010 allowed me to visit and study many of the extant Buddhist monasteries there, and to survey the wall painting preserved in monastic sacred structures.
Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Calligraphy is considered the premier art form in Chinese culture because it so directly reflects an artist's character and mentality. Sequences of lines and dots trace the creative process with utmost immediacy, and one can envision the movements of the calligrapher's hand and sense his mood, while the words—especially poetry of one's own composition—convey his thoughts. The calligraphy album of Chen Hongshou (1599–1652), currently featured in the exhibition Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy—Selections from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, exemplifies this unique union of visual and verbal arts.
Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014
In the year 1561, the scholar, painter, and calligrapher Wen Peng sat down at his desk to write out the Thousand-Character Classic, a sixth-century poem often used by Chinese calligraphers to build or maintain their brush skills. The sixty-three-year-old Wen Peng was no stranger to the Thousand-Character Classic—he had likely written it several hundred times during his life, and no doubt knew the text by heart. But this time he did something unusual: He transcribed the text in a form of writing known as "clerical script," an archaic script used primarily for commemorative purposes; and he wrote the characters larger than normal, filling oversized sheets of paper with just twelve characters each.