City

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M and I went to the Asian Art Museum last night, in the city in the rain. It was lovely.

We saw the terracotta warriors — those clay soldiers they found in Xian in the 70’s There are thousands of them, but only a few here. They are pretty impressive.

Despite the fact that it’s called the Asian Art Musuem, it really feels more like a cultural museum. Most of the exhibits are of religious art, or of stuff from daily life, and, as they point out, Asia is really half the globe, and not especially cohesive. It kinds of feels like a smattering of stuff from someone’s attic, and in a sense, I guess it is. A huge percent of it was collected by one guy, Avery Brundage.

M just wrote a paper on Japanese religious art, so the Japan section was interesting to her.

Both of us have read the Hare with Amber Eyes, so we spent a lot of time looking at the netsuke collection. They were amazing — you think you have seen them all (they are only on one wall) and then you notice the octopus poking out of an octopus pot, or the monk throwing beans at a demon, or the raccoon dog who has been turned into a tea kettle.

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3 thoughts on “City

    • Well, it’s just different. It’s an interesting question, really. Certainly in the Palace of the Legion of Honor, there is furniture. But mostly there are paintings, which seem to me to be just about the art, and not about the culture that created them. Whereas in the Asian Art Museum, there are lots of cultural artifacts — a Japanese tea room, netsukes, ceramics, indonesian hair pins, religious art — which seems to have at least as much cultural as artistic baggage. But maybe this is just my cultural setting — the paintings read to me as having not so much cultural baggage because it’s my culture (or related — I do not live in 17th C Holland). It doesn’t matter, really. I know there is secular Japanese art — all those wonderful prints which influences the impressionists, for one thing. And in India — all those miniatures. But are those exceptions? Is Asian art mostly either very practical or very religious? That’s what I’d think if I was judging by what’s in that museum at the moment. I guess it matters because it makes me wonder about the nature of art in Asia.

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