Thursday, December 28, 2006

National Palace Museum - Taipei, Taiwan - Design - New York Times

The National Palace Museum in Taipei is celebrating its rarest works. More Photos >

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Published: December 28, 2006

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Dec. 27 — After four years of renovations that closed two-thirds of the building, the museum housing the world’s most famous collection of Chinese art is reopening this winter and holding a three-month exhibition of its rarest works.

The National Palace Museum, home to the best of the 1,000-year-old art collection of China’s emperors, is often compared to leading Western institutions like the Louvre, the Prado and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But while this museum’s holdings are magnificent, the institution has been known for being a highly politicized place where priceless porcelain sat in poorly lit display cases and where invaluable paintings were kept in a damp manmade cave for fear of Communist attack from mainland China.

That has now changed. Heroic statues of Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan’s former leader, and of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, have been banished. New lighting, air-conditioning, climate-controlled storage vaults and other features rival the newest museums in the West. Even the wall labels attached to the artwork are now written in clear and specific Chinese, English and Japanese.

And after many years of hiding its most valuable and most fragile artworks — those from the Northern and Southern Sung dynasties that ruled China from 960 to 1279 — the museum has brought them out for a “Grand View” exhibition that opened on Christmas. Four of the best known Northern Sung dynasty paintings — one of them on loan from the Metropolitan Museum in New York — are being shown together for the first time, along with other rare paintings, scrolls and some of the world’s earliest printed books.

The four paintings are magnificent landscapes that tower over visitors but still have the exquisite detail of miniatures. The Chinese characters of the name of one artist are so subtly hidden in the trees of one painting that they went unnoticed until this century. A deputy director of the museum is credited with discovering them, although rumor says that a janitor was really the first to find them, said Ho Chuan-hsing, a museum specialist in early paintings and calligraphy.

Many of the pieces are so fragile that they are never lent to museums elsewhere. Some will only be on display here for half the exhibition: either from Christmas to Feb. 7 or from Feb. 8 to March 25. Museum policy allows these works to be shown only for 40 days, after which they are loosely rolled and placed in a vault to rest for at least three years; the exhibition here will not go on tour.

Art scholars describe the “Grand View” as unique.

“To see all of these paintings come out at one time again is just not going to happen,” said Marc F. Wilson, a Chinese-art specialist who is the director and chief executive of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., which lent two rare scrolls to the exhibition here. “These are the foundations of modern Chinese pictorial sensibility.”

Also on temporary display this winter in a single case are 50 of the 70 known examples of Ju Ware, one of the world’s rarest and most valuable kinds of porcelain. Manufactured for imperial use at a single kiln in central China for just two decades at the end of the 11th century, Ju (pronounced rue) Ware is glazed with a lustrous, green-tinged shade of blue that has a faint, rose sparkle.

Craftsmen ground up agate, a semiprecious quartz, to make the glaze, using a technique that was soon lost and has never been rediscovered. The 50 pieces on exhibit here include the museum’s own 21 examples and 29 borrowed from other collections around the world.

The presentation of the Ju Ware is raising eyebrows at a museum so conservative that many of the curators wore the traditional blue silk robes of Chinese scholars into the 1970s. The vases and dishes sit on a 100-foot-long, waist-high white surface that is an imitation of the runways on which models promenade at fashion shows.

Jimmy Yang, a 33-year-old Taiwan-born but Australian-educated architect and designer who showed up at the opening on Christmas in a black T-shirt and blue jeans, arranged the exhibition.

“We wanted it to be a little more up-to-date, a little humorous even,” he said as visitors began ogling the spotlighted vases.

Chi Jo-hsin, the chief curator of the museum’s antiquities department, acknowledged that the presentation had been controversial within the museum’s staff. “Some think it is good, and some think it should be different,” she said.

The Imperial Palace in Beijing, better known as the Forbidden City, became a museum in 1925 as part of a republican bid to prevent the restoration of the last emperor, Pu Yi. When Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists became worried in 1933 about a possible Japanese attack, they secretly sent the collection in wheelbarrows to Beijing’s train station to be transported south, the start of the collection’s 16-year odyssey during war with Japan and China’s civil war.

The Nationalists ended up shipping the most valuable art to Taiwan, where it has remained ever since. The mainland government has since gathered at museums in Beijing and Shanghai a large number of the works that were left behind, together with the fruits of archaeological excavations as well as the purchase or confiscation of mainland collections and gifts from tycoons in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

The exhibition here is taking place in rooms that have been heavily renovated as part of an extensive overhaul of the museum. Elevators and other features have also been added to make the building completely accessible to the elderly and the disabled, and the building has been strengthened to improve protection against earthquakes, including one that shook Taiwan on Tuesday evening but did not damage the museum or its collection.

Tu Cheng-sheng, who started the renovation as the museum’s director in 2002, said then that it would be too controversial to remove the memorial hall dedicated to Sun Yat-sen, a symbol of Taiwan’s ties to the mainland. But the hall and its giant bronze statue are gone now, a disappearance that Ms. Lin and Mr. Tu, now Taiwan’s education minister, declined in separate interviews to discuss.

The building’s exterior still has jade-green tile roofs and yellow walls designed to evoke the Forbidden City. But the museum’s celebrated tearoom has been transformed as part of an effort by Ms. Lin, the director, to address a problem facing art museum directors all over the world: how to draw the young and trendy.

While the museum’s collection has an international reputation among art connoisseurs, it has been distinctly less popular in Taiwan, and especially among young Taiwanese who feel little connection to the mainland. Slightly more than half the museum’s two million visitors a year come from outside Taiwan, mainly from Japan, Korea and other countries in Asia.

The tearoom, on the museum’s top floor with lovely views of the surrounding mountain valley, used to be a reproduction of the Three Treasures room at the Forbidden City, complete with an elaborately carved and flamboyantly painted ceiling. The ceiling has now been covered with gray-brown paint and the room turned into a very contemporary Taiwanese tearoom with sturdy furniture made of oak, not traditional sandalwood.

The “Grand View” this winter may also represent the last chance for visitors from the United States and elsewhere to see the best of China’s art without having to push through throngs of mainland Chinese tourists.

Taiwan is negotiating with Beijing officials to allow mainland tourists to start visiting here this spring. While the number of tourists is supposed to be limited to 1,000 a day at first, the tourism industry is expected to press for quick increases in that cap.

Jason Kuo, a Taiwan-born professor of Chinese art history at the University of Maryland who studied at the National Palace Museum from 1971 to 1973, said the museum faced a difficult balance as it prepares to handle more visitors, appeal to young Taiwanese and protect the art collection.

“They want to be open to the West,” he said, “but they want to maintain their heritage.”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

John Berger: Here Is Where We Meet, season of events in London, April - May 2005

I can't tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten.

I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumour and a legend because it makes sense of what life's brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honour.
John Berger

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

De Kooning

I cant stand this artist works. I can somewhat understand his emotional demeanor behind the picture, but it is a demeanor I do not like. People are often afraid to say they don't like artist that have been accepted by society, often using the `I don't understand' comment. There , for me is nothing loving or positive about this work, and for me it cannot be considered beautiful and holds no referential value ( as being a portrait of a known person.) -Paul Grant (follower of Basho)

Willem de Kooning, American, 1904-1997, b. The Netherlands
Woman IV, 1952-1953

Oil, enamel, and charcoal on canvas
59 x 46 1/4 inches (149.86 x 117.48 cm)

Gift of William Inge, 56-128

Location: Gallery L2

In Woman IV a figural form, frontal and iconic, fills the surface of the canvas. The woman has enormous arms and breasts, bulging eyes and appears to either grin or grimace. Painted in intense and garish colors, she shifts, disassembles, reassembles and merges into a field of painterly brush strokes. Dramatic brushwork, over painting, scrapes and scumbles create a myriad of layered effects that set the canvas in motion and record the dynamic painting process.

De Kooning identified the complex fusion of references present in Woman IV: Venus, the nude, ancient fertility goddesses, Mesopotamian idols, contemporary women, the pin-up of the early 1950s and even the abstract forces of nature.

Fully aware of the ambiguity of form and content in his paintings, he observed: "Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash." De Kooning's Women are never definitively interpreted. Instead, they remain open, inviting speculation, while suggesting the artist's intense engagement with the concept of woman.

Video - Picasso


Anew video on YouTube by ghaile123.

"Everyone wants to understand art. Why don't we try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant partjavascript:void(0)
Publish of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world though we can't explain them; people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree."
-- Picasso

Monday, December 11, 2006

the Plain English Campaign

Germaine Greer, the British-based Australian academic and writer, won the campaign's Golden Bull award, which recognises the "worst examples of written tripe".

She wrote in her arts column in The Guardian on October 23: "The first attribute of the art object is that it creates a discontinuity between itself and the unsynthesised manifold."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Symphonic Poem

Symphonic Poem

Fragment of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson's Symphonic Poem Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum


Columbus native Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson has created over 20,000 works, including cloth paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, book illustrations, and quilts. Her work is based on extensive research, oral history, and first-hand observation, but all of it is primarily concerned with documenting the lives and history of her family, friends, and community.

Robinson often works for many years on a fabric piece, incorporating buttons, shells, twigs, and fabric to create richly textured works that weave a memory into a colorful and grand collage. Her work is in the collections of, among others, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts.

My work is about people, historical data, traditions, lost communities. For me, there is no distinction between life and art. The button work is the core. It is important because of long traditions in my family, especially from my mother. These traditions are still being passed on today, not only through me but through the younger generation. It takes time to produce work. It takes everything you have because it takes your life to leave something for those who are coming after

African American artist Aminah Robinson (b. 1940) works her magic in a stunning array of richly textured, wildly colorful multimedia works. Grand collages on fabric, sculptures, drawings, paintings, carvings, quilts, and books weave memory into a moving and unique art that documents her own and her community's history. Symphonic Poem--the catalogue for a major traveling exhibition celebrating her work--brings together more than 100 of Robinson's works with essays exploring her life, African influences and spirituality in her art, and her work in relation to that of other contemporary African-American artists.

About the book

Throughout this book Robinson herself speaks about her life, her family, her travels, and her work, and provides a view of The Dollhouse, the workspace she has built in her backyard. This strikingly designed, oversized volume, complete with three gatefolds, is a lush and inviting look at the work of an exceptional artist.

About the Author

Carole Genshaft is Co-curator of the accompanying exhibition of Aminah Robinson's art. Leslie King-Hammond is Dean of Graduate Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Romana Austin is Director of the Hampton University Museum of Virginia. Annagreth Nil, Curator of the Columbus Museum of Art, is Co-curator of the exhibition.

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