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10/10/2008 Houston— In late November, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will open its Indonesian Art gallery, the second of five new galleries to showcase Asian art. The museum’s plan to bring new emphasis to its Asian art collections began with the opening of the Korean Gallery in December 2007. Galleries for the arts of India, China, and Japan will open in May, September, and winter 2009-2010, respectively.

The five new gallery spaces, totaling about 12,000 square feet, surround Cullinan Hall on the first floor of the Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet Street. In addition to expanding floor space for the collections, the MFAH is committing more resources to the acquisition of new works in all areas of Asian art.

“The MFAH’s Asian art galleries are growing rapidly thanks to generous donors from Houston’s Asian communities,” said Peter C. Marzio, MFAH director. “The new galleries will be different from traditional presentations of Asian art because they will combine ancient and modern objects together where appropriate.”

In each gallery, maps and other interpretive materials will enable visitors to learn more about the various influences that inform the art and an array of educational programs will be developed to promote cultural understanding among visitors. The entrances to the arts of Korea, India, China, and Japan galleries also will feature a site-specific piece created by a leading contemporary artist. The portals to the new galleries will serve as “transitional zones” between the present and the past. Artists confirmed for the projects are Do-Ho Suh, whose work will be installed at the entrance to the Arts of Korea Gallery in December 2008, and Anish Kapoor, who will create the portal for the Arts of India gallery.

Indonesian Gold: Opening November 2008
The Indonesian Gold gallery will feature 120 objects, mostly jewelry and crowns fashioned from gold and precious stones. The works represent Indonesia’s major art-making islands—Bali, Flores, Java, Moluccas, Nias, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and Sumba—and reveal the mythology and beliefs of the cultures that created them. Together with weaving and sculpture, gold is the medium these cultures use to create their most important adornment and ritual objects. Most of the objects in the gallery date from the 19th and early 20th centuries, with a selection of rings, bracelets, chains, and other pieces from Java dating from the 13th to 15th centuries. A highlight of the gallery is a rare, newly acquired 19th-20th-century wood sculpture from Nias of a male ancestor figure wearing a crown, necklace, and ear ornament. Among the gold objects is a spectacular 19th-century neck ornament in 22-karat repoussť gold lavishly set with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds. The palace of Singaraja in Bali commissioned the king’s necklace for an important wedding.

Arts of India: Opening May 2009
The Indian Gallery will exhibit painting, sculpture, and photography spanning more than 2,500 years of cultural history. The works will be presented in three main sections: Hindu art, Buddhist art, and court art. Hinduism is the oldest major religion in India and has inspired great artworks built for temple architecture and devotion. Highlights of this section are Sarasvati, a 6th-century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu goddess of wisdom and music, and the 13th-century bronze Shiva Nataraja depicting the Hindu god of dance and cosmic movement. The second section will feature magnificent examples of Buddhist art from the Gandhara region in present-day Pakistan, including the recently acquired and significant Bodhisattva (3rd century) sculpture. Lavishly detailed Indian court paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries will be the focus of the third section. The paintings document traditions, customs, and manners of court life and provide a window into the political, religious, and cultural forces that have shaped the Indian subcontinent.

Arts of China: Opening September 2009
The Chinese Gallery will present ceramics, bronzes, sculpture, and paintings dating from 3000 B.C. to the 21st century. While the gallery will have a large historical scope, it will focus on three main themes: Buddhist art, early Chinese ritual art, and literati art. The trade route known as the Silk Road that stretched from India to China led to the spread of Buddhism in China. In this section, highlights include a Northern Zhou Avalokitesvara limestone sculpture from the 6th century, which embodies the combination of visual cultures along the Silk Road, and 12 Ming period (1368-1644) Buddhist hanging scroll paintings. Early ritual art, including burial and ritual art found in tombs, will be featured in the second section. Painting and calligraphy, among the most revered art forms in China, will be shown in the literati section. It will also feature literati objects such as the elegant Ming Carved Steatite Scholar’s Table Screen. Related contemporary artworks also will be featured in the gallery to demonstrate the continuation of artistic traditions.

Arts of Japan: Opening Winter 2009-2010
The works in the Japanese Gallery will cover four areas of artistic creation: ceramics, religious art, literati art, and art inspired by women. Ceramics is one of the oldest forms of Japanese art and continues to flourish today. Highlights from this section will include a Neolithic pot (c. 10,500-300 B.C.), an enormous 6th-century Haniwa Warrior, and contemporary pieces such as Takahiro Kondo’s ceramic Dimension Box (2000). In the religious art section both Buddishm and Japan’s native religion, Shintoism, will be represented in artworks of many different media, including sculpture, painting, and calligraphy. The literati arts section will feature bunjinga, or literati paintings, from the 17th to 19th centuries. Hanging scrolls and handscrolls depicting lush landscapes and a number of extraordinary folding screens will be shown. Arts inspired by women comprise the final section. The centerpiece of this section of the gallery will be the 18th-century, Tokugawa period, The Shogun’s Wedding Gift, a lacquer cosmetic and furniture set, richly decorated with gold and silver maki-e. The Arts of Japan Gallery also will feature contemporary art, including video pieces by such leading artists as Shimabuku. 

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