Posts Tagged 'Silk Road'

Acquiring Minds

Bojan Šarčević, "She," 2010, onyx, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2011.4, © Bojan Šarčević, courtesy of the artist and STUART SHAVE/MODERN ART

We’d like to introduce you to She, a sculpture by Bojan Šarčević that will make its DMA debut on May 29 in the Silence and Time contemporary art exhibition. And “she” is a recent acquisition. So that got us thinking: how do works of art enter the Museum’s collections?  We spoke with Carol Griffin, our Associate  Registrar and the Museum’s point person on the acquisition process, to get some answers.

To begin, DMA curators look specifically for objects based on aesthetic quality, ability to be exhibited, potential for research and scholarship, and relevance to the Museum’s mission and current holdings. They are always searching for works of art to fill certain “gaps” or to complement works that are already in our collections. They find these objects by talking to knowledgeable collectors and art dealers, visiting galleries, and attending art auctions and fairs. Not all acquisitions are purchases, she points out. A significant number of works are acquired by gift and bequest. In many of these cases, curators actively seek the objects; in others, donors serendipitously initiate the offer.

But when a curator has ID-ed something for potential acquisition, he or she will discuss the opportunity with colleagues and advisors, including fellow DMA curators, trustees, and, of course, the Director. Certain works must be examined by a conservator and, perhaps, other experts to verify condition or authenticity. Once these people have signed off, the curator presents a proposal about the work to the Museum’s Committee on Collections, which is made up of trustees and members of the community and meets several times a year. The committee takes into consideration opportunities to strengthen the DMA’s collections, and its members discuss potential issues like storage and maintenance for the proposed works. The artworks under consideration are present at each meeting so that the Committee can see them rather than make judgments based on photographs. Only after all of these steps are completed can a work of art be acquired by the Museum.

Next up, in order for each object to travel to the Museum and be housed safely, the DMA’s team of registrars develops a plan to address logistics—including crating, transportation, insurance, and storage, and dealing with customs regulations if a work is coming from overseas. Each crate is usually custom made, with special material precautions, to best protect an individual object. For example, an ancient marble sculpture needs different packaging than a quilt, a wooden mask, or a painting. Once the work of art arrives at the DMA, our registrars and conservator thoroughly examine its condition, making notes and taking photos to document its present state. The artwork is then catalogued with an acquisition number based on the year and the order in which it was acquired, and a file is created for relevant information and research about the object. Some of this information is included on the label that accompanies a work of art in the galleries and can also be found in the Collections section of the DMA website.

So, what else has the Museum purchased recently? Next time you visit, look for Gustav Stickley’s linen chest from 1903 (currently featured in the exhibition Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement), which was acquired by the Museum in 2008. In the European galleries, check out the painting Chestnut Trees by Edouard Vuillard, acquired in 2010, and on Level 3, see the gold linguist’s staff (okyeame poma) in our African galleries, which was also acquired in 2010.

Linen chest, Gustav Stickley, attributed to John Seidemann, maker, United Crafts or Craftsman Workshops, manufacturer, Eastwood, New York, 1903, oak and iron, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., facilitated by American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation, 2008.22.McD

Edouard Vuillard, "Chestnut Trees, a Cartoon for a Tiffany Stained-Glass Window," 1894–95, glue-based distemper on cardboard, mounted on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, 2010.15.McD

Linguist staff ("okyeame poma") (detail), Ghana, Asante peoples, first half of 20th century, wood and gold leaf, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2010.1.McD

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for Decorative Arts and Jacqueline Lincoln is the McDermott Education Intern for Family Experiences.

Trade before Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Have you ever wondered how goods and services, such as spices, fabrics, and art, traveled from one part of the world to another before the use of planes, trains, and automobiles?  The Silk Road provides a great insight for understanding early trading among different countries. It is the most well-known trading route of ancient Chinese civilization that was used during the first millennium B.C.E through the middle of the second millennium C.E under the Han Dynasty. The Silk Road was a transcontinental network of land and sea trade routes that spread across Eurasia from the Mediterranean to China and Japan. Domesticated horses and cattle as well as marine vessels were used as transportation to carry such goods and services along these routes.

Dr. Anne Bromberg, The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art, organized The Silk Road, an installation which illustrates how this great route of trading developed.  This exhibition also describes the spread of religions from India to Central Asia during this time. One of the greatest benefits of the Silk Road that Dr. Bromberg wanted to emphasize was the spread of agriculture. Animals not only provided transportation, but they also provided food and a mechanism for cultivating crops.

                    

 Oxen and Cart, 2000-1800 B.C., Bronze
Dallas Museum of Art, Irvin L. and Meryl P. Levy Endowment Fund

A great deal of Near Eastern art similar to the Oxen and Cart traveled along the Silk Road. The Proto-Hittites were devoted to animals, which were vital to hunting and farming. Objects such as the Oxen and Cart were perhaps used as an offering to be left in a shrine, sacred caches or tomb. In addition,  the Oxen and Cart symbolizes the distinct moment when domesticated horses or cattle were first used as powered transportation on land.

The Silk Road provides a great opportunity to discuss with students the benefits and consequences of trading among different cultures. I’ve added a list of books and websites that will help you introduce the Silk Road to your students. These books and more can be found at the Dallas Public Library or the Museum’s Mayer Library.

Books:
Stories From The Silk Road by Cherry Gilchrist and Nilesh Mistry
The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History by John S. Major and Stephen Fieser
Mapping the Silk Road and Beyond by Kenneth Nebenzahl
Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road by Priscilla Galloway and Dawn Hunter
Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants by Luce Boulnois and Helen Loveday

Websites:
the Silk Road project:
http://www.silkroadproject.org/tabid/177/defaul.aspx

Silk Road Seattle:
http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/

Enjoy,
Karen A. Colbert
Teaching Programs Intern

Longtime Curator “Travels” DMA’s Silk Road

Following her new installation in the third-floor galleries of objects that reflect transport along Eurasia’s  Silk Road, “seasoned” curator Dr. Anne Bromberg sat down with us to discuss her fascinating career. A lifelong Dallasite—except for her years at Harvard getting her B.A. in anthropology and M.A. and Ph.D. in classical art and archaeology—Dr. Bromberg has been on the staff of the Dallas Museum of Art for more than forty years, first as a lecturer and docent trainer beginning in 1962, then as head of the education department, and currently as The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art. What’s more, she has led an inspired life, traveling extensively to little-known locales, researching and experiencing the cultures within her discipline.

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Q: How would you describe your job at the DMA?

AB: Most curatorial jobs involve trying to acquire art for the museum, organizing exhibitions and/or working on exhibitions that come to us from elsewhere, publishing, lecturing, working with volunteers, [and] cultivating donors. In terms of legwork, it’s going around and seeing dealers and other collections, visiting other museums, going to conferences, and giving lectures outside the museum.

Q: You are in charge of a very diverse area of the Museum’s collections. What is your particular area of expertise?

AB: Classical art, meaning the art of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and all Asian art, but I’m mainly working with South Asian art.

Q: How did you become interested in Asian art?

AB: One of the really outstanding teachers I had taught evolution in her biology courses, including historical geology, and I was really fascinated with historical geology and that got me into reading about archaeology. And I thought, this is what I want to do. A good teacher makes a difference. I’ve actually been interested in Asia for a long, long time. When I was an undergraduate, I was reading books on Zen Buddhism and haiku, the Ramayana, and things like that. Books stimulate your passion to go see these things in reality.

Q: What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled to?

AB:  I think both my husband, Alan, and I would say the single favorite place we’ve been is Isfahan in Persia. Italy, of all the European countries, is easily the most seductive, and everybody I know who has been to India is dying to get back. We’ve been there so many times, and you feel like you’ve just scratched the surface.”

Q: What is your favorite object within the ancient and Asian collections at the DMA? Within another collection?

AB: The Shiva Nataraja, because that image is the single most important iconic image in Hinduism generally, and many Hindus would agree with that. It is exceptionally beautiful both aesthetically and because it represents the loving quality of the god Shiva. South Indian Hindu poems describe worship as falling in love with the god, and our Shiva Nataraja is the embodiment of that Chola period poetry.

Brancusi’s Beginning of the World. because of my background, I personally have a strong response to pure geometric forms and classical idealism, and I’m certainly not alone in believing that the ancient Greeks would appreciate that classical, pure, and geometric vision of the beginning of the world.

Q: Do you personally collect art? What types of objects are you most drawn to?

AB: Primarily we’ve collected what I would call third-world contemporary art—things that at the time were being made wherever—New Guinea, India, South America, Mexico, etc.

Q: Why do you think it is important for people to study non-Western art?

AB: If you study non-Western art, you’ll learn what human beings create and why. If you stick only to your own civilization, you are much less likely to think about why these things are being made . . . or about a much more serious question to me, why do we call it art?

Q: Describe your current project, an installation of objects from the DMA’s collections focusing on the Silk Road.

AB: The Silk Road installation is something that has interested me for a long time. We do have a lot of artwork that really displays the meaning of the Silk Road, which tied Eurasia together for millennia. So I was delighted when I got a space where I could show the ties between the Mediterranean world and Asia.

The Silk Road is an ancient transcontinental network of trade routes that spread across Eurasia from the Mediterranean to China and Japan. The phenomenon of the Silk Road is constantly studied and has recently been featured in museum exhibitions around the world. The new installation, organized by Dr. Bromberg, addresses six themes related to the Silk Road, including the development of cities and trade, the importance of animals to early societies, and the spread of religions. The installation presents well-known DMA favorites, such as the Javanese Ganesha and the bust of a man from Palmyra, and new works from several local private collections. Opening this weekend, come see the new installation on Level 3 the next time you visit the DMA.

Ashley Bruckbauer is the McDermott Intern for Programs and Resources for Teachers at the Dallas Museum of Art and Madelyn Strubelt is the McDermott Curatorial Intern of Ancient and Asian Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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