Saturday, December 13, 2008

The New South Asian Gallery at the A.I.C.

The Alsdorf Gallery of Indian,
Southeast Asian,
Himalayan, and Islamic Art
has finally arrived -
the first major re-installation
as the A.I.C. prepares to open it's
Modern Wing next May.

The above Ghandaran relief
was my favorite piece
from the old gallery of Indian sculpture

But then came the Alsdorf collection.
First it was on temporary exhibit about 10 years ago,
and I remember it well
for it's wide variety of genres.

Now its been combined with selected items
from the previous installation
and the size of the display has doubled.

Which would be a good thing

1. Most of it really belongs in a museum of natural history
2. The lighting is mostly very bad

This Hari Hara came from another Chicago collector,
and I really like it,
although I admit that
I can't remember seeing it in the old display.

The problem, however,
is that this piece,
like many other sculptures in the new gallery
is lit so poorly.

Check out these details

..and then compare them
with this photo that I took a few years ago
when the piece was on temporary display
in a stairwell
with a delicious natural light
from the setting sun.

what a difference the light can make

and the whole piece
seems completely different,
full of drama and color

While here is a piece
from the current exhibit
that is lit quite well,
so maybe the installation
has not really been completed yet.

Here's some pieces
that came from the Alsdorfs

I also like this Marriage of Shiva and Parvati,
from Uttar Pradesh, 10th/11th C.
(also gifted by the Alsdorfs)

and here's a Gupta piece that's new to me,
but was given by the Antiquarian Society.

While here are some things
which I liked
from Alsdorf's show from 1998
that never made it to this display

I could contemplate
this head for years
(can't they sell copies in the museum store ?)

and I can never see enough
Khmer torsos.


Blogger Robert said...

Dim lighting in Art Galleries is usually to do with protecting light sensitive media- oil, tempera, water and fabric colours from fading; why should this be for stone and terra cotta? For dramatic effect perhaps.

Useful source for ideas in the East; dipping into diverse cultures as ever Chris; quite a guessing game before the next post!

December 14, 2008  
Blogger chris miller said...

I try to keep you guessing, Robert!

Actually, Indian sculpture is very important to me -- and I would write about it more often -- if only the museum rotated the collection on display -- the way it does with Japanese prints and ceramics.

I don't really see much point in making a permanent, poorly lit display out of 400 pieces right in the middle of a busy corridor.

The best pieces should be given the best possible lighting/placement -- and the rest should be accompanied by more detailed signage - with historical/ethnographic information , as often accompanies special exhibits.

December 14, 2008  

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