Kimbell’s Asian Collection Featuring a Nepalese "Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara"
The Kimbell Art Museum exhibited 54 works from its collection of Asian art, plus a “guest of honor,” a superb Nepalese gilt-copper sculpture of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, on loan from a private collection, from April 19 through June 1, 2008. The statue was produced by the Newars, highly skilled and creative metalsmiths who were concentrated in the Kathmandu Valley, a flourishing center of Nepalese and Tibetan art. Dating to around the 13th century, this elegant sculpture represents the apogee of the distinctive Newar style in the gracefully swaying pose, the use of semiprecious stones to embellish the crown and jewelry, and the richly gilded finish. Measuring three feet tall, this statue is rare for its large size, the period in which it was created, and for being cast in one piece. It was on view with the Kimbell’s early seventh-century Nepalese gilt-copper sculpture, Standing Buddha Shakyamuni.
Asian art comprises over one-third of the Museum’s collection and consists of 122 works, including sculptures, objects, and paintings from China, Korea, Japan, India, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. They span a period of nearly two thousand years, beginning with a Chinese bronze bell of the tenth century B.C. and extending to scroll paintings from nineteenth-century Japan. Only a limited number of works from the Museum’s collection can be exhibited at any one time. Jennifer Casler Price, curator for Asian and non-Western art at the Kimbell, commented: “This was a rare opportunity to view a majority of the treasures of the Asian collection. In particular, the center gallery was opened up to take advantage of the light from the courtyard and featured the Museum’s renowned collection of Buddhist and Hindu sculpture.”
On display were several celebrated works, including an impressive Gandharan Standing Bodhisattva, 2nd–3rd century, and the recently restored Cambodian Harihara, c. A.D. 675–700, considered by many scholars to be one of the finest examples of pre-Khmer sculpture ever produced. The Kimbell’s holdings of Japanese secular art consist of ceramics and lacquer, decorative screens, ukiyo-e painting (pictures of the floating world), and works in ink monochrome, the latter epitomized in a Zen painting by Ito Jakuchu, Two Gibbons Reaching for the Moon. Chinese art is represented in the collection by a full range of media including early ceramics and bronzes, tomb furnishings, decorative porcelains and lacquer, and scroll paintings of Buddhist, Taoist, and court and literati (scholar) subjects. Among these works, the eighth-century Court Lady is characteristic of the height of Chinese tomb pottery, while the painted Bamboo and Rocks, c. 1275, attributed to Tan Zhirui, is a very early example of monochrome-ink landscape painting.