e of the most exceptional collections of Asian art in North America takes center stage on Sunday, October 1, when the Walters Art Museum opens its new installation Arts of Asia. The dramatic display offers a rich exploration of artistic traditions from diverse cultures and regions across India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. The stunning array of more than 150 works spanning 2,000 years includes 30 objects that have never been on view. Visitors are invited to enjoy the stillness and serenity of these works of art and to share the experience of quiet contemplation that they inspire. The museum will open at 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 1, and admission to Arts of Asia is free. For more information, go to https://thewalters.org or call 410-547-9000.
“Asian art has always been a cornerstone of the Walters Art Museum,” says Julia
Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “This new installation of Arts of Asia marks the first step in the revitalization of Hackerman House at One West Mount Vernon Place, which will reopen in June 2018. When it closed in 2014 for building improvements, it gave us an opportunity to take a fresh look at the Asian art collections. I am thrilled to unveil a re-envisioning of Arts of Asia that offers more engaging ways to experience our amazing collections.”
Amy Landau, Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Islamic and South & Southeast Asian Art, explains, “The newly installed galleries evoke the emotionally charged contexts for these works of art, with elegant design and lively videos that link present-day practices to art of the past. Our goal was to create intimate spaces that inspire pleasure, curiosity and contemplation for our visitors.”
Contemporary Japanese Ceramics
A light-filled gallery features spectacular contemporary ceramic vases by Japanese artists. With their compelling shapes, colors and glazes, these works push the medium of clay in surprising new directions. This installation is one of a series celebrating the extraordinary promised gift to the Walters Art Museum of contemporary Japanese ceramics from Betsy and Robert Feinberg. The museum has a long tradition of collecting contemporary Japanese ceramics that started with a purchase by founder Henry Walters in 1915.
Buddhist Art of East and Southeast Asia
This tranquil, inviting display of East and Southeast Asian art features works linked to Buddhism and its devotional practices from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. A majestic image of the compassionate bodhisattva Guanyin (late 14th to early 15th century, China) graces the first room. A monumental Buddha (18th to 19th century, Myanmar) sits in meditation at the center of the next room, flanked by sculptures of devotees.
Most of these sculptures and paintings have come to the Walters as a gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, and 11 are on view for the first time following extensive conservation treatment by the Walters Art Museum. The conservation work was made possible through the generous support of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Doris Duke (1913-1993) was a tobacco-fortune heiress and generous philanthropist with a passion for Southeast Asian and Islamic art. In 2002 following her death, the Walters Art Museum was one of two museums to receive a large portion of her collection.
Displayed nearby is a collection of Thai sculptures of the Buddha, drawn from a gift to the Walters Art Museum from Alexander Brown Griswold (1907-1991), a native Baltimorean who was stationed in Thailand during World War II. Today the Walters is home to the largest collection of Thai sculpture outside of Thailand.
Art of India, Nepal, and Tibet: The John and Berthe Ford Gallery
Works of art from India, Nepal and Tibet are featured in the gallery named for John and Berthe Ford, who acquired and donated to the Walters Art Museum most of the objects on view. Longtime Baltimoreans and donors to the Walters, the Fords were once recognized in The New York Times as having one of the world’s most important private holdings of Himalayan (Nepal and Tibet) and Indian art. The reinstallation of the gallery celebrates the Ford’s generosity and insight as collectors.
The new display includes South Asian Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious works; Himalayan bronzes, scroll paintings (tangkas) and ritual objects; and Indian Islamic court arts. Nearly all of these works of art were made for places of worship—from Indian stone temples honoring Hindu gods to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries where revered teachers gave lessons in secret techniques of meditation. A highlight is the Tibetan scroll painting Green Tara, which depicts the enlightened Buddha and goddess Tara sitting on a lotus in her mountain paradise. This work is among the earliest surviving examples of Tibetan scroll painting.
New to the Walters’ display of art from India, Nepal and Tibet is Islamic art from South Asia. The goal is to illustrate the religious diversity of historic India through the integration of art from South Asian Muslim courts. Especially noteworthy in this section is the 15th-century Qur’an, with exquisite calligraphy in blue, red and gold ink, acquired by founder Henry Walters.
Amy Landau, Ph.D., Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Islamic and South & Southeast Asian Art, The Walters Art Museum
This project, as part of the revitalization of One West Mount Vernon Place, has major support from the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the France-Merrick Foundation, Baltimore County, and other generous donors. One West Mount Vernon Place opens in late spring 2018.
ABOUT THE WALTERS ART MUSEUM
The Walters Art Museum, located in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre Streets, is free for all. The collections include Egyptian and Greek art from the ancient world, medieval art and manuscripts, Asian art, Islamic art, 19th-century French paintings, Renaissance and Baroque art, jewelry and decorative arts and much more. At the time of his death in 1931, museum founder Henry Walters left his entire collection of art to the city of Baltimore.
Admission to museum is free. The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles Street, north of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For general museum information, call 410-547-9000 or visit https://thewalters.org.
Free admission to the Walters Art Museum is made possible through the combined generosity of individual members and donors, foundations, corporations, and grants from the City of Baltimore, Maryland State Arts Council, Citizens of Baltimore County, and Howard County Government and Howard County Arts Council.