As I reported on November 3, Looking East, a very fine show that clearly demonstrates Japanese influence on Western Art, will be at the 5 Compass Asian Art Museum in San Francisco until February 7, 2016, and then be gone forever. Several new and used copies of the show’s catalog are available on Amazon, for now.
Ruth and I spent most of a day in the Asian Art Museum. Its 2nd and 3rd floor are devoted to its purely Asian, unparalleled permanent collection. On its 1st floor is Cafe Asia, a highly recommended but rather expensive restaurant. Hey, it’s San Francisco! The beauty of the permanent collection is that it encompasses all Asian cultures over many millennia. It was a chance to see stuff from cultures I had only heard of, like Bhutan. If I lived in the Bay Area, I would pay many visits to absorb what one man and several gifted art acquisitors amassed slowly over time.
Over time, Chicago construction executive Avery Brundage donated his entire Asian art collection to this museum. It contained 7,700 objects, many of which are on display along with the other 10,000+ items the Asian Art Museum has added from other sources. Brundage was an Olympic decathlon athlete and, later, head of the International Olympic Committee for 20 years. He had excellent taste and among his gifts is the rarest piece in the collection, a seated gilded bronze Chinese Buddha, the oldest in the world, crafted in 338 AD.
I asked the lady at the information desk what her favorite part of the museum was and, after a brief ponder, she said “the Korean collection”. I now know why. My favorite was a Korean wide-eyed, paper tiger seen next to a mountain spirit with long fingernails. By the time I got to that, I had seen an Indian Elephant throne howdah, Pakistani warriors, Vietnamese drums, Burmese ceremonial bowls, etc. One of the unusual items that I kept circling back to was a curious Philippine burial urn made in 600 AD. It was rather plain, but on its lid was a cute head popping upward like a Pixar cartoon figure.
Ruth was especially into the fabrics. She searched for and finally found the five-clawed dragon design men’s robe she saw in a video.