Patronage and Power: Selections from the Asia Society Museum Collection


Asia Society Museum

725 Park Avenue

closes on 4 August 2013


I finally got to see the current exhibition at the Asia Society in NYC, Patronage and Power: Selections from the Asia Society Museum Collection.  This is a fabulous little exhibition, and I strongly urge you to rush over to see it before it closes on 4 August 2013.  The Asia Society Museum is at 725 Park Avenue (between 70th and 71st just a hop skip and a jump from Via Quadronno!)  The Asia Society Museum  is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 am-6:00 pm.


According to curator Adriana Proser on the website,


Wealth and power have often made it possible for emperors, kings, and ruling classes to fund the grandest projects and commission objects created out of expensive and highly refined materials.


This exhibition explores the impact of patronage—whether court or religious—on the production of select pieces from Asia Society’s renowned permanent collection.


The unbelievably wonderful objects in this show are drawn from the permanent collection of the Asia Society Museum, which itself largely founded on the fabulous Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection which forms the famous core of the collection—and virtually all of the works in Patronage and Power are drawn from that collection.  The parallels between the recent issues of “Patronage and Power” and those of the show are left uncommented on…but I, naturally, cannot resist doing so!


There are incredibly beautiful Zhou pieces, and particularly bronzes from the Western Zhou (ca. BCE 1050–771).  The Western Zhou You (a covered wine vessel with one long handle) pictured below is a late 11th century BCE bronze from Northern China:



There are a couple of wonderful Pala period sculptures from India.  (I thought that the Pala dynasty pieces [from the eastern regions of India] are much more elegant than the more numerous Chola ones [from the Tamil-speaking southern part of India] in the exhibition.)  This Buddha Shakyamuni from Bihar, carved in schist and dating from the late 9th - early10th centuries, is great example:



There are great examples of Tang Dynasty Chinese sculpture, like this earthenware (with multicolored lead glazes [sancai ware]) Horse from North China in the early 8th century:



I am usually less fond of Ming Dynasty Chinese art, but this collection has a couple of tian bai pieces (“sweet white wares”) from the reign of the third emperor of the Ming dynasty, the Yongle emperor, who is recorded as having stated, “It is deeply satisfying to one’s spirits that the court should utilize familiar, bright, clean, and unadorned Chinese porcelain vessels.” White is the traditional color of mourning in China, and scholars have suggested that it is possible that the emperor chose the color to honor his deceased father.  In any event, I find the simplicity of these white pieces extremely pleasing, as this early 15th century porcelain Bottle from Jiangxi Province:



There are also amazingly beautiful sculptures from the Angkor period (802-1431) of the Khmer empire, like this early 11th century sandstone Female Figure from Baphuon, Cambodia.