Asian Art Museum of San Francisco — Tomb Treasures, New Discoveries from the Han Dynasty


Last week, I visited Asian Art Museum of San Francisco with family and friends, to see this interesting exhibition.  My friends are all world travelers.  Visiting the Museum is one of the best travel programs for them.  In order to share with my friends and readers who may be interested to see this exhibition in future, I took many photos.  The museum allows photo taking without flash.  I am so thankful!

The exhibits include 100 objects which are new discoveries from the tombs of two kingdoms in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 BCE).  The exhibition is a collaboration of Asian Art Museum of  San Francisco and Nanjing Museum of China. There are lots of interesting information included in the gallery captions, the docent tours, as well as the exhibition catalog.  Apart from appreciating the beautiful artworks made two thousand and two hundred years ago in ancient China, I am thrilled that these objects also give us a glimpse of the way of life of the elites in the Chinese society.

I am particularly interested in the figurines of dancers and musicians.  The dancers wear long sleeves garments and show big movements that stimulate our imagination how the dances were appreciated at that time.  The bell set gives us some idea about the musical performance for the elite.  Many visitors may also be in awe seeing the jade suit and the jade coffin of the elite.

As inscribed on the artworks in the Tomb Treasures:  “Everlasting happiness without end” is probably the theme which may evoke visitors’ emotions.

I hope you will visit this exhibition which will end in May this year.  If I have time, I will study a little bit more some of those objects and share the information with you.  Meanwhile, I hope you will like these pictures shown in the gallery and slide show.  Just click any picture and you will see the photos shown in carousel.  Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure — My Notebook

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure The SFMOMA has just reopened after three years of renovation. As a member of SFMOMA for many years, I am very excited of its new look and expansion. Due to work, I was only able to visit the museum twice on Thursday nights. Both visits were […]

via Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure — My Notebook

Classical Modern: Understanding Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons

Michael Jackson and Bubbles

Michael Jackson and Bubbles, by Jeff Koons, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Parthenon figureReclining Dionysus sculpture on the East Pediment of the Parthenon, Athens. Greece.

(A picture I took when I visited Athens in 2011)

The Asian Art Museum (in San Francisco) recently had a joint exhibition with SFMOMA.  The latter is under renovation, and so SFMOMA is “on the go”.  As I work in the Civic Center area, I was able to visit this exhibition a few times at lunch with a number of colleagues there.

The title of this Exhibition was called GORGEOUS! This was on the AAM website:

 “What’s “gorgeous” to you? There’s often a fine line between attraction and repulsion, but this summer at the Asian Art Museum, we’re drawing no lines at all.

Gorgeous presents 72 uniquely stunning artworks drawn from the collections of the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Spanning over 2,200 years and dozens of cultures, these artworks are organized in an attempt to shift the focus from historical and cultural contexts, emphasizing instead the unique ways each work announces itself or solicits a viewer’s attention.”

Among the exhibits were “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” by Jeff Koons, and the “infamous” “Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp.  As I am also a member of SFMOMA, I have seen most of the exhibits at SFMOMA.  But to see them in this context, standing side by side with another ancient art object, was not too often.  I enjoyed this exhibition very much, and all my colleagues that I brought over concluded that they are indeed “Gorgeous”.  The show ended last week.  I like the show and the docent’s guided tour which was very helpful stimulating us to think and to see these art objects in different lights.

Among these exhibits, the sculpture “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” was one of the most favorite among the visitors .  Many of my friends took pictures with the sculpture.  At that time, I just glanced at it and took pictures for them, but never thought of anything more than the gold and white, the pop star and his chimpanzee. I did not bother to find out more about this piece, and just regarded it as one of those expensive arts because of the famous pop star and creative artist.  Well, I was quite ignorant.

Today, this sculpture was brought to my attention again because a fellow blogger Artdone wrote a post about Jeff Koons and an exhibition at the Whitney Museum. Out of curiosity, I looked up a few things from the internet and suddenly became “enlightened” by an academic article written in 2002 by Susan Cameron.  I was so inspired by her writing that I suddenly realized that I saw “it” before.  It was in Athens!  Modern art in Athens?  I must be crazy.  Please hold on.  Before we talk about this interesting article, let me find out a bit of the history and information about this sculpture.

SFMOMA has an interactive site  and a YouTube video.  Check them out.




Other background information from Wikipedia site is also helpful: “Michael Jackson and Bubbles is a porcelain sculpture (42 x 70.5 x 32.5 in) by the American artist Jeff Koons. It was created in 1988 within the framework of his Banality series.”

“Three of the Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculptures were made. One was sold at Sotheby’s on 15 May 2001, when it was auctioned off to the record price of 5.6 million dollars.[1] The artist’s proof is owned by the Broad Art Foundation of businessman and art collector Eli Broad and is displayed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The two other versions are in Athens and in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[4]

I saw two of them : in SF MOMA and LACMA.  Where is it in Athens? So I searched around but I couldn’t find it online.  My conclusion is that it is not in any museum or public display.  But I visited Athens before…an instinct told me to look up my pictures.  Here it is !  I am so happy.  It was the Reclining Dionysus sculpture on the East Pediment of the Parthenon, Athens. Greece, a picture I took when I visited Athens in 2011.  How does this photo relate to this sculpture?

Let us now come back to the article written by Susan Cameron, May 2002, SURJ, Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal.  She noticed that curators only wrote useful information about the sculpture, but it does not mention the obvious iconography link to “Dionysus”.  She thought that Koons crossed the traditions of ancient Greek cult statues at the Parthenon, with pop culture.

Well, Who is Dionysus?

“He was the god of fertility and wine, later considered a patron of the arts. He invented wine and spread the art of tending grapes. He has a dual nature. On the one hand bringing joy and divine ecstasy. On the other brutal, unthinking, rage. Thus, reflecting both sides of wines nature.  Dionysus can drive a man mad. No normal fetters can hold him or his followers.”

Was that what Jeff Koons had in  mind when he created this sculpture?  Well, the viewer completes the art (Marcel Duchamp). What do you think?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pattern – Dali Catholic Church, a Beautiful Combination of Western and Eastern Architecture – My Yunnan Trip # 11

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge – Pattern

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During my recent Yunnan trip, one of the most impressive architectural structures was the Catholic Church in Dali, Yunnan.  I found it especially interesting because in China, you will find Buddhist temples almost everywhere. But it was the first time that I saw a Catholic Church on Chinese soil, with such a beautiful architectural representation of the East and West patterns.  Below, I posted a few pictures of the Catholic Church. If you click on any picture, it will open into a carousel and see each picture in big screen.  I want you to take a very close look at these pictures.  Did you see the traditional Chinese auspicious animals?  They are all ornate patterns.  The wooden structure belongs to the Bai minority style, which is unique.

The following description is extracted from the  Yunnan Provincial Tourism Administration website:

“Dali Catholic Church is located in Xinmin Road of Dali Ancient Town. Including 9 chapels, it was originally built in 1927 by a French bishop Ye Meizhang, and covers 470 square meters, about 36 meters long and 13 meters wide. The complex is a typical post and lintel construction in the style of double eaves with hip and gable walls; its lower and upper eaves both employ corbel arches and flying eaves, and every arch has four buttresses engraved with Chinese traditional auspicious animals and birds such as Dragon and Phoenix etc.

In the east of the church, an altar has been built for Virgin Mary; while in the west, it’s a gate tower modeled after Bai minority traditional residence whose top is a vestry roofed with eaves at four corners. The gate tower also employs multi-layer corbel arches and flying eaves, all of which are of superb workmanship. As a whole, the church complex adopts wooden structures of Bai minority style and thus is deemed as a combination of Chinese and Western architectures. In 1983, it was fortunately listed among the key protected relic items by Dali Prefecture Government.”

Other references you may like to look into:  Dali Catholic Church – On the Road,  another Blog on WordPress.  It posted quite a few pictures including a picture of the church inside.

I didn’t see a lot of discussion about the architecture of this building, but would appreciate if some of you would give me and other readers some of your impressions about the architecture of this building.  If you are an architect or architecture student, you are more than welcome to join our conversation here!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture #2 – My Yunnan Trip #9: What is the Totem Pole in Yunnan?

Arts and Cultures are inseparable!

My Notebook

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture. This is my second posting on this Challenge which is very interesting to me.

I always thought that totem poles only existed in places where natives Indians lived.  I saw quite a few in Alaska and Canada.  After my visit to Yunnan, I realized that I was so ignorant.  I saw totem poles in Lijiang, and then some for decorative purpose in Kunming.  So, Chinese people do have totem poles!  When I came back, I researched a little and educated myself.  If you are interested, here’s some information I got.

What is a totem?

“A totem is a being, object, or symbol representing an animal or plant that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a familyclan, group, lineage, or tribe, reminding them of their ancestry (or mythic past).

View original post 521 more words

The Yellow River Mother Sculpture in Lanzhou, China, and Picasso’s Mother and Child Painting in the Art Institute of Chicago

Next week, I should be making a business trip to Chicago.  I thought that I can visit one of my favorite museums,  the Art Institute of Chicago again.  Unfortunately, due to some urgent business at work, I cancelled my trip.  The Art Institute of Chicago has many of my favorite art works, including:

Gustave CaillebotteParis Street; Rainy Day,1876-1877

Georges-Pierre SeuratSunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 1884–1886

Pablo PicassoThe Old Guitarist, 1903

Today, I would like to refer to another painting which is very interesting to me.  It is Picasso’s Mother and Child.


Pablo Picasso
Spanish, worked in France, 1881–1973

Mother and Child, 1921

The Art Institute of Chicago

Here’s an interesting analysis of this painting by Mike Freeman’s Analysis of Picasso’s Mother and Child Painting

“Upon investigating the unusual life of Pablo Picasso in an attempt to familiarize myself with his painting titled Mother and Child (1921), I feel that this painting represents the false depiction of a happy family despite true distant feelings. A paragraph I read during some research suggested that one of Picasso’s Mother and Child paintings had undergone x-ray analysis. Apparently, a shadow of Picasso’s arm can be seen in the painting, hence the reason the child is reaching upwards into the air. Originally, Picasso had painted himself into the painting to depict a perfect family life, however upon ever mounting arguments held between himself and his wife Olga, the presumed mother in the painting, Picasso chose to remove himself completely from the artwork. This theory, if true, and based on a seemingly credible source, supports my theory about Picasso’s separation from not only his wife, but his own son. Throughout the biographies I encountered about Pablo, accounts of his life share the same idea that Picasso was extremely secluded from his children, most talked about in particular his son Paulo, who is believed to be the child in the painting. Paulo was born shortly before this painting was created. Removing himself from the painting, symbolizes Picasso’s desire to remove himself from his current life situation, showing his displeasure for his wife and son. Despite his true feelings towards his family, he still paints a typical “happy family” portrait. The only difference with the final product was the exclusion of himself. Often, it is suggested that Picasso, like most artists, paint not only on what they observe, but also their deepest desires and inner feelings. This painting, at first glance from the untrained eye of an average museum traveler, depicts a seemingly love filled, nurturing portrait of a mother and her son, seemingly part of a happy family. Little do those people know the awful, heart wrenching truth laced deep within the paint that was expertly splashed in malice and sorrow to create a masterpiece.”

I am not surprised at this analysis.  After all Picasso had had so many women in his life.  He removed himself from the painting.  What does it symbolize?

This painting was painted in 1921, in his Neo-Classicism period (1920-30). It shows heavily built sculpture-like women. The famous one in this period is at MOMA: “Three Women at the Spring” 1921.

To understand Picasso’s style in this period, I found this excerpt very helpful as it talks about the “the three women at the spring”:

“Curator, Kirk Varnedoe: When you look at Picasso’s Three Women at the Spring this represents the embodiment of what one calls the return to order—the idea that after World War I, French society wanted to reestablish its roots with the grand tradition and a kind of solid, reassuring, sculptural vision of the human figure rooted in classicism. It was an art of reassurance, of rebounding after the experimentation of the teens. And yet when you look at this picture, it’s not really a conservative picture—the tubular nature of the arms, the large abstract rhythms of the figures are very much a legacy of his more radical work.

Remember again that this is painted exactly in the same summer that he paints The Three Musicians. Unlike Matisse, Picasso is happy working in two extremes virtually simultaneously, painting a picture of strong Cubist abstraction on the one hand,and seemingly full-bodied sculptural realism on the other.”

I saw this painting for the first time in the Art Institute of Chicago around 2003. I was impressed by the different styles of Picasso at the same period of time.  Few Years later, I took a trip to the Silk Road in China with family and friends.  At the end of the trip, we went to Lanzhou and visited the Bund of the Yellow River to see this beautiful sculpture named the Yellow River Mother. This is the picture from a tourist website:


“This sculpture is the best of its kind in China. The whole sculpture contains that of a mother and a baby. The mother with long hair, slim figure, lying on the undulated water looks happy and kind. On her breast she holds a small kid who bears naive smile. The sculpture connotes that the Yellow River has nourished generations of Chinese.”

The Mother symbolizes the Yellow River which is the cradle of the Chinese civilization. What is special about this Mother sculpture are her facial features.  Does she look like most Chinese Han people?  No, because the people in Lanzhou are the Hui minorities who have some western facial features . Let us find out where is Lanzhou and what is its significance in formulating the cultures of this part of the world.

“Lanzhou is the capital city of Gansu Province in northwest China. The Yellow River runs through the city, ensuring rich crops of many juicy and fragrant fruits. The city is the transportation and telecommunication center of the region. Covering an area of 1631.6 square kilometers (629.96 square miles), Lanzhou used to be a key point on the ancient Silk Road. Today, It is a hub of the Silk Road Tourism Ring,”

Here’s another informative article describing the people of Lanzhou, their religion, traditions and customs::

“Lanzhou has certainly changed since the first foreign visitors started coming here 100 years ago. But the city retains its distinct character due to its location along a narrow valley astride the Yellow River, and the visible Muslim culture. The river is never far away, and the hills to the north and south offer spectacular views from hilltop tea gardens. Looking down on the city you’ll be sure to spot some mosques. The Hui Muslim population is small but very visible. There are qīngzhēn (清真) restaurants on every street (not all noodles, by the way), and if you are nearby a mosque at prayer time, you’ll hear the call to prayer.”

We now know that the sculpture reflects the Hui minority ethnic group. When I saw this Yellow River Mother sculpture, I immediately thought about the Picasso’s painting of Mother and Child.  Do you think there are some similarities between the two?  As artists’ inspire each other, it is possible that the sculptor who made this sculpture 65 years later may have been inspired by Picasso. The sculpture is the work of a famous female Gansu sculptor He E.  Actually He and Picasso have very different styles.  It just fascinated me when I saw the big Mother sculpture in Lanzhou because it was speaking to me.  It spoke of the love of the mother for the child. I hope you do feel the same way.

Which one do you like more?  I like the Yellow River Mother more because of her smile and its beautiful face.  In Picasso’s painting, the mother seems to have some hidden sorrow on her facial expression and not as beautiful.  Indeed none of the women drawn by Picasso is like a regular beauty. Both pieces do have a similar theme:  the love of the mother for her child.

What do you think? I’d love to her from you!

The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy

Thanks to artdone. This is a wonderful post which I would like to share with my readers.


View original post 61 more words