Encounters with Early Asian Gold


A symposium on the role of gold in trade and culture in pre-colonial Asia

Held in conjunction with the exhibition, Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms this symposium features new scholarship that reassesses our understanding of Asian peoples in the context of gold trade and movement. Noted historians, art historians, and archaeologists present papers and discuss findings that impact our understanding of cultural interaction in Asia between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, before the period of sustained contact with western colonial powers. Confirmed speakers and discussants at this one-day symposium include exhibition cocurators Florina H. Capistrano-Baker and Adriana Proser; MJ Louise A. Bolunia, chief archaeologist at the National Museum, Philippines; John Guy, Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Helen I. Jessup, independent scholar and President of Friends of Khmer Culture; Francois Louis, Associate Professor of Chinese Art and Material Culture at the Bard Graduate Center in New York; Amy G. Poster, Curator Emerita, Asian Art, Brooklyn Museum and Interim Consulting Gallery Director, Japan Society and Cherubim Quizon, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Seton Hall University.

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Biographies of Speakers

Mary Jane Louise A. Bolunia holds a Doctorate degree in Anthropology from the University of the Philippines Diliman, specializing in archaeology and prehistory. She is the officer-in-charge of the Archaeology Division of the National Museum of the Philippines, one of the research divisions of the National Museum. Part of Bolunia's research is on the participation of ancient Butuanon in the Southeast Asian maritime trade and exchange of goods and ideas which became part of her dissertation. Currently, she is the team leader excavating two balangays or ancient Butuan boats that crossed the South China Sea as early as the 8th century CE. She is also part of a team coordinating the acquisition of properties in Butuan to convert into a maritime heritage park; in partnership with the Butuan City government and Butuan Historical and Cultural Foundation. Bolunia is also doing research on the Spanish period shipyards as part of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade Project which is a multi-agency endeavor. She has been with the National Museum for more than two decades and has travelled around the country doing fieldwork as well as training young students in the rudiments of archaeological fieldwork.

Florina H. Capistrano-Baker, co curator Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms, Consulting Curator, Ayala Museum. She received her PhD, MPhil, and MA from the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University. Director of the Ayala Museum for seven years from 2000 to 2006, Capistrano-Baker shepherded the museum to its new building in 2004, and played a key role in the transfer of the gold collection to the museum in 2006. She curated the permanent exhibition “Gold of Ancestors” at the Ayala Museum in 2008, and wrote the catalogue Philippine Ancestral Gold in 2011. Capistrano-Baker is the recipient of numerous awards, including fellowships from Columbia University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Asian Cultural Council, Ford Foundation, American Association of University Women, and the Getty Research Institute.

John Guy, FSA, is the Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London. He was formerly Senior Curator of South Asia at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and has served on the Councils of the European Associations of South Asia and Southeast Asian Archaeology and various editorial boards. He has worked on a number of archaeological excavations, both land and maritime sites, and served as an advisor to UNESCO on historical sites in Southeast Asia.

Guy has authored books on many aspects of Indian and Southeast Asian art, and numerous research papers. Major books include Oriental Trade Ceramics in South East Asia (1986), Ceramic Traditions of Southeast Asia (1989), Vietnamese Ceramics: A Separate Tradition (co-author 1997), Woven Cargoes. Indian Textiles in the East (1998; reprint 2009), La sculpture du Champa (co-author, Musee Guimet 2005), Indian Temple Sculpture (V&A /Abrams, 2007), Chola. Bronzes of Southern India (co-author Royal Academy 2007), The World of Kubilai Khan (co-curator MMA 2010), Shipwrecked. Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds (co-curator Freer-Sackler, 2010), Gods of Angkor. Khmer Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia (co-author, Freer-Sackler 2010), Philippine Ancestral Gold (co-author, Manila, Ayala Museum 2011), Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India (co-author, MMA/Yale 2011), Bronzes (co-author, London, Royal Academy 2012), Interwoven Globe. The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800 (co-author, MMA/Yale 2013), Lost Kingdoms. Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia (MMA/Yale 2014). He has curated and co-curated many exhibitions, including more recently “Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India” (MMA 2011), “Cambodian Rattan: The Sculpture of Sopheap Pich” (MMA 2013), “Interwoven Globe. The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800” (MMA 2013) and “Lost Kingdoms. Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century” (MMA 2014).

Helen I. Jessup is an independent scholar specializing in the art and architecture of Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia and Indonesia. She has curated several exhibitions, including “Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia, Millennium of Glory” for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (1997), and "Court Arts of Indonesia" for the Asia Society and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution (1990) and was the editor and author of the accompanying catalogues. In addition she wrote Art and Architecture of Cambodia for the World of Art series (2004), Masterpieces of the National Museum of Cambodia (2006), Temples of Cambodia, the Heart of Angkor (2012) and is currently writing Angkor and Beyond, (River Books), about the outlying temples of Cambodia. Born in Australia, Jessup’s BA is from Melbourne University, and her MA and PhD are from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London University. She has taught at Georgetown University (Washington, DC), the Australian National University (Canberra) and Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok) and is currently an Associate Fellow of Saybrook College, Yale University. She has lectured in the United States, Britain, The Netherlands, Thailand, Indonesia, France and Australia. Jessup’s studies have also included Dutch colonial architecture, Indonesian art and architecture, and Australian art and literature. She is the founding President of Friends of Khmer Culture and also serves on the boards of The United States-Indonesia Society and the American Friends of the National Gallery of Australia.


François Louis is an Associate Professor of Chinese Art and Material Culture at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. From 2002–2008 he also served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Artibus Asiae. He obtained his doctorate in Chinese Art History from the University of Zurich. Dr. Louis has published widely on ancient and medieval Chinese art and design history, including a book on goldsmithing in medieval China. Recent publications include co-edited volumes on Antiquarianism and Intellectual Life in Europe and China, 1500–1800 (2012), and Perspectives on the Liao (2013). He is currently working on two book projects: one is tentatively called Dynastic Possessions: The Material Culture of the Early Kitan Elite, which evaluates recent archaeological finds from the Liao dynasty (907–1125) in northern China. The other uses a tenth-century illustrated book to examine objects used in the Confucian state cult in medieval China.

Cherubim Quizon is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Seton Hall University and chair of the Philippine Studies Group, Association for Asian Studies. Her research relates current textile traditions of the Bagobo and related Mindanao groups to early 20th century museum data, helping to more rigorously link the Philippine textile record to that of SE Asia and the Pacific. She co-edited an influential centenary volume on the display of Filipinos at the St Louis World’s fair, emphasizing the viewpoint of the displayed and their descendants (Philippine Studies, 2004). As guest curator for the UCLA-Fowler Museum’s innovative exhibition “Weavers’ Stories of Island Southeast Asia (2009-2012),” she directed one of eight videos that featured weavers from Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor and the Philippines, and examined how the late weaver Lang Dulay expressed and transcended her individuality, her T’boli identity, and appreciation of a global episteme. 

Dr. Quizon’s work continues to link past and present, from the implications of an unspun thread, abaca, on the broader question of Austronesian loom and fiber technology (in Benitez-Johannot’s Paths of Origins, 2012), to the ironies of how an identity term, lúmad, used in Mindanao, erases identity markers while obscuring women’s work in dressing chiefly men (Humanities Diliman, 2012). Most recently, she argued for the agency, efficacy and ecological embeddedness of textile arts in polyethnic contexts (in de Monbrison and Alvina’s Philippines, Archipel des Échanges, 2013), and is currently exploring how archaeological textiles of unspun fiber can be analyzed through the lens of current textile practices.

Amy G. Poster (moderator) is an independent curator of Asian Art and a consultant specializing in museum strategic planning. She is Curator Emerita of Asian Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she was Curator and Chair of the Asian Art Department from 1989 to 2006. Poster has curated numerous special exhibitions and has authored scholarly publications on topics as wide-ranging as South Asian painting, the history collecting Asian art in America, as well as the seminal reference on Indian terra-cotta sculpture. In recent years, she has served as Consultant on Asian Art at the Ringling Museum, Sarasota, FL (2007-2009), and as Mellon Curator-At-Large for the Indianapolis Museum of Art (2012-2013), where she developed a strategic plan for their South Asian Art collections. Her most recent special exhibition, “China Then and Now,” opened at the Nassau County Museum of Art in November 2014. Most recently, Poster has been appointed as Interim Consulting Gallery Director of the Japan Society, New York. She presently serves on numerous art advisory committees, including the Islamic Art Visiting Committee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Rubin Museum of Art Board of Trustees (Board Member), the Art Advisory Committee of Olana Historic Site, the Advisory Group of the Friends of Khmer Culture, Inc., and the Japanese Art Society of America (Vice-President).

Adriana Proser, (moderator) co curator “Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms,” is John H. Foster Senior Curator of Traditional Asian Art at Asia Society Museum in New York. A specialist in Chinese art, she has organized and co-organized over 40 exhibitions featuring diverse works from all over Asia, including the exhibition “Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art.” Proser has also coordinated and served as in-house curator for international loan exhibitions such as “The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara” and “Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China's Liao Empire” for Asia Society Museum. She was editor and contributor for the catalogue Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art (Asia Society Museum and Yale University Press, 2010). Proser received her Ph.D. in Chinese art and archaeology from Columbia University. She was formerly Assistant Curator of East Asian Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and has taught East Asian Art History at the University of Pennsylvania, Loyola College in Maryland, and Columbia University.


Can’t make it to this program? Tune in to AsiaSociety.org/Live at 11:00am ET for a free live video webcast. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions to moderator@asiasociety.org or via Twitter by using the hashtag #AskAsia.

Event Details

Sat 03 Oct 2015
11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
725 Park Avenue at 70th Street New York City
Buy Tickets
$20 members; $22 students/seniors; $25 nonmembers
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