Treasures of Asian Art: A Rockefeller Legacy


Treasures of Asian Art: A Rockefeller Legacy, an exhibition of 60 works from one of the finest collections of Asian art in the United States, inaugurates Asia Society Texas Center’s new Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery.

Selected from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of traditional Asian art of the Asia Society Museum in New York, the exhibition includes outstanding examples of bronze and stone sculpture from South and Southeast Asia and exquisite ceramics from China, Korea and Japan.

Treasures of Asian Art explores these stunning works by placing them in the context of American collecting of Asian art in the post-World War II period, specifically the collecting practice of Asia Society's founder, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, and his wife, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller.

The son of collectors John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller 3rd grew up surrounded by his parents’ collection of Chinese and Japanese ceramics, Japanese prints, and Buddhist sculpture. But his tastes and interests in and motivations for collecting Asian art extended beyond those of his parents, in part because of his experiences serving on the post-World War II peace mission to Japan led by John Foster Dulles.

Fostering International Relations

The optimistic program of rebuilding international relations after August 1945 coincided with a new generation of art collectors, some of whom had lived and worked in Asia during and after the war. These collectors understood what was at stake if citizens of diverse countries were not educated about each others’ cultures, histories, and achievements.

John D. Rockefeller 3rd and his wife hoped to directly impact international relations and ultimately improve understanding between Americans and Asians using Asian arts and culture as a means of promoting understanding. As Rockefeller stated when announcing the gift of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection to Asia Society in 1974,

"My own experience tells me that anyone who becomes acquainted with the arts and cultures of Asia acquires a greatly augmented sense of appreciation and respect for its peoples. We hope that the collection, integrated into Asia Society programs, can help instill in Asian-American relations an added sense of importance and opportunity."

About the Exhibition

Treasures of Asian Art: A Rockefeller Legacy features Indian bronze sculpture from the Chola period (9th – 13th centuries), for which the Rockefeller Collection is particularly well known, as well as noted Buddhist sculpture from India, Nepal, Tibet and Southeast Asia, and exquisite ceramics from China and Japan.

Highlights of Chola sculpture include Krishna Dancing on Kaliya, showing the popular Indian deity in triumph over the serpent-demon, and Shiva and Parvati, a warm domestic portrait of the divine couple. Other sculpture vividly illustrates the evolution of Buddha imagery as Buddhism spread from India through Nepal and Tibet and into East and Southeast Asia.

Chinese ceramics range from a brilliantly colored 8th century tomb sculpture of a court lady to a Ming-era ewer whose elegant shapes show the influence of Middle Eastern forms. Other highlights of the exhibition include 16th- and 17th-century Japanese screens.

Adriana Proser, the John H. Foster Curator for Traditional Asian Art at the Asia Society Museum in New York, curated the exhibition, which remains on display through October 7, 2012.

Asian Art, Texas Connections

Treasures of Asian Art is joined by two other installations, which opened on April 14. Contemporary Asian Art: Texas Connections comprises works of art on loan from Texas collectors. Curated by Kimberly Davenport, Director of Rice University Art Gallery, it is installed in the Fayez Sarofim Grand Hall.

Korean-born artist Lee Ufan’s site-specific sculpture Relatum – signal, inaugurates the Center’s Allen Sculpture Garden adjoining the Sarofim Gallery.

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