New Acquisitions Week: More than 200 Works Just Added

January 24, 2011

We’re happy to announce exclusively to our blog readers that  last week, LACMA acquired 210 new works of art in a variety of departments. We wanted to share a few highlights with you here, with more in-depth posts to come on three other new acquisitions tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday. Stay tuned.

Jar, China, Song dynasty (960–1279), gift of Terry and Lionel Bell

This jar, produced during the Song Dynasty, features a drunken figure rubbing his belly. The character is speculated to be Li Bai or Li Bo, a major Chinese poet of the period who was part of the group of Chinese scholars called the “Eight Immortals of the Wine Cup” in a poem by fellow poet Du Fu.
Not Currently on View


Anthony Nelme, Kettle, 1715, gift of Julian Sands

Anthony Nelme was a leading English goldsmith during the early eighteenth-century; his patrons included Queen Anne and members of the aristocracy. This grand Kettle demonstrates Nelme’s adept ability to blend functionality with bold British Baroque form and proportions.
Now on View | European Galleries, Ahmanson Building


Kawade Shibataro, Vase with Design of Peacock Feathers, c. 1905, gift of Donald K. Gerber and Sueann E. Sherry

This gorgeous vase by the master Kawade Shibataro features a peacock-feather motif and pure silver mount on the neck-ring and interior. The Art Deco-like stylization actually pre-dates the Deco movement by twenty years.
Now on View | Pavilion for Japanese Art


The Goddess Kali, 17th century, gift of Dr. S. Sanford and Mrs. Charlene S. Kornblum

This dramatic wooden seventeenth-century sculpture of the Hindu Goddess Kali from the modern Indian state of Kerala will be a major addition to LACMA’s renowned collection of South Asian sculpture. This sculpture is exceptional in the preservation of its projecting symbolic attributes held in the goddess’ eight hands and in the crispness of the figure’s elaborate ornamentation.
On View Soon

Brooke Fruchtman

This Weekend at LACMA: Road Movies Series Ends, Free India’s Fabled City Events, Sundays Live

January 21, 2011

Tonight our weekend film series, True Grit: The Golden Age of Road Movies, concludes with two greats. First up is Two Lane Blacktop,  starring Southern California troubadour James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. Director Monte Hellman—who will be here in person!—made a beautiful film that captures the allure of the road.

That film will be followed by Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant—his follow-up to Bonnie & Clyde, which opened our series a few weeks ago. Alice’s Restaurant stars another musician, Arlo Guthrie, and is adapted from Guthrie’s famously epic eighteen-minute story-song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.”

If you haven’t had a chance to visit our exhibition India’s Fabled City—or if you have but you want to know the exhibition on a deeper level—Saturday would be a great day to come to the museum. In the afternoon, scholar and author Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, will give a free lecture in the Bing Theater about the city of Lucknow and the influence of Europeans during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Later in the evening, also in the Bing, we’ll be screening a classic of Indian cinema, Chaudvin Ka Chand (Full Moon),  starring Guru Dutt—one of the icons of Indian film. The film is a melodramatic and romantic musical, set in the period from which the artworks of India’s Fabled City come. The screening is free.

Chaudhvin Ka Chand (Full Moon)

On  Sunday our Andell Family Sundays continue to take India’s Fabled City as their inspiration, so bring your kids for free art-making activities in Hancock Park and a chance to see the show and learn more about the history of this vivid culture.

Sunday evening the Chamber Ensembles from the Crossroads School will perform selections from Debussy, Dvorak, and Mozart—as always, for free!

Scott Tennent

A Peek into the Newly Reinstalled Ancient Egyptian Galleries

January 19, 2011

LACMA’s displays for art from the ancient world (including Egypt, Greece and Rome, and the Near East) have just been reinstalled in newly refurbished galleries in the Hammer Building. As the curator of the Egyptian portion of the new installation, I’m excited to display some works that have not been on view for many years, including two colorful mummiform coffin lids, a diorite blocky squatting statue from the 26th dynasty, wooden tomb models of figures performing household duties, and burial implements including an embalming hook, a heart scarab and a two-finger amulet. Four 1850s to 1870s era photographs of Egypt by photographers Francis Frith and Antonio Beato drawn from LACMA’s Vernon Collection also add a new dimension to the gallery.

The Egyptian portion of the new gallery installation has been organized to address several specific themes: tomb, temple, animals, and royal images; it includes a number of works reflecting the surprising ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians. Three of my favorite works revealing this characteristic have not been seen before in LACMA’s galleries.  All three objects seem to evidence the intentions of the artist, an aspect that helps to bridge the very wide span of time between their creation and the present.

Jar with Lug Handles, Egypt, Naqada II Period (3500–3050 BCE), the Phil Berg Collection

The artist who created this elegant vase carefully incorporated a sweeping red vein of stone into the design, positioning the colorful band to form a bold swoop across the body of this vessel.

Composite Ibis Figure, Egypt, Late Period (711–322 BCE), gift of Varya and Hans Cohn

Here a combination of materials—weathered wood for the feathered body and patinated bronze for the elongated beak and head as well as the feet—creates a lifelike image of an Egyptian Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus).

Vase, Egypt, New Kingdom (1550–1070 BCE), Shinji Shumeikai Acquisition Fund

The artist decorating this ceramic vessel created an amusing pattern of faux-stone, imitating the coloration and bold occlusions typical of breccia, a more enduring, and presumably eternal material.

Nancy Thomas, Curator, Egyptian Art, and Deputy Director, Art Administration and Collections

Fatal Attraction

January 18, 2011

If ever a story should start with “Once upon time,” India’s Fabled City is surely the one. It is hard to imagine a more perfect setting than Lucknow, this northern city nestled on the banks of the river Gomti where East met West which glowed for a moment with a luxurious promise of a shared, hybrid beauty. Here the culture of Awabh, a province of the great Sunni Muslim Mughal Empire, previously forbidden to Europeans, would ironically blossom with their presence. Lucknow, with a wealth of artistic forms of cultural history and expression would also be blessed with the leadership of Persian Shia religious thinking most dedicated to its enrichment and “fostering a sophisticated aesthetic vision,” as curator Stephen Markel so elegantly wrote in his essay in the accompanying book. As a result this beautiful city became a magnet for creative energy, attracting painters, musicians, poets, and entertainers who in turn brought the Britons (arrogant, disdainful) and the Europeans and all manner of fortune seekers of every nationality, dazzled by the courtly sumptuousness and sheer dynamic cross-cultural interplay of arts.

The nawabs, the ruling Shia elite in glorious regalia and extraordinary wealth with a complex history of shifting power between the Sunni and Hindu, were the relatively closed and richly endowed Persian Shia culture whose desire was to create a dynastic center. They were intensely immured by their own theatrical solipsistic obsessions, ancestral religious and ritualistic quest, and a labor of devotion. And yet they found themselves drawn to everything European—portrait painters, astronomers, coach makers, gunsmiths, cobblers, English tutors, and all manner of craftspeople. This attraction worked both ways. Formidable and ancient, the Indian culture was a mystery to the incoming foreigners. The array of jewel-like colors, and intimately choreographed dances had to be captivating to alien eyes. It was a world of intrigue, the perfume of an exotic culture, offering mysteriousness and an adventurer’s delight.

Tilly Kettle, "Shuja al-Daula, Nawab of Awadh, holding a bow," 1772, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, photo © Yale Center for British Art, USA

The first of the portrait painters was Tilly Kettle, who went to Faizabad, the other city in Awabh, to paint the Shuja al-Daula and his sons. The large-scale portrait, new to Indian painting, suggested the nawabh’s power and majestic presence, complimenting their grandiose self-image. Kettle’s success was the impetus for others to follow, such as Jonann Zoffany. There were realistic images of the exquisite world of Lucknow and the mythology that resulted in its fall. The photography of John Edward Saché, Samuel Bourne and Felice Beato and the earliest of them, Baron Alexis de la Grange, would reveal a city of immense diversity and sweep, allowing us a sense of the real Lucknow. But its delicate and romantic vistas are captured in the Renaissance Dutch-like drawings in pencil by Captain Robert Smith, while William Carpenter’s renderings in sensitive watercolor and pencil give our Western eyes some verisimilitude of an understanding.

John Edward Saché, "Husainabad Bazaar Gateway," c. 1867, Catherine Benkaim and Barbara Timmer Collection

The Indian’s dynamic, evocative, and gloriously vibrant paintings and portraits by Muhammad Azam and Mihr Chand, and many others, record life in such radiance that even hunting scenes and military encampments take on the aura of a celebration. Wandering through the exhibition, these glorious moments of commingled art reveal themselves—a union of worlds apparently balancing between pomp and desire, power and heritage. A world is revealed through the imposing architecture, the elaborate dress, and the decorative metalware in rich detail and the sensual tenet and complexity of their social graces.

Base for a Water Pipe (huqqa), c. 1700-1750, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, LACMA, from the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, photo © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA

I worry about the nightingales
Now that spring has come:
The hunter pitches his camp
Right outside the garden.
—A line from Urdu poetry

In this feast of art, money, goods, and services, the dark shadow of the English East India Company, a predatory trading enterprise, had insinuated itself as a political power into Lucknow’s ruling agenda (redolent of the British colonial, expansionistic aims and their Imperial hubris in the Awadh’s territory). In what can only be described as Machiavellian design, the company took control of Nawadh rulers through a series of forced concessions and downright economical chicanery, resulting in total control. Awadh was annexed by the English East India Company in 1856. There would follow the Great Uprising in 1857. There would be blood. A siege. A slaughter. And heroic tales told by the victor, in paint: Thomas Jones Barker’s The Relief of Lucknow or Frederick Goodall’s Jessie’s Dream (The Relief of Lucknow).

Thomas Jones Barker, "The Relief of Lucknow," 1857-59, National Portrait Gallery, London, 5851, photo © National Portrait Gallery, London

Lucknow became the source of great wealth for many. And yet this glittering moment would glow, fablelike, through history and time in spite of the darkness that fell upon it and the blood that was spilled.

Hylan Booker

LACMA Is Free Today!

January 17, 2011

Thanks to Target, LACMA is free all day today. Bring your family for some free NexGen art-making activities, storytime, and a tour the galleries with a free family guide (in English or Spanish). We’ll also have gallery educators in the American art galleries to spark discussions with visitors, including the paintings by John Biggers and Charles White which we mentioned on Unframed last week.

On the plaza, the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra will be performing at noon and at 2:45 pm. Here’s a clip of the Arkestra from when they performed at the museum during our Jazz at LACMA series:

In the galleries, we’ve got three special exhibitions on view. India’s Fabled City spans a hundred years of arts and culture in the northern India city of Lucknow, where Europeans and Indians influenced each others’ paintings, decorative arts, and more.

Mir Kalan Khan, Lovers in a Landscape (Detail), India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1760–70, The David Collection, Copenhagen, 50/1981

You have to see the drawings in Steve Wolfe on Paper to believe them; Wolfe’s renderings of worn books and well-loved vinyl records is so lifelike you’ll wish you could pull them off the shelf and thumb through their pages. Over in the Resnick Pavilion, Fashioning Fashion continues its run; if you haven’t seen this display of European dress from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, do yourself a favor and check it out.

We also just reinstalled our galleries for art from the ancient world, including a couple of Egyptian coffins and amazing Assyrian wall reliefs. Just steps from those galleries are some newly reinstalled European galleries as well, including beautiful works of decorative arts from the Gilbert Collection. If those don’t pique your curiosity, there’s always our other permanent collection galleries for Korean art, Japanese art, modern and contemporary art, Latin American art, Islamic art, and much more. Have a look at this list of smaller installations interspersed around campus.

Scott Tennent


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