Actor Julian Sands on the Lucknow Exhibition

December 16, 2010

Actor Julian Sands is a long-time friend to LACMA and—currently–a lender to the Lucknow exhibition. We asked him about collecting, and about the Lucknow tureen, one of his treasures.

Julian Sands, with another piece that came to LACMA from his collection: a Paul Storr centerpiece


What and why do you collect?


I don’t think of myself as a collector. I spend a lot of time on mountains doing marathons in remote places where you are carrying with you the minimum you need to exist: a tent, a bed, some fuel, some food. That’s your world. I acquire things with the ferocity of a pirate, but like a pirate I just like to dig a hole in the sand and drop it in and head off for more. It’s an insatiable greed, foiled by this Trappist like renunciation.


Tell us your impressions of the exhibition India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow?


The show reveals Lucknow as this jewel of a place. In local terms, what would it be? San Francisco with downtown New York and New Orleans all rolled up into one! And fabled, with its poets and painters and craftsmen and glamorous courtesans. It was a tremendous meeting point of east and west.


Stephen Markel has been putting this exhibition together for twelve or fifteen years. He has cast his net wide to bring together these great treasures. His passion for his subject is fabulous.




The Lucknow Tureen


Tell us about the Lucknow Tureen, now on view at LACMA in the Lucknow exhibition?


It has sculptural presence, immense beauty and grace. The shape is classically Mughal. But there are these lions which look exactly like an English lion.


Claude Martin, the great nabob of Lucknow, who was drummed out eventually and fled back to England, built a magnificent  building—which is, today, called La Martiniere—in Lucknow. There are motifs on the bowl that you’ll find in the architecture of the building. In particular, the lions are very much like the lions you’ll flanking the Martiniere. So there is every reason to suppose the piece was commissioned as part of a service for the Martiniere.


I like to think somewhere there is a great ladle. But a lot of these things got melted down. The Indian tradition wasn’t to pass things on to keep so much as to pass things on to melt down and people remade things in their own style.




The Lucknow Tureen, detail



How did you come across the piece?


I found the piece through a friend of mine, who is a great scholar of colonial silver: Wynyard Wilkinson. I’ve known him since I was at school. For a long time, I coveted it.


Really great objects have tremendous power and energy. There is something of the nervous system of their creator, the man or woman who chiseled or cast or painted or drew or fabricated the object.


I don’t set out to collect anything for sake of a collection. I get interested in a form, a medium, a type of work. So you go looking for things. And then when you find something you may have been seeking, there’s a release, almost like an Arthurian knight. You are released from the challenge.


What do you like to see when you visit the museum?


All my life I have taken such pleasure from museums.


LACMA, in particular, has amazing space and such great light – you feel that it’s an organic, ongoing, 21st century, vibrating beacon of forward-looking culture bringing the past into the present. There’s a great fusion of possibilities here.


When I’m here at LACMA I usually visit the paintings and sculpture in the Modern galleries – the quality and balance is superb. The presentation of sculpture is wonderful. I love the great Tony Smith, and going in the new Resnick Pavillion, a place of beauty and an architectural wonder.


India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow is on view through February 27th, 2011. View a slideshow of 19th century photographs of courtly Lucknow at



Amy Heibel

This Weekend at LACMA: Eakins Lecture, Film Foundation Series, and More

October 8, 2010

Exhibitions, lectures, concerts, films… we’ve got a little of everything this weekend. On the exhibition front, there are seven different special exhibitions on view right now, starting with Olmec, Fashioning Fashion, and Eye for the Sensual in the new Resnick Pavilion. In the Ahmanson Building you’ll find In the Service of the Buddha: Tibetan Furniture from the Hayward Family Collection and EATLACMA. Harvest time is approaching for the artist-created gardens of EATLACMA, so keep on the lookout as you walk around campus. Finally, there’s Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape and Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, both of which close next week.


Thomas Eakins, Wrestlers, 1899.


Saturday would be an ideal day to take in Eakins, as we’re also holding a special symposium, “The Body Imagined: Sports & Art in American Culture, Then & Now.” Tad Beck, the artist behind the Palimpsest exhibition embedded within Manly Pursuits, will be on hand, along with Los Angeles Times sports journalist Mike Bresnahan; Jennifer Doyle, professor at UC Riverside; and Amy Werbel, professor at St. Michael’s College, all discussing the role of sports and art in the evolving cultural attitudes toward the human body. The lecture is free and starts at 1 pm.


Muhammad Aza, Portrait of Nasir ud din Haidar, c. 1830. India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow. Oil on canvas 36-1/4 x 28-3/8 in. (92.1 x 72.1 cm). Collection Drs. Aziz and Deanna Khan. Photo courtesy Drs. Aziz and Deanna Khan.


Sunday sees another lecture, also free: “Lucknow through the Lens of Bollywood.” The lively presentation of film clips from Hindi and Bollywood directors from the 1960s to the present will also include a live tabla performance. This will be a good primer for our upcoming exhibition, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow, opening in December.

If music is your game, we’ve got two free concerts. Tonight (Friday), the Ernie Watts Quartet plays Jazz at LACMA. Watts is a two-time Grammy winner and has played with plenty of greats over the last forty years, from Cannonball Adderly to Frank Zappa. Sunday, we continue our Sundays Live series with another concert be performers from the New England Conservatory, in celebration of Robert Schumann’s bicentennial.

This weekend also kicks off our latest film series, a 20th Anniversary Tribute to the Film Foundation. The series will run every weekend for the rest of the month and features a diverse slate of films—all of which have been restored and preserved by the Film Foundation. Tonight sees a noir double feature with The Big Combo and They Made Me a Fugitive. Saturday, the foreign masterpiece Pather Panchali will be followed by the dance classic The Red Shoes. Here’s a trailer for the latter:

Stretching into next week, we should note that Monday is a holiday—we’ll be open (but not free, as we are for other holiday Mondays). But Tuesday we will be free, as we are on the second Tuesday of every month If you’re free you should come down, maybe catch The Swan, with Grace Kelly and Alec Guinness, during the Tuesday Matinee—just two bucks!

Scott Tennent

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