Lost Kingdoms at the Met

Source: New York Times 20140411

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens today an exhibition on the sculptural art of early Southeast Asia.

Source: New York Times 20140411
Source: New York Times 20140411

Gathering of Gods From Places Long Forgotten
New York Times, 10 April 2014

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art gives its all to an exhibition in terms of space, money and scholarship, and the art involved is as rich as a massed chorale and as haunting as a single-voice chant, no institution on earth can produce more impressive results. Such is the case with “Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century,” which opens on Monday.

It’s a show about faith, or faiths, that may initially need to be taken on faith by Met visitors for whom religious art from Southeast Asia is an unknown quantity. So let me offer a few belief-building facts: Most of its 160 sculptures, monumental and minute, are national treasures in an unprecedented transmigration from Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Myanmar, formerly Burma, whose antiquities have never traveled, signed a first-ever international loan agreement for the occasion and sent a king’s ransom in material.

The show has a personal dimension, too. To organize it, John Guy, the Met’s curator of South and Southeast Asian art, cashed in institutional chips accumulated over a career of 30 years. Certain cultural coups are finessed by political big-footing. This one is the product of subtle, patient, prolonged diplomacy, years of networking, visiting, information sharing, tea taking, making requests, extending reassurances. In a fundamental way, it’s an exhibition built on trust, which brings us again back to faith.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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