Indian art featured in two new Chicago art galleries

December 15th, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Chicago, Dec 15 (IANS) The Art Institute of Chicago has opened two new galleries devoted to Asian art - one features Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan and Islamic art, while the other has only Indian and Islamic art.The two galleries that opened Saturday offer visitors more of the museum’s renowned Asian art collection and they feature the only space in the museum outside of the Modern Wing designed by Renzo Piano.

These galleries create a new crossroad for the museum, bringing together a remarkable collection that spans centuries and creates a literal bridge from the arts of East Asia to the ancient art of Western civilization and the Modern Wing, the institute said.

This new home for South and Southeast Asian art cohesively includes more than 430 sculptures, artefacts, and paintings from the Art Institute’s holdings that have in the past been displayed only in temporary or special exhibitions.

Many of these are from the Marilynn B. and James W. Alsdorf Collection of Indian, Southeast Asian, Himalayan and Islamic Art.

“The completion of the Alsdorf Galleries is vital to our presentation of Asian art, and it deepens our commitment to serving a global population. How fitting that Asian art will now fill the very centre of the Art Institute, serving as a link between the existing museum and the Modern Wing,” said James Cuno, president and Eloise W. Martin director of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“We are thrilled that so many treasures from the Alsdorf Collection will finally be on permanent display, thanks to Marilynn Alsdorf’s exceptional generosity.”

“The Art Institute is home to one of the world’s strongest holdings of Asian Art,” said Alsdorf associate curator Madhuvanti Ghose. “Because of space limitations, however, visitors have rarely been able to see the full strength and depth of the collection.”

“The Alsdorf Collection stands out as a true jewel among the museum’s holdings, internationally recognised for its scope, beauty, and quality. I am thrilled to be part of this massive project of unveiling this collection and showcasing it for museum visitors,” added Ghose.

The Alsdorf Galleries represent the complete transformation of Gunsaulus Hall, previously a windowless walkway built in 1916 over the railroad tracks that pass under the Art Institute.

Now renovated by Piano, the Alsdorf Galleries are a light filled space with views of Millennium Park and the Chicago skyline.

The new Asian art spaces extend from existing galleries that house the art of China, Japan and Korea.

A full connection to the new galleries is created by the axis between the famous large Buddha, in the entry space to the Asian galleries, and the 12th century stone Buddha from South India in the centre of the Alsdorf Galleries.

On this axis viewers will find exquisite objects of Himalayan art, many of which have not been on view since the 2003 exhibition ‘Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure’.

The centre of the Alsdorf Galleries feature works from one of the strongest sections of the museum’s collection of South Asian art: classical and medieval Indian sculpture.

Works in this area represent not only the diversity of Indian culture itself but also focus on religious subjects.

The new Galleries of Indian and Islamic Art contain later works of Indian art representative of pre-1947 India and also its Imperial Mughal and royal past. Works from Middle Eastern and Islamic cultures of South Asia complete the redesigned space.

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