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Unstill Waters: Contemporary Photography from India

December 10, 2022-June 11, 2023
Unstill Waters: Contemporary Photography from India foregrounds landscapes of India, real and reimagined, as powerful means of examining environmental and social issues concerning us all. Through still and moving image, seriality, and portraiture, five leading contemporary artists explore rapidly changing natural and built environments in India, from riverbanks, ancient forests, and city streets to surreal symbolic settings.

Ravi Agarwal and Atul Bhalla convey the profound importance of water in human life, highlighting enduring social and cultural connections to the sacred yet endangered Yamuna River. Gigi Scaria and Ketaki Sheth produce dynamic and disorienting portrayals of life in New Delhi and Mumbai. Sheba Chhachhi composes a provocative self-portrait that evokes a profound relationship to place as well as to her own focus on the representation of women in visual culture. Dynamic and varied in scale, format, and content, Unstill Waters also celebrates the spectacular recent gift of Sunanda and Umesh Gaur, which significantly expands the museum’s holdings of South Asian photography.

A Splendid Land: Paintings from Royal Udaipur

November 19, 2022-May 14, 2023
Around 1700, artists in Udaipur (a court in northwest India) began creating immersive paintings that conveyed the mood (bhava) of the city’s palaces, lakes, and mountains. These large paintings and their emphasis on lived experience have never been the focus of an exhibition.

With dazzling paintings on paper and cloth—many on public view for the first time—A Splendid Land reveals how artists conveyed emotions, depicted places, celebrated water resources, and fostered personal bonds over some two hundred years in the rapidly changing political and cultural landscapes of early modern South Asia.

The exhibition is organized as a journey that begins at Udaipur’s center and continues outward: first to the city, then to the countryside, and finally to the cosmos. A soundscape by the renowned filmmaker Amit Dutta invites contemporary audiences to sense—and not just see—the moods of these extraordinary places and paintings.

Rinpa: Creativity Across Time and Space

October 1, 2022-February 5, 2023
The Japanese painting movement now known as Rinpa was a loose association of artists that began around the dawn of the seventeenth century and continued into the nineteenth century. Their aesthetic came to define an almost stereotypical image of Japanese art consisting of stylized forms in bright colors. The National Museum of Asian Art invites you to explore a selection of paintings and ceramics by several generations of Rinpa artists from their collection.

Meeting Tessai: Modern Japanese Art from the Cowles Collection

August 13, 2022–February 18, 2024
Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924) exemplifies the modern Japanese painter. Contemporaries praised his avant-garde works, yet Tessai created his nonconformist paintings in a traditional way, basing them on ancient Japanese art and Ming and Qing paintings imported from China. Tessai’s teacher Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875)—nun, potter, calligrapher, poet, political activist—was at the vortex of immense political changes in Japan as the country’s feudal system collapsed and a constitutional monarchy was established. Rengetsu’s art, which harks back to inspirations from the twelfth century, inspired a generation of modern artists like Tessai.

Meeting Tessai highlights a transformative gift of early modern and modern Japanese paintings and calligraphy from the Mary and Cheney Cowles Collection. It is also the first major American exhibition in five decades to explore the significance of pan–East Asian influences—a pertinent topic in today’s interconnected world—through the work of Tessai, Rengetsu, and modern Japanese painting.

Freer’s Global Network: Artists, Collectors, and Dealers

Ongoing
This exhibition looks closely at the interconnected web of artists, dealers, and collectors who helped shape the Freer Gallery of Art’s collection amid the shifting political and economic environment of the early twentieth century. Learn about some of the fascinating characters who played instrumental roles in museum founder Charles Lang Freer’s global network, including art dealers Bunkio Matsuki and Dikran Kelekian, collector Agnes Meyer, and artist Mary Chase Perry Stratton. The captivating display of objects in this gallery, which includes American paintings and stoneware, Japanese ceramics, ancient Chinese bronzes, and Near Eastern pottery, illustrates that network in operation.

Read more about Freer's Global Network, click here

Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand

Ongoing
Red painted spirals swirl across the surfaces of these vessels, testifying to the sophisticated material and aesthetic cultures of northeastern Thailand more than two thousand years ago. Their makers belonged to a loose network of settlements specializing in bronze and ceramic production. Recent research into their materials, techniques, and designs opens new lines of inquiry into the region’s heritage and its profound cultural and material legacy.

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room

Ongoing through 2025
The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room includes more than two hundred bronzes, paintings, silk hangings, and carpets that were created in Tibet, China, and Mongolia between the thirteenth and early twentieth centuries. Arranged to reflect Tibetan Buddhist concepts and customs rather than museum conventions, the glittering room evokes the Himalayan portals that bridge the mundane and the sacred worlds.

The objects, assembled by collector Alice S. Kandell over many years, are placed on painted furniture, arranged among paintings and textiles, and presented without labels. With an aural dimension of chanting monks, this dynamic and densely layered display restores the relationships between Buddhist figures and viewers that are typically dissolved within museums.

Lectures and Programs at NMAA

Sneak Peek—From the Lab: Pigments in Chinese Painting
Online event, February 14, 2023, 12pm (EST)
Pigments in the Chinese palette for paintings on silk and paper from the Song dynasty (960–1279) through the early twentieth century were identified in a study of over two hundred paintings from the National Museum of Asian Art’s collections. Detailed studies of both scholar-paintings and portraits revealed that the introduction of new imported pigments such as Prussian blue, invented in Germany in 1704, and cochineal, an insect dye from the Americas, occurred primarily in the products of professional painters. In this talk, senior scientist Blythe McCarthy will discuss the research on Chinese paintings in the context of the museum’s past, present, and future scientific studies of pigments. This multiyear scientific research project was partially funded through grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation. The results of the research are available in the book Scientific Studies of Pigments in Chinese Paintings.

Read more and register, click here.