Exhibition: Secrets of the Lacquer Buddha

Exhibition Dates: 9 December 2017 – 10 June 2018

Secrets of the Lacquer Buddha unites the only sixth- and seventh-century, life-size Chinese lacquer buddha sculptures known: one from the Walters Art Museum, one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and one from the Freer Gallery of Art. They have never been exhibited together before.

The exhibition explores how the sculptures were made, giving new insights into these deceptively simple objects. It also highlights how science can contribute to understanding art. The Freer|Sackler Department of Conservation and Scientific Research’s experts used specialised equipment and new methods to analyse the sculptures, exposing microscopic details. Find out what tree species the lacquer came from, what type of burnt bone was mixed in, and other unexpected discoveries.

The amount of detailed background information given on the Freer|Sackler website is amazing. The essay by Donna Strahan and Blythe McCarthy on the construction of the buddha sculptures is particularly fascinating.

They discovered that pieces of wood wrapped in textiles which had been dipped in lacquer were used as a support inside some of the buddhas. The fibres from all four sculptures were identified by polarised light microscopy as bast fibres with crystalline nodes. The fibres’ colours further identified them as hemp when examined under polarised light.

A textile dated to between 1272 and 1284 also features in the essay on Lacquer, Relics, and Self-Mummification by Denise Patry Leidy.

For more information visit the website of the Freer|Sackler museum, Washington DC.

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Exhibition: To Dye For – Ikats from Central Asia

Exhibition dates: 24 March – 29 July 2018, Washington DC

 

With their brilliant designs, ikats are among the most distinct fabrics produced in Central Asia. The name, derived from the Malaysian word for “to tie,” refers to the distinct technique of making these textiles: bundles of threads are painstakingly patterned by repeated binding and dyeing before being woven. In present-day Uzbekistan and the Fergana Valley, the fabric is known as abri (cloud) and the technique as abrbandi (tying clouds), referring to the fluid yet bold motifs in bright colors.

Not surprisingly, ikats caught the attention of contemporary designers, most notably Oscar de la Renta (died 2014). In 2005 de la Renta included ikat designs in his collections, an innovation that was soon followed by other designers in the United States and elsewhere. Since then ikat motifs have become ubiquitous—from couture gowns to jeans and T-shirts, and from carpets and sofa coverings to stationery and wallpapers.

This exhibition brings together about thirty of the finest historical Central Asian ikat hangings and coats from the Freer|Sackler collections, donated by Guido Goldman, as well as seven of Oscar de la Renta’s iconic creations. The aim is to explore the original use and function of these dazzling fabrics and the enduring appeal of their extraordinary designs.

This exhibition runs almost concurrently with Binding the Clouds: The Art of Central Asian Ikat at the Textile Museum, also in Washington DC

For more information visit the website of The Freer/Sackler