Founded a decade ago by a small group of private dealers, New York City’s Asia Week now includes dozens of shows mounted by local and international galleries as well as auctions at all the major houses. It’s a rare opportunity to see antiquities and esoterica that are otherwise hidden away in private collections.
In all, 16 museums and cultural institutions are participating in Asia Week New York, which is running through March 23. Here we explore Manhattan’s most notable exhibitions, along with a sprinkling of interesting gallery shows. And if looking at art from the other side of the world inspires you to travel, consider heading to the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University for a show of Islamic poster art, or to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which just finished renovating its Chinese galleries.
The Korea Society
Suh Seung Won, a pioneer of the process-based Korean painting movement known as Dansaekhwa, or monochrome, started out with hard-edge, translucent rhombuses that evoke unreal architectural spaces. In the large-scale recent canvases comprising most of “Suh Seung Won: Simultaneity” at the Korea Society, those rhombuses have become overlapping bursts of diaphanous yellow and pink. They’re too square to read as clouds, despite the unmistakable glints of blue peeking through, so the mood remains otherworldly. Through April 19 at 350 Madison Avenue, 24th floor, Manhattan; 212-759-7525, koreasociety.org.
Rubin Museum of Art
“Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism” is an expeditious survey of how Tibetan, Tangut, Chinese, Mongol and Manchu emperors all bolstered their legitimacy by claiming to be reincarnations of Buddhas, gods or previous emperors. A good way to find your footing in a profusion of complex imagery is to keep your eye on Mahakala, a wrathful deity who reappears throughout the show, most notably in a 19th-century Bhutanese painting that pictures him with a raven’s head and a blood-red consort. But look out, too, for an exquisite 18th-century depiction of the Fifth Dalai Lama descending to earth on a delicate rainbow bridge. Through July 15 at 150 West 17th Street, Manhattan; 212-620-5000, rubinmuseum.org.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
A uniquely rich permanent collection means that every week is Asia Week at the Met. But this week in particular boasts an abundance of must-see works.
Written in the 11th century by Murasaki Shikibu, a minor figure in the Heian imperial court, “The Tale of Genji,” a divine parade of assignations, poetic melancholy and intricately cataloged haute couture, has dominated Japan’s imagination for a thousand years. “The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated” (through June 16) gives a tantalizing sense of just how much decorative and fine art the novel has inspired by including a little of everything, from the heart-stopping calligraphy of a 17th-century copy by Isome Tsuna, with its unusually subtle modulation of thin and thick lines, to a gaudy 19th-century bridal palanquin ornamented with scenes of Prince Genji’s love affairs. A 1631 painted screen by Tawaraya Sotatsu, which sets delicate trees and an ox cart against an intensely stylized green hill, will demolish any convictions you might have had about the difference between abstraction and figuration. And a gilded wooden icon from Ishiyamadera, where Murasaki is supposed to have started her book, might inspire new novels of its own.
The fourth rotation of the encyclopedic “Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China” (through Aug. 4) is an unmissable demonstration of how formal conventions, like the treatment of landscape in traditional Chinese ink painting, can be tools for an almost infinite range of self-reflection and self-expression. Highlights include Huang Xiangjian’s epic 17th-century scroll “Searching for My Parents,” inspired by the disorders of the Manchu conquest, and Gao Cen’s contemporaneous album “Landscapes in the Style of old masters,” in which delicate twigs and leaves seem poised to disappear into misty expanses of faded golden silk.
And while you’re in the building, don’t forget the staggering colors and hallucinatory visions of the Himalayan miniatures in “Seeing the Divine: Pahari Painting of North India” (through July 21). 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org.
SCHOLTEN JAPANESE ART While interned in Arizona during World War II, the Japanese-American art dealer Kakunen Tsuruoka made a series of lush, haunting watercolors of desert scenery. His works are the focus of the exhibition “Captive Artist: Watercolors by Kakunen Tsuruoka” at this gallery, running through March 23. 145 West 58th Street, No. 6D; 212-585-0474, scholten-japanese-art.com.
ERIK THOMSEN In “Taisho Era Screens and Scrolls,” extraordinary Japanese screens from the early 20th century combine Western approaches to color and anatomy with traditional perspective and design. Through March 23 at 23 East 67th Street, fourth floor, and 9 East 63rd Street, second floor; 212-288-2588, erikthomsen.com.
ART PASSAGES AT JAMES REINISH Look for the 15th-century Quran written with Chinese-style Arabic calligraphy in “Divine Protection: Talismanic Art of Islamic Cultures.” Through March 23 at 25 East 73rd Street, No. 2; 415-690-9077, artpassages.com.
FRANCESCA GALLOWAY “Rajput Paintings from the Ludwig Habighorst Collection” includes jewel-like miniatures of mind-bending mythology — and a striking pair of paintings of roosting fruit bats. Through March 22 at 1018 Madison Avenue, fifth floor; 917-943-7737, francescagalloway.com.
JOAN B MIRVISS Virtuosic efforts by students of the ceramist Tomimoto Kenkichi span a staggering range of styles in “Tomimoto Kenkichi and His Enduring Legacy,” but none of them can beat a small, brightly patterned sake flask by the master. Through April 26 at 39 East 78th Street, No. 401; 212-799-4021, mirviss.com.
HK ART & ANTIQUES LLC A mesmerizing white porcelain water dropper, defiantly plain and asymmetrical, is paired with small notebook drawings by the 20th-century master Whanki Kim in “Korean Scholar’s Objects and Ch’aekkori.” Through March 26 at 49 East 78th, No. 4B; 646-812-7825, heakyumart.com.
OLIVER FORGE AND BRENDAN LYNCH LTD. Indian and Persian court artists considered lightly-colored drawings, like an 18th-century portrait of a stallion from Kishangarh on display in “Indian Court Painting,” as a genre distinct from both preparatory drawings and paintings. Through March 22 at 67 East 80th Street; 631-398-0150, forgelynch.com.
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