Lectures | John Finlay and Kristel Smentek on China and France

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on March 14, 2023

From BGC:

John Finlay and Kristel Smentek | China and France in the Intercultural 18th Century
Bard Graduate Center, New York, 19 April 2023, 6.00pm

Green porcelain lamp with French gilt bronze mounts.

Long Quan celadon lamp, 15th–16th century, Ming dynasty, porcelain, with French gilt mounts, mid-18th century, gilt bronze (Baltimore: The Walters Art Museum, 49.1508).

A Françoise and Georges Selz Lecture Duet on Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture with John Finlay and Kristel Smentek. In this pairing of mini-lectures, scholars John Finlay and Kristel Smentek offer complementary views on arts and intercultural exchange between France and China in the eighteenth century.

John Finlay | Henri Bertin and the Representation of China in 18th-Century France

The role of Henri-Léonard Bertin (1720–1792), who served as a minister of state under Louis XV, is crucial to understanding the encounters between China and France in the eighteenth century. Bertin first established his contact with the French Jesuits in Beijing through two Chinese Catholic priests, Aloys Ko and Étienne Yang. When the missionaries returned to China in 1765, they took with them an important set of gifts to be presented to the Qianlong emperor. Not to be misconstrued as tribute from France to China, these gifts were intended to stimulate Chinese interest in French culture and French artistic production.

Kristel Smentek | Disorienting China: Negotiating the Foreign in 18th-Century France

As European trade with the Qing empire accelerated in the eighteenth century, France was flooded with objects from China whose technologies, materials, and motifs challenged European understanding. These ranged from the lacquers and porcelains with which historians are familiar, to scroll paintings, bronzes, and worked jades whose presence in eighteenth-century Europe is far less studied. This talk investigates the display and material alteration of Asian imports in France and the design of new objects in response to them—strategies by which the French negotiated the pleasures and disorientations of China’s arts.

Formerly a curator of Chinese art, John Finlay is an independent scholar based in Paris, affiliated with the Centre d’Études sur la Chine Moderne et Contemporaine (CECMC). He began his academic career studying paintings and prints produced for the Qing imperial court in the eighteenth century. His current research focuses on Henri-Léonard Bertin (1720–1792), who served as a minister of state under Louis XV. His passion for all things Chinese placed him at the center of intersecting networks of like-minded individuals who shared his vision of China as a nation from which France had much to learn.

Kristel Smentek is associate professor of art history in the Department of Architecture at MIT. Her research focuses on eighteenth-century European graphic and decorative arts in their transcultural contexts. She is the author of Mariette and the Science of the Connoisseur in Eighteenth-Century Europe (2014), co-curator of Dare to Know: Prints and Drawings in the Age of Enlightenment recently on view at the Harvard Art Museums, and co-editor of its accompanying catalogue. She is currently completing Disorient: Arts from China in Eighteenth-Century France, a book investigating French responses to Chinese imports over the course of the long eighteenth century.

Registration is available here»

New Book | In Asian Waters

Posted in books by Editor on March 14, 2023

From Princeton UP:

Eric Tagliacozzo, In Asian Waters: Oceanic Worlds from Yemen to Yokohama (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022), 512 pages, ISBN: ‎978-0691146829, £30 / $35.

A sweeping account of how the sea routes of Asia have transformed a vast expanse of the globe over the past five hundred years, powerfully shaping the modern world.

In the centuries leading up to our own, the volume of traffic across Asian sea routes—an area stretching from East Africa and the Middle East to Japan—grew dramatically, eventually making them the busiest in the world. The result was a massive circulation of people, commodities, religion, culture, technology, and ideas. In this book, Eric Tagliacozzo chronicles how the seas and oceans of Asia have shaped the history of the largest continent for the past half millennium, leaving an indelible mark on the modern world in the process. Paying special attention to migration, trade, the environment, and cities, In Asian Waters examines the long history of contact between China and East Africa, the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism across the Bay of Bengal, and the intertwined histories of Islam and Christianity in the Philippines. The book illustrates how India became central to the spice trade, how the Indian Ocean became a ‘British lake’ between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, and how lighthouses and sea mapping played important roles in imperialism. The volume ends by asking what may happen if China comes to rule the waves of Asia, as Britain once did. A novel account showing how Asian history can be seen as a whole when seen from the water, In Asian Waters presents a voyage into a past that is still alive in the present.

Eric Tagliacozzo is the John Stambaugh Professor of History at Cornell University. His books include Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States along a Southeast Asian Frontier, 1865–1915 and The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca.

The table of contents is available here»


Exhibition | Across Shared Waters

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on March 14, 2023

Pema Rinzin, Abstract Sound #4, 2010, ground mineral pigment on wooden panel. Rinzin was born in 1966 in Tibet; studied in Dharamsala, India; lived and worked in Nagano, Japan and Wurzburg, Germany; and now lives and works in New York City.

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From the press release for the exhibition:

Across Shared Waters: Contemporary Artists in Dialogue with Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 17 February — 16 July 2023

Organized by Ariana Maki, with Elizabeth Gallerani and Nicholas Liou, with research support from Priya Rajbhandary and Tibetan translation by Rongwo Lugyal

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is delighted to present Across Shared Waters: Contemporary Artists in Dialogue with Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection, on view from 17 February through 16 July 2023. Much as the headwaters of Asia’s major rivers form in the Tibetan plateau and flow into the world’s seas, interest in Tibetan art and culture has circulated globally, inspiring artists within Tibetan regions and throughout the world. Across Shared Waters presents works by 11 contemporary artists of Himalayan heritage alongside traditional Tibetan Buddhist rolled paintings, or thangka, from the Jack Shear Collection, a juxtaposition that highlights the richness and diversity of Tibetan artistic expression and fosters greater understanding and appreciation of Himalayan histories and identities.

Poster for the exhibition.Traditional works in Across Shared Waters are part of a generous initiative by collector Jack Shear to foster collaboration among the art museums of Williams, Skidmore, and Vassar Colleges. The paintings and other objects comprising the gift will be used for education, research, and informed display. Across Shared Waters is the second in a series of exhibitions of the Jack Shear Collection of Tibetan Art. The first, Mastery and Merit: Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection, was on view at the Loeb Center at Vassar College in the spring and summer of 2022. The third exhibition will be on view at the Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College beginning in August 2023.

The WCMA exhibition is organized by guest curator Ariana Maki, the Associate Director of the University of Virginia Tibet Center and Bhutan Initiative, with Elizabeth Gallerani, Curator of Mellon Academic Programs, and Nicholas Liou, Mellon Curatorial Fellow and MA ’24, along with research support from Curatorial Intern Priya Rajbhandary ’25. Tibetan translation is provided by Rongwo Lugyal.

Pamela Franks, Class of 1956 Director of WCMA, said, “The Williams College Museum of Art is thrilled to participate in this visionary, collaborative approach that engages three leading liberal arts colleges and expands our collective research and teaching capacities to appropriately present this important work. This initiative highlights WCMA’s ongoing commitment of both sharing the art itself and collaborating across institutions to strengthen the pedagogical approaches and research resources within our teaching museum. I am so grateful to Jack Shear, our colleagues at the Skidmore and Vassar museums, and for the engaged scholarship of guest curator Ariana Maki throughout the development of these three exhibitions. We look forward to collaboration long into the future.”

“The Shear Collection provides remarkable examples of traditional Tibetan Buddhist art and its wide range of uses and meanings,” Maki said. “As the academic approach to Buddhism is generally text-focused, the paintings and 3-D objects from Shear offer faculty an incredible set of resources to further enrich their courses and help broaden student understanding of Buddhist practices. Displaying these works allows everyone direct access to better study and appreciate how historical artists masterfully gave form to highly sophisticated philosophical principles.

“It’s exciting to experience the traditional works alongside contemporary paintings and photography. The juxtaposition reflects the innovations and incredible creativity of Himalayan makers, whose works invite us into their lived experiences and challenge us to consider issues that both impact them as individuals and all of us as members of a global society,” Maki said.

Created between the 18th and 20th centuries, the thangka feature elaborate depictions of Buddhist narratives, deities, and practices. Talented, highly trained artists produced engaging scenes detailing the lives of the Buddha, chronicled incarnation lineages, and transmitted teaching stories. Some works would be used by initiates to support advanced meditation techniques while others depict deities who aid Buddhist practitioners with everyday concerns, granting blessings of wealth, long life, protection, or healing.

The traditional thangka are displayed in conversation with contemporary works by featured artists based around the world, including Marie-Dolma Chophel, Dedron, Nyema Droma, Gonkar Gyatso, Tenzin Norbu Lama, Kesang Lamdark, Tashi Norbu, Karma Phuntsok, Pema Rinzin, Rabkar Wangchuk, and Palden Weinreb. While some draw inspiration from Tibetan cultural markers, including repurposing or reimagining Buddhist imagery, others source inspiration completely outside those frames. Exploring themes of identity, consumerism, place, and cultural expectations, the artists employ a diverse range of media, from ground mineral pigments to acrylic paint, digital photography, mixed media works, and resin cast sculptures.

A complete press kit including images can be found here»

Poster Images  Left: Lama Tashi Norbu, Accepting Flowers’ Culture, 2013, mixed media (Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection). Norbu was born 1974 in Jigmenang, Bhutan, studied in Dharamsala, India and Ghent, Belgium; and now lives and works in Emmen, The Netherlands.
Right: Unidentified maker, Shakyamuni Buddha with Arhats and Four Guardian Kings, eighteenth century, distemper on cloth, Central Tibetan style (Jack Shear Collection of Himalayan Art).


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