funding for Denver Art Museum exhibitions is provided by
the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities
District (SCFD). Since its creation in 1988, SCFD has funded
more than 300 scientific and cultural organizations in the
seven metro Denver counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder,
Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson. Unless otherwise
noted, exhibitions are organized by the Denver Art Museum.
Galloping Horses (detail)
by Xu Beihong, 1942
Xu Beihong Memorial Museum
|Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting
Xu Beihong was a major Chinese artist and
art educator. Born in 1895 in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, he
learned traditional Chinese painting from his father, a self-taught
artist. Between 1919 and 1927, he studied sketching and oil
painting in France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland.
He was the first Chinese painter to integrate the spatial
and lighting concepts of Western painting with traditional
Chinese painting styles. His ink brush paintings and oil paintings
provided a new direction for Chinese art. In China, Xu was
the first artist to introduce sketching techniques into the
study of Chinese painting, and he established sketching as
the foundation for all art students in major art institutions.
His horse paintings are good examples of integrating Western
sketching techniques with traditional Chinese painting style.
The Chinese ink paintings, oils, sketches, and pastels in
this exhibition are selected from Xu Beihong Memorial Museum,
established in Beijing after his death in 1953.
October 15, 2011 – February
Level 2, Hamilton Building
Organized by the Asian Art Department
and Xu Beihong Memorial Museum
Imperial Cover or Hanging with Dragon and Phoenixes
China, mid-19th century
|Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China’s Last Dynasty
The Denver Art Museum’s Chinese textiles and costumes take center stage in Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China’s Last Dynasty. In the first extensive special exhibition of these objects in thirty years, visitors will find a panorama of court and informal robes, exquisitely detailed personal accessories, and dramatic wall hangings drawn entirely from the permanent collection. In 1981, Secret Splendors of the Chinese Court debuted robes and accessories collected by Charlotte Hill Grant in China during the 1920s and 1930s, following a gift of over 600 Qing Dynasty pieces to the museum by Mrs. Grant’s children, James P. Grant and Betty Grant Austin, in 1977. In addition to preeminent items from the earlier exhibition, Threads of Heaven showcases many objects rarely or never exhibited, both from the Grant collection and other donors.
The treasures on view provide a glimpse into court life during the last century the Qing Dynasty. In 1644 Manchu forces from the north conquered China. Ethnically distinct from the more populous Han Chinese, they founded the Qing Dynasty, which lasted until the deposition of the child-emperor Pu Yi—the last Emperor of China—by the 1911 Chinese revolution. The objects in Threads of Heaven date primarily to the period when Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) ruled “from behind the curtain.” The daughter of an ordinary official, she became a royal concubine at eighteen and gave birth to the emperor’s sole male heir in 1856. When her son became emperor in 1861, her power increased. She ousted his appointed regents, assuming nearly absolute control of the government. She maintained her position after his death in 1875 by appointing her young nephew and adopted son emperor. Cixi’s power was threatened when foreign forces moved into Beijing in 1900. She and the emperor fled, but returned in 1902. In 1908, a day after the emperor’s death, she chose his successor from her own deathbed.
As rulers of China, the Manchu asserted their ethnic identity by keeping elements of their traditional clothing style. The Manchu dragon robe (jifu) was a semiformal court garment used for festive occasions. Unlike the flowing robes of the more sedentary Han Chinese, the cut of the Manchu man’s garment reflected the formerly nomadic horseman’s need for protection and mobility: an overlapped front panel securely fastened to keep the hands free; flared “horse-hoof” cuffs protected the back of the hand; and vents at the front and back made riding easy.
Intricate motifs decorating each object—whether embroidered in gold and silk, as in the imperial cover pictured, or finely woven—tell a story and invite a closer look. The dragon and phoenix, symbols of the emperor and empress, dominate this hanging. Dragons, symbols of authority for centuries, linked the Qing Dynasty to the continuum of imperial rule. A multitude of bats, whose name, fu, sounds the same as the word for good fortune, fill the background along with images of the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols, four scholarly pursuits, and clouds representing the granting of a wish. At the bottom of the hanging, carp turning into dragons symbolize the successful passing of imperial exams. The pagoda in the sea is a longevity motif. Two cranes each carry a bamboo counter to be placed in the vase within the building: the counters represent the time it takes for the ocean to change to solid land.
Through January 29, 2012
Martin McCormick Gallery
Level 2, Hamilton Building
Organized by the Textile Art Department of the Denver Art Museum
Photo by Erik Kvalsvik
&Tradition: Japanese Woven Bamboo
The Japanese have woven bamboo into baskets,
mats, and containers for thousands of years. The tradition
of weaving bamboo into a variety of objects, especially baskets
for flower arrangements, continues to the present day. This
exhibition, the second to be hosted in the Walter + Mona Lutz
Gallery, celebrates the tradition and tactile quality of this
art through classic forms and modern innovation.
July 31, 2011 – Summer 2012
Walter + Mona Lutz Gallery
Level 5, North Building
Pair of Vases
White: A Ceramic Journey
The term “blue-and-white” is
applied to a wide range of ceramics with this distinctive
color combination. In Asia, the production of blue-and-white
wares involves decorating an unfired clay object with cobalt
pigment, covering it with a transparent glaze, and firing
it in a kiln. The cobalt deepens in color, the clay body hardens,
and the glaze vitrifies into a glass-like surface. Since the
blue design lies on the white exterior of the clay object
beneath the glaze, it is protected and resistant to abrasion.
"Blue & White: A Ceramic Journey" explores the
many ways this familiar style has been used through the centuries
and highlights regional variations in production and imagery
from around the world. Over six hundred years of blue-and-white
artworks are on display, ranging from 15th century Muslim
pieces, to contemporary Japanese sculptures.
June 11, 2011 – Summer 2012
William Sharpless Jackson Jr. Gallery
Level 5, North Building
by Tatsuo Miyajima
El Pomar Grand Atrium
by Tatsuo Miyajima
A unique work of art created by
Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima dots the spectacularly angled
atrium walls in the Hamilton Building. Miyajima was extremely
enthusiastic about creating a piece that is integral to
the architecture of the building. Similarly, he created
his project with an eye toward the Buddhist concept of relationship,
or en, which says that humans cannot exist independently—they
exist only by relating to nature, the universe, and other
people. Within each of the eighty circular units that make
up Engi, there is a mirror, which Miyajima says
demonstrates en by reflecting the structure of
the building itself, other units, and museum visitors. Each
unit also features a constantly changing LED number, a metaphor
for an individual's life force, history, and time. Attendees
at a workshop in August 2006 set each unit's speed as a
way to record Denver's time and history.
Opening October 7, 2006
Atrium, Level 1, Hamilton Building
Commissioned by the Denver
Office of Art, Culture, and Film’s Public Art Program