LECTURE: Maribeth Graybill, Ph.D. – October 20, 2019

LECTURE: Maribeth Graybill, Ph.D. – October 20, 2019


Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome. Thank you
for being here. I’m Brian Ferriso, Director of the Portland Art Museum. Thank you for,
again for attending this very special lecture and occasion as we celebrate the outstanding
tenure of Dr. Maribeth Graybill, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian art.
It was in October of 2006. When I first arrived as director of this museum that I met with
life trustees, Arlene Schnitzer and her husband, the late Harold. The meeting was very specific,
focusing on how to strengthen our Asian department. At that time, Donald Jenkins retired several
years beforehand. And Counsel Coordinator Jan Quivey was helping keep the department
moving forward. At that meeting I said to Arlene and Harold, that the key to our success
lies in identifying and hiring a great curator. And to achieve that goal we needed to endow
the position. Well, well over a decade later, it gives us great pleasure today to reflect
on what has been accomplished with the appointment of Maribeth to this very important role. Maribeth
arrived in December of 2007. With an impressive background that included a residency in Japan,
undergraduate and graduate degrees in Asian art, extensive postdoctoral experience, 20
years teaching at the University of California, Berkeley and Swarthmore College, and six years
as Senior Curator of Asian art at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. In Portland, Maribeth
utilized her academic training and professional experiences, as well as her passion and work
ethic to create something what I would call very special. She curated and organized more
than 20 major exhibitions, including last year’s very successful “Poetic Imagination
in Japanese Art”. Selections from the collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles who are here with
us today. She also curated “The Artist’s Touch, the Craftsman’s Hand: Three Centuries of Japanese
Prints” from the Portland Art Museum in 2011, “Samurai!” armor from the Ann and Gabriel
Barbier-Mueller collection in 2013, and the Asian art section of a “Quest for Beauty:
the Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon” in 2017. Maribeth also oversaw
the acquisition of major works of art that have transformed our collection. From paintings
to ceramics to decorative art objects from China, India, Japan, and Korea. Additionally,
Maribeth let a significant cultural moment for this museum, the repatriation of the five
Buddhist painting to Korea in 2016. Prior to its repatriation to Songgwangsa monastery.
The 18th century Buddhist painting was the subject of an exhibition and a symposium.
Less visible to the public she’s worked to bring more of our collection out into the…
out of the vault and into the permanent collection galleries, rotating prints and paintings in
all the Asian galleries at least twice a year. Additionally, Maribeth is strengthen the department
significantly with the appointment of Sangah Kim as the Cowles Curatorial Fellow in Asian
art, and Dr. Jeannie Kenmotsu as the Japan Foundation Assistant Curator of Japanese art.
She’s built an exceptional and extraordinary team that has truly transform… transform
this museum and has had an impact not only nationally, but also globally. Today is truly
bittersweet. I want to thank all of you for your unwavering support of our Asian Department,
our Museum, and in particular Maribeth, who I believe leaves a legacy at this institution
that is unparalleled and one that will impact generations. and finally, thank you, Maribeth,
for your tireless efforts on behalf of this museum, and our community. And thank you for
being such a very special friend to me and a colleague. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you for that generous introduction.
Can everybody hear? Brian and thank all of you for coming today. I’m so happy to have
this opportunity to look back on the past 12 years. As many of you know, and as Brian
just indicated, I’ve had a fairly peripatetic career split evenly between the academy and
museums. And 12 years of Portland, it’s actually the longest I’ve been in one place. Perhaps
when they hired me, they were hoping I would retire at 65. But I’m very grateful that Portland
is the place where I ended up. I said, when I moved here that I thought it was the last
livable city on the west coast. And although some things have worsened in the interim.
I still think that. I’m very happy to call Portland my home. There are many people I
would like to thank today, and I can’t begin to name them all, but please indulge me for
a few. Well I’ll introduce a few of them. This is of course, Arlene and Harold Schnitzer,
who endowed the position not too many months after I arrived, and that has made such an
extraordinary difference. I felt that I could goof off and Brian couldn’t fire me. And there
he is thinking about it. Brian… something which is not exclusively about me, but has
kept the museum on an even keel through occasional threatening storms. But more important to
me as an individual. He is a director who is supportive of his curatorial staff. And
he believes in the importance of research. And when I talked to my colleagues at other
museums, both of those are increasingly rare. The former Chief Curator, who retired about
I think five years ago on this day, Bruce Guenther set impossible standards and consistently
showed me how I might get close to them. But he had an extraordinary influence on on teaching
me and reteaching me how to be a curator. And Donald Urquhart, who is our Director of
exhibitions and collections. Since he moved into the office that is next mine becomes
my favorite drop in person for solving everything. I haven’t asked him to remove gum from the
bottom of my desk but everything else he has solved for me and I’m and we’ve become good
friends and I’m so grateful for that. Now, I couldn’t quite get portraits but this is
meant to be by fellow curators. And I couldn’t ask for better colleagues, for 12 years, we’ve,
although I am the longest one, but we’ve worked alongside one another with no acrimony, and
I think that’s a record in the museum world. And this is meant to be Charles and Jan. Jan
Quivey, the Council Coordinator for the… for all of the council’s at the museum and
Charles, I really think I was the boss of the curatorial department. But the two of
them provide me with help, practically many, many times a day. Charles is also a great
problem solver. And Jan has this unparalleled understanding of history of the museum and
its personalities. And every time I plan to do something really wonky, she pulls me back.
And this is the museum staff without the engagement with nearly every department either on or
any curator could buy, catalog, display or interpret art. There’s never enough opportunity
to express thanks to the other departments in the museum. So I want to do it again to
do it today. And then finally Asian Art Council. This is a photograph from last June of many
of the past present past and current Presidents. The Asian Art Council has underwritten in
whole or in part the acquisition of more than 200 objects, 30 of those since I’ve been here,
they have supported exhibitions, publications, lectures, artist talks, and me. One of the
most effective ways to be involved in Asian art with a museum is to join us on the Asian
Art Council. Now, I want to do a little bit of history for the first three decades of
the museum’s existence. So that’s from 1893 onward, the collection consistsed of the Asian
collection amongst speaking about Asian collection, consisted of small, decorative objects and
textiles, which I suspect might have been collected on overseas travels. Nearly all
of these were donated by women of Portland’s leading families Ladd, Corbett, Failing. And
you see here an example of a fragment of a blouse, which is in fairly bad condition.
And this was the sort of thing that they thought was absolutely fascinating. And, and some
things like this were on display for I think, seven years at one time. And on the right
hand is an example of it’s Nick pottery. That’s a singularly uninspiring example. So, so my
sense of looking at the collection from those years, I mean, we didn’t have a regular building,
so that’s part of it. And, but but also with the kind of exhibitions we had, was it the
museum was sort of a community center. For a very small group of people, and it was treated
sort of like almost like a family annex. But the year that we moved to this building, 1932
that the blue ski building came in was the transformative moment. The family of Mary
Andrews Ladd donated in her name more than 750 Japanese Princeton woodblock books. This
is the… this is… this is big Quantum Leap. It put Asian art as as one of the core critical
mass collection to the museum. It made this museum worthy of attention around the world
so that that gift cannot be overemphasized for its importance. And with that gift of
750 some the collection came up to 821. So so we had that and it was and and as near
as I can reconstruct things the year that the museum opened, what was in October of
1932, one side, and I don’t know whether it was on the left or the right, of the more
enjoy was donate… was given to an exhibition of her works. So, my great, great thanks to
that family. Now, in the late 1930s, by which I really mean 1938 and 39. For reasons that
I haven’t had time to plumb, the museum made major investments in important Chinese artworks.
And several of these are on view in the galleries now, but we bought a number of works of Chinese
Buddhist art, and then this wonderful wooden horse that you see here. So that was in the
30s. And, and so was this extraordinary steely from recreate represent a particular regional
style in China. Why was that sudden burst of major investments happening in the late
30s? I can think of a couple of things. One, the 30s was an era of civil war and chaos
in China. So a lot of things were getting out and there were dealers who had things
that were available. I don’t know who in the museum was advocating for us to make purchases
of these works at that time, maybe when they retired, what time to check that out. But
these pieces are extraordinary quality and still sort of touchstones for the museum.
And then there’s sort of a gap. And in the mid 1950s, we started buying things from C.T.
Loo, who was probably the most famous dealer in the country of Asian art based in New York.
And the pieces that we bought there are world class. The one on the left is a Shang Dynasty,
“Hu” or “Wine Vessel”. It has been since the day I arrived. One of the pieces in the museum
that I that I love the most. And on the right both the same year, a very rare and unusual,
upright bell. So both of these are from Bronze Age, China. They stand up to any work anywhere
in the world and then the big ones we have, but they’re really good. We also bought Indian
things from him on the left is a very fine sculpture from Gandhara. And on the right,
figure of the Great God Shiva dancing. And I do know in the case of the Shiva, that one
of the reasons we got it is that John Yeon badgered people until they finally raised
the money and made it happen. There are interesting documents about, for example, a certain patron
had come to the museum and really wanted to give us money to buy early American furniture.
And the museum really wasn’t interested in early American furniture. But so in these
notes from the dealer, apparently somebody finally persuaded her to put forth the money
for Asian art. And so what’s a few things then. One last purchase from C.T. Loo is this
astonishing hand scroll by the Great Ming Dynasty painter Shen Zhou, and this work.
When I first came here, essentially, I thought that it was too good to be true. But let me
say that many scholars have come through and looked at in the meantime. And what we have
absolutely established, not only is it authentic, but there’s a little seal
over the seams into paper, which is the seal of Shen Zhou’s father-in-law. So not only
is it authentic, but it was handed down in his family, and it’s very early in his career
1477. So we have just another world class piece from C.T. Loo in our collection. Now
I’m going to look at the sort of more recent past and things that have happened in that
period. Well, I have been here and when I arrived, this is what our vault looked like.
We had shelving that was plywood shelves put together. And our Chief Registrar, she’s now
director of collections, Heather O’Shea worked tirelessly to wrap styrofoam collars about
pieces to make little belt so they wouldn’t fall off when we had an earthquake. But the
fact remains that if you wanted something at the back of a drawer, you had to pull that
14 things to pull it out. It was a nightmare situation. And although that room is kept
very clean, if you left something there for a while, dust would settle on it and it was
like… you really need to take it to the dentist to have the target removed. It was
really awful. So that yes, that is that is what I arrived to find. And in 2014 we received
a grant and it was something that registrars, digital services, a lot of departments worked
on. We wrote a grant proposal to the Institute for Museum and Library Services. And we got,
I think, close to $100,000. And we asked for the grant to rehouse asian paintings, ceramics
and lacquer. And this completely transformed a huge section of our vault. You can see we
have there’s a sort of one open section that is useful for things that are in transit,
but then closed doors so that things are protected from dust. And then these kinds of specialized
shallows shells, which are perfect for Asian Ceramics. And on the right hand side that
might be hard to figure out, but that’s very specialized shelving for Japanese folding
screens. So we went from misery to heaven, it was really an extraordinary difference.
And this has just, you know, made a great difference also in the health of our objects.
So that was a great thing that happened. And I want to talk a little bit about online collections.
I could actually go on at great length about how bad things used to be, but we did not
have an in house photographer, and when Lynn Katsumoto who’s here today and I wanted to
survey the print collection to decide which works to put in the exhibition, we had to
look at each one and photograph them ourselves. And that was… anyway, so that was time-consuming
and unhappy. But, but also curators were not allowed to put data in the database. So if
we learned that we had the wrong name, or most most important for us. Right now all
of our database information is bilingual. So the Japanese material has Japanese information
for the artists and the title, Chinese, Korean, same, same. But we weren’t allowed to get
type stuff into the database. Because the Registrar in charge was certain that we would
mock it up. So, also the database then couldn’t accept Chinese characters. So we had to write
this stuff out on word and send it to her to put in when she had free time. But what
you see now is an example of the kind of information that appears online. We have the titles in
Japanese, Chinese characters or Korean. Then we have we have what it’s pronounced like
in the original language, actually, that I didn’t put them all here. So so we, under
the leadership of Jeannie Kenmotsu, who’s now a little bit ways to her third year here,
and with photography by Ben, we now are, I think amongst the leading museums in the country
in terms of the completeness and the scholarly content of what we put online. So that leads
me to Jeannie Kenmotsu, and this Japan digital initiative. We had an opportunity… The Japan
Foundation announced a grant. It was unprecedented in my entire career. I’d never heard of it
anything like this. So it was new. Museum infrastructure ground, and you could apply
for positions and you could apply for exhibitions. And we actually asked for two things. But
one of them was a position and I wanted someone who could be devoted full time to prints.
The reason for that is that proper cataloguing of a certain kind of Japanese print can take
up to a week to research. I just, you know, couldn’t go on doing it myself. So we had,
so The Japan Foundation agreed to fund that for five years. And I really hope we find
a way to extend it beyond that, because this is an ongoing core part of our collection.
And it is very, very difficult to catalog it all. So, anyway, Jeannie has been managing
all of that. And Ben Cort, who’s our in house photographer, was able with the funding from
the IMLS to buy camera equipment that costs many, many, many tens of thousands of dollars.
So we now taking extraordinary images and these are getting online as they’re getting
researched. The second part of The Japan Foundation Grant, we wrote up as being about exhibition,
installation, but also sort of segue that into gallery design. So in the first year
that Chief prep and I took a little trip to some major American museum collections to
look at how people are displaying Japanese art now. And we brought in some lessons from
that. And the second year of the grant, we created some of the furniture for this show,
including those shallow cases that you see there. And this year, we are recycling those
cases, you’ll see them in the Korean painting exhibition. And we are in the process. It’s
taking longer than we expected of making some changes in the Central Japanese galleries.
But that’s happening with Japan Foundation funding. Now I’m going to turn to some favorite
acquisitions. One of my first major acquisitions in 2008, was this Ganesha. He is the Indian
God who got of auspicious beginnings and given the South Asian population in Greater Portland.
I thought that expanding our Korean, or Indian South Asian collection would be a good idea.
Also our Shiva, which you saw before, had absolutely no context whatsoever. So I persuaded
the museum to let me buy this at auction in 2008. And I’m very happy that Shiva is now
with his dad. I’m sorry that Ganesha is with his dad and that Ganesha is here. But my hopes
that this would lead to growth of the South Asian collection, were dashed. There have
been changes in the market itself, but also our own standards about provenance have ruled
out subsequent purchases of historical ancient Indian art. When we… the rules now accepted
by accredited museums is that we will not buy something unless its provenance proves
that it was out of the country of origin by 1970. And those works are few and far between,
and when they come up museums with greater sources than ours can afford to buy them and
we can’t. So the solution was, we created a gallery of sacred arts of Asia and their
go to other early and beloved acquisitions. On the right, you see, the two lion dogs that
guard Buddhist temples and trines in Japan. We got those in 2011, those are 12th century
and on the left, is this very studly image of a guardian King of Heaven, 13th century
and we bought that in 2014. So so I was very happy to be able to kind of create this space
of sacred orchid, sacred sculpture. Because as I say, we had we have very little sacred
art at all, but interesting and wonderful thing that’s happened in the meantime is that,
thanks to Mary and Cheney Cowles, we have brought in this stunningly beautiful work
of calligraphy, it’s a Japanese Sutra penned are written out in about 744. And there have
been some other Buddhist manuscripts and so forth, and a number of Zen related objects.
So we have the possibility now of creating a little bit more focused assembly of Japanese
Buddhist art, and that’s new. Another early acquisition at Asia Week in 2008, so I’ve
only been here about half a year, is this very, very tall, I think it’s seven and a
half feet, Chinese landscape painting in bright colors on silk. I can remember when we were
walking around, this is days when the fair was in the Armory. And we walked into Kaikodo
and just sort of filled the space. And I just kind of said: “I want it.” And we got it at
a very, very reasonable price, because it’s unsigned. And so we didn’t have some of the
criteria that were motivating buyers at the time. And from the same studio a number of
years later, we bought this for… this is by Lou Jeng Woo (?), I’m not sure about the
pronunciation. But this is 8.5 feet long or high. He deliberately designed it so that
it could be shown in any orientation. His signature and seals could read in all four
directions. We’ve shown it vertically and I think maybe horizontally. But this was my
first foray really, into contemporary Chinese work. And that’s an area that I would love
to see us do, more acquiring in. But this was just a… we had, we had the money and
the object and everything they all came together at the right time. Early purchase that I dearly
love is a hand scroll of calligraphy by Shang Jiao Bin (?), a 18th century, intellectual
of the early Qing period and this… I love the calligraphy itself. The late Ming is a
time when Chinese calligraphy really sort of explodes as a self conscious art form.
And I wanted more calligraphies. We had very, very few and now through gifts and purchases
we have 16 so I wanted the calligraphy I wanted the hand scroll. And what I really loved about
this is that the text is a an eighth or ninth century poet writing about a painting so I
just thought that was all very cute. In 2009 Terry Welch, collector in the Seattle area
gave us more than 50 Japanese folk textiles. And these are wonderful, diverse. It’s a really
great collection. And because they’re mostly futon covers, they don’t pose too many problems
of storage. And they’re always popular with the public. I’ve had the great opportunity
to acquire quite a number of ceramics. And although I was sort of trained as a painting
person, in Ann Arbor, where I was before at the University of Michigan, we had quite a
good collection of historical Chinese ceramics and I learned a lot handling those. But also
just I think I was personally drawn to ceramics. The Jomon period jar on the left, is, I believe,
the oldest work in the Asian collection data between 3500 and 2500 BC. And we got that
at one of these wonderful events that the Museum did a few times it was called “New
for the Wall”. And that was a party where people paid a certain amount of money to come
and then they got to vote. And I made around and made certain that I put sake at their
table so that they would inclined them in a certain direction. But I have wanted a Jomon
part of my life and you made it happen. And on the right, is a work by Fujikasa Satoko,
who I think is without question one of the most exciting ceramic artists working in Japan
today. This is a work from 2011, which is about the time she was being discovered in
the United States and this originally came to us as a loan. And then the Asian art council
helped us acquire it from the collectors and it’s still really a spectacular piece. Now
her works appear in the Met, you know, sort of all the prestige institutions. But I think
we were one of the first to have a work by her. And she’s come and spoke, gave a lecture
for the Asian Art Council and I hope that relationship continues. And then sort of in
the middle, so you sort of had very ancient and fairly recent are two works that date
to the Momoyama period. The one on the left is cold water bucket for the tea ceremony
that, again, if you came with me to New York, in 2005, you saw me walk into that room and
go. So somehow we managed to get that and actually, Mary and Cheney Cowles helped us
with that acquisition, acquisition. And on the right is a work that I hope will come
into the collection soon. It’s also Momoyama period. So Momoyama period is this moment
between 1573 and 1615 when Japan is on this cusp of moving from constant countrywide Civil
War towards unification, and it’s a time when warlords I think that’s a good translation
for them, warlords are competing to have the greatest art. They didn’t have golf in those
days so. So fabulous things were made and they were being funded at extravagant amounts.
And I know that when the people that were with me in New York at Asia Week, they saw
the bucket and said: “Maribeth, it’s a bucket.” And and I’ve not always been successful at
persuading other people that something is wonderful. And I had a Collections Committee’s
someone challenged me for what was it, wasn’t this pot used, you know? So
what we try to do… You notice I’m not giving up next. What we try to do, what I have tried
to do is how the collections reflected the values and sometimes you know, many centuries
old, the well established values and artistic taste of the of the cultures that we are aspiring
to display. So, and I’ve had the good fortune because I’ve been studying Japanese art for
four years and spent eight years in Japan learning language that I feel that I’ve had,
you know, a sense of that perspective from the inside. So in the past, there are famous
stories about museums that would not collect calligraphy because they said nobody can read
it anyway. So so I hoped that we had been successful in in capturing, as I say things
that are valued and prized in the local collection and these, which would have been used in a
tea ceremony, worth extremely high value at the time. And still. Now, when it comes to
acquisitions, this is a work that Mary and Cheney Cowles gave us last year after it was
in the poetic imagination show. And Cheney has secret information. He knows that I did
my dissertation on poet portraits. And so this is the kind of acquisition where I’ve
been thinking about this kind of object for more than 30 years. I love this kind of object.
I never ever expected to own one because these are very popular with tea ceremony people
and the costs are rather high. So to get this work, and you it’s difficult to say you need
to look at it really closely, but it’s very, very delicately brushed. An imaginary encounter
between two poets are sort of looking at one another. But I’m fairly certain that Cheney
knew of my personal interest and gave it to us for that recent. And I want to thank you
very much. So that was a work where I felt fully equipped to understand what we had not
the case with this. Something things, you know, they just kind of landed in the collection.
This was a work that we acquired at auction. I can’t believe it was this long ago, in September
2012. I looked at the catalogs as they came in, and I went and took one to Bruce Guenther.
And there was a page that had three beautiful drum handles. So, you know, for the kind of
drum that’s used in the know theater. And they were beautifully beautifully lacquered,
and every moment of a period, this period that I really like, and so I showed this.
And the price estimates were $8,000 to $12,000. So I thought we can manage, so I took it in
and Bruce flips the page. He sees this. And then he went up and saw Brian. To this day
I don’t know how he paid for it, because it didn’t come out of my budget. But the thing
is that the year after we bought this, we took that fabulous exhibition from Barbier-Mueller
Collection. And I ended up doing something that as an academic I said I would never do,
which is I’m kinda interested in armor. Guys who run around under the skirts was fascinating.
And the thing about armor good armor is that it calls on all of the great Japanese craftsmen
skills, metal smiths, people working with leather, people working with silk, people
working with lacquer. And and the suit that we bought turns out to be we can date it to
1749 considerably more important than I knew at the time that we bought it. So I am thrilled,
I think that this will be a good long lasting legacy. So those were some favorite things.
So now again, we’re going to shift a little bit, and I’m going to focus for a little bit
on Korean art. The Korean Gallery was established in 1997 by Donald Jenkins, who is my predecessor
and is here with us today, Donald, may I ask you to stand please. In the late 1980s, when
Event Director asked curators to sort of think big vision, what kind of future we should
have. Donald identified Korean art as an important priority, and so in 1997, greatly assisted
by Professor JungHee Lee at Portland State University. We opened a Korean Gallery. And
most of the works in that exhibition were loans. But Professor Lee authored a catalogue
about that. And it was sort of a very, very important first step into getting involved
with Korean art. And in 2014… Oh, this is what the gallery looked like for what it was
created in 1997. And if you see here, the platforms on which those fourth and fifth
century ceramic sit, are open, there’s nothing protecting the objects. So if you were to
walk in there, after one of our more fun receptions, you could have tottered into the platform
and broken a fourth century pot. And Brian knows that I had to sit suggest that we have
tasers in the gallery for people. In any case, that was that was the plan and it works quite
well. But I was really worried about the safety of the objects. So after we had the summer
exhibition, there was a lot of acrylic and other materials left over. So we completely
remodeled that gallery putting in acrylic on the sides to protect the objects, but while
maintaining the integrity of the design, so I think that that was a wonderful success.
We’ve also brought in some extraordinary pieces. This is a work that we acquired through partial
gift and partial purchase from Robert and Sandra Mattielli who had been major patrons
of Korean art of the collection. This is a magnificent piece. I’m going to show you a
detail. It’s embroidery. It’s nearly seven feet tall and we think it’s the only one of
its kind in the United States. In fact, they’re very few anywhere. And we finally had a view…
opinion expressed from the National Museum of Korea. They think that this was unquestionably
of work commissioned for the Royal Palace in Korea. So what what it does is it has,
it’s called “Subok”, these are alternating, funny, imaginative ways to write two characters.
One for longevity, and the other for good fortune. And they’re just repeated the whole
way. There are 33 characters on each screen. So when we were raising money for it, I went
to the Asian Art Council and people could buy a panel or people could buy a character.
And we raised the money that way. There were some condition issues. So the National Museum
of Korea as a grant to us recently, remounted the work, conserved it. And this is what it
looks like now. We haven’t had an opportunity to put it up, but we hope to do that soon.
The ceramics and the Korean galleries have also been transformed. On the left, you see,
just a completely exquisite, beautiful example of Korean celadon, which flourished from the
10th through the 13th centuries, which is a gift from Richard Lewis Brown. And he subsequently
gave quite a few more Korean historical ceramics that really sort of anchored that collection.
It’s secure now we don’t have to worry about whether we have enough to put put up on the
on the shelves. So thank you to Richard Brown, Richard Lewis Brown, and then on the right
is a contemporary work by one of the few really well known women ceramist in Korea, KimYik
Yung who’s been working with porcelains and in this case when the whole group of us went
to Korea, we walked into her gallery, and I suggested that we should get a moon jar
and there were about five on view. And Brian was there, Jan was there, the Mattiellis were
there. We looked around and everybody picks the same jar. So so we acquired that. So the
Korean collection I think isn’t really much more secure, stable position now. Thanks to
support of many people. But now I want to turn to the project that Brian mentioned,
the five Buddhas. This is a Korean painting that the Mattiellis acquired in the 1970s
in Korea, displayed on their dining room wall where they hosted many guests and then on
the stairwell when they move back to Portland. And I had a team of people come from the Korean
National Research Institute for cultural heritage, KNRICH. And they are going to survey our collection
and publish it. So I went to local collectors and I said: “If there’s anything that you’re
thinking about giving us, this is a good time because we can have this team of people tell
us what it is and evaluate it.” So we brought this painting in. And they discovered that
it had disappeared from the temple where it was originally made. So it became the source
of some controversy. The way that we resolved that controversy was… the Mattiellis, very,
very graciously, and very readily very quickly, there was no five minute hesitation, agreed
to repatriate the painting to the monastery it was created. But we asked and the Korean
government agreed and supported the cost for an exhibition and a symposium before it went
back. So here is the hall for which it was originally built. The hall was built in the
1630s, and then the wall paintings, and these are modern copies, were added in 1725, I think.
And so what had happened was our… this I think of bizarre still, the Mattielli’s painting
was on the wall where there had been that flanking the door to left and right. But they
remodeled the building and put doorways in there. So the painting was rolled up and tucked
away, and it just kind of disappeared. So, in any case, the temple was thrilled. The
Korean government was thrilled. Bob Mattielli was featured on television throughout the
country. Here we are being welcomed at Songgwangsa monastery where they did… by coincidence,
I knew gate had just gone up. So we had this amazing experience seeing the painting back
in its home. And here we are in the museum. They had just built and just opened a few
days before where they got their new museum at the monastery, the five Buddhist is behind
all of us. And so there was a symposium at the monastery. And it was just an extraordinary
experience. I I do think in many ways that our role in facilitating that and again, it
was an art painting. It was Mattielli’s who agreed to repatriate it, but the role we played
kind of a score between, I think is one of the most important things we’ve done, and
I thank Brian for supporting that every inch of the way. None of that would have gone as
smoothly as it had without Sangah Kim, who calls Curatorial Fellow in Asian art who was
here for three years. And I thank again, that calls for funding that position. She joined
the staff in mid August 2016. And she became completely indispensable. She took on all
the responsibilities for rotations of the Korean gallery and some in the Chinese gallery.
She’s fluent in Chinese. And what was really helpful was she added Korea and her Chinese
language to our database for the future. And her Capstone project was this wonderful exhibition
of, again, paintings from the Cowles’, which is on view for one more week. And I want to
thank the Cowles for supporting both the exhibition and her position. So thank you. Now, I said
that I’d say something about the future. I’m a little hesitant because actually, future
shouldn’t be decided by me. I’m stepping away. But I do think there are some interesting
puzzles. And one of them is, you know, to figure out what kind of collection what kind
of a museum the Asian art section wants to be. Part of… I suggested that in the early
30s, it was kind of a family craft center. And then there were moments when the museum
really aspired high went for World Class objects. I think that we have acquired some world class
objects in the past 12 years, often with extra funding from supporters like Mary and Cheney
Cowles or others. Travis Pollock… If I get into names, I’ll forget one. So I apologize
for that. But there have been people who have stepped forward to help us make what I think
our anchor purchases that will be important 50 years from now. But you know, there’s we
have Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles with very large, much more larger diverse collections
than our own and much greater budgets. Closer by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art University
of Oregon, is incredibly active and doing interesting of the great work. Just up the
hill, the Portland Japanese Garden regularly exhibits Japanese arts and crafts. And they
are successful in winning support of local Japanese businesses, which we are not. So
how can we, you know, distinguish PAM along this field? And the reality is we are competitors,
we’re competitors for collections, we’re competitors for foundation grants, we’re competitors for
exhibitions, funding for objects. So I think that that’s a big question and one that my
successor will need to think about with, you know, Brian, and Dawn going forward. So I
just, I think it’s a difficult questions and the answers have to be arrived at collectively.
And I think that you also as supporters of Asian art here, should be involved. But I
think one of the things is to consider what are the things that make us unique, and so
this is where for example, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has a collection of Japanese
prints, that’s 18 times larger than ours. And they got enormous grants from various
places to put that online and so on so forth. But an Asian art museum, the Asian… The
Art Institute of Chicago has a collection that’s 10 times larger than ours, but we have
things they don’t have. And that’s going to be true sort of throughout the collection.
Jeannie has recently delivered a wonderful paper about Mary Andrews Ladd’s collecting
and I think that you can see that online on our website. So one of the things that makes
us unique is the taste and the predilections of the collectors who give to us. And in the
case of Mary Andrews Ladd, she was buying on the west coast. She wasn’t buying from
Frank Lloyd Wright. She wasn’t buying from the dealers at the East Coast people we’re
buying from. In… we have been promised it and it’s underway a gift of 100 Japanese paintings
and calligraphy is from Mary and Cheney Cowles. We brought in the first group 20 paintings
last year, I’m going to present another 20 works tomorrow at the Collections Committee.
But that collection, which is far beyond anything that I actually could have even imagined,
if you would ask me to sit down and write a wish list. It spans all of the historical
periods that schools of art, but also if I look at the gifts each time, Cheney carefully
curates the selection so that the painting speak to one another. They tell collectively,
they tell a narrative that they couldn’t tell alone. That’s going to be when into five years
when it’s all here. That’s going to be a narrative that only this museum can tell. So so that’s
one way of helping people understand what we have is that is unique and helping people
understand that we really do have World Class objects in this collection. Surprise, surprise.
So I think that those two things and seeking grant funding to bring in young scholars as
we did with Sangah Kim’s curatorial position or internships, so that we have people here
who have time to actually research the collection. So those are ways I… that I’m kind of thinking
in those regards about how Portland looks to the outside world, how we look to scholars,
collectors, students, our local audience, and great majority, the overwhelming majority
of the visitors are local. They probably really don’t care how what we have compared with
what’s in Seattle, or Eugene, or San Francisco. They may never go to those museums. Ancient
Art Council members do, but they they might. So if we I think we need to think harder,
than I had a chance to in 12 years. How to construct narratives of Asian art that we’ve
our works together, so they tell a fun story, an engaging story, something that helps people
to see the art objects in ways that they might not otherwise. Something that we’ve been thinking
about lot a lot at the museum in the last two years, as we plan for our expansion and
the Roth rebellion is accessibility. Accessibility to short and tall people, accessibility to
people with diminished vision, and so on and so forth. And when they did the calls exhibition
of poetic imagination, I work closely with the education department who was leading that
initiative, and we made some changes and how we designed the exhibition to accommodate,
for example, people in wheelchairs. So the case that we designed for hand scrolls instead
of being up here, so that, you know, if I were any shorter, I’d have to stand on tiptoes.
It’s down here, which is perfectly fine for a life size person to five, three to be able
to see. And, but even taller people can can see the objects. And but if you’re in a wheelchair,
you can see the objects So that’s one kind of accessibility. But there are other kinds
of accessibility. Since I have arrived, we’ve worked very hard to make our labels bilingual
in the Japanese and Chinese galleries. That’s because I don’t know Korean. So Sangah helped
that. And so I’ve just put the artists name and the title when there is one, sometimes
it’s descriptive title. And if we have guests for whome those are the native languages and
they feel more welcome. That’s perfect. But the real reason that I do that is, most importantly,
Chinese characters convey information that the English language that Roman alphabet cannot
specifically about titles and specific things there. But also, I think it’s important to
share with you the experience that I had of eight years of living in Japan, always knowing
that I was aspiring to understand something that was not mine, something that was other.
I think it’s important to recognize that these objects and these galleries belong to traditions
that have their own centuries, millennia of history, their own ways of doing things. And
our understanding of it is always going to be incomplete. So that’s why I hope that that
continues. But what about the Vietnamese, and Spanish, and the Russians in town? I don’t
know. But I would like I hope that the museum continues to think that follow their very,
very good path we’ve started under Brian’s leadership to think about accessibility. And
then I’ve already suggested the next one, which is the Asian art in this gallery is
in this museum is like, for example, most closely like to the European or the historical
works in the graphic arts gallery, in that it has a long tradition of scholarship behind
it. And one of the reasons it’s important that I am fluent in Japanese and that Lynn
Katsumoto is fluent in Japanese. And Jeannie is fluent in Japanese and Sangah was fluent
in Korean and Chinese, is that we spend a great deal of time reading scholarship in
those languages because we want to reflect the depth of that historical knowledge. And
I think it’s very easy for me to sort of go overboard and tell you stuff that you never
wanted to know. But I think I think the real challenge for a Curator of Asian Art anywhere
really is figuring out how to pull on that information, how to pull on that depth, and
present a work in some kind of context. Without having the audience feel you’re not going
to get this. That have the audience feel that this is too overwhelming. And especially,
I can remember when I was still an academic, a friend of mine was at the Museum of Fine
Arts, Boston, and the education department decided that labels had to be 75 words. And
what you see which you can say this is a bowl. So so so I think that this remains a major
challenge and major difficulty, and it’s not one that I could solve by myself, but we I
wish my successor luck with that. Challenges. The art market changes. All that time I suggested
that, you know, I hoped we could acquire South Asian sculpture and that’s gone past us. Funding
or for acquisitions is always a challenge. That’s thinking about possibilities. With
especially the forthcoming renovations to the museum, there is an opportunity to rethink,
to refresh the Asian galleries. And since there has some that haven’t changed in 12
years I’ve been here they need that. We are going to have a new library, instead of being
hidden on the second floor. What you know now as the Miller gallery is going to become
our new library with storage underneath, so that the public can come in, find the library
use it without paying museum admission. I have already donated 12 boxes from my personal
library there and I actually plan to have almost all of my library, with exception of
books on architecture, come here. In a goal to have the… I would like to see the museum
library join the collection as becoming a node for research on Asian art in Oregon.
But then the most important thing is for my successor is to sustain and warm relationships,
many of which I inherited from Donald Jenkins, but to sustain the warm relationships with
collectors, dealers, fans of Asian art and all of you. So the last note is that the most
important possibility is fresh ideas from a new curator, and your ongoing engagement
with the museum. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. If anyone has questions, we have microphones
on both sides. So please raise your hand and we’ll bring one After 12 years you got it all. Thank you so
much! Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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