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“Linking Asia,” at the Denver Art Museum only through April 1, starts with the legendary Silk Road, which included land and sea routes, illustrating how ideas, techniques, materials and trade goods traveled hundreds of miles and farther, setting the style in faraway lands, when it came to Asian china. (The emperor of Turkey in Istanbul had a huge collection of blue and white china, for example, and it was stylish in Europe as well.)
As a visitor enters the carefully organized “Linking Asia” gallery, there is a huge painted map of China during the Ming Dynasty, dated 1681, (loaned by Wesley A. Brown). Painted in Japan 40 years after the Ming Dynasty, it shows cities, mountains, trade routes in China — and also inspires the colors used in the exhibit, said Tianlong Jiao, Joseph de Heer curator of Asian Art, who organized this fascinating look at history in a part of the world much in today’s news. Trade goods from China, Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran and Afghanistan flowed back and forth, not only across the continent, but to Europe and Turkey as well. Another large map shows more trade routes. Busy international trade (and, undoubtedly, arguments about it) is not new!
Enterprising businessmen years ago commissioned artisans to create objects like those being made in faraway places, and cultural exchange flourished. An interesting story of the travels of Buddhist images and religious practices through Asia adds another facet.
Tianlong Jiao, pleased with the way this exhibit illustrates interaction between nations, is thinking this may be the way to organize the Asian collection when it moves back into the “now under-remodeling” North Building, designed 50 years ago by Gio Ponti.
Gene Nieges, an active docent with the Denver Art Museum — and a Highlands Ranch resident, as is curator Tianlong Jiao — looks forward to improvements in that older building, recalling how he had to “fight with other docents over two elevators, with 300-400 kids in tow” who needed to be upstairs.
Nieges thinks the Linking Asia exhibit, where he frequently leads tours, is “great for kids because it shows how we get goods and products today from all over the world. With the Silk Road, art and religion also moved across the world.” The exhibit is full of Islamic art, made in the French art form for Islamic Chinese. “Kids enjoy Funereal art, especially what was buried with the dead.”
Tianlong Jiao called special attention to a 268-inch-long scroll from the museum collection, painted in silk, which has never been displayed before. It is called “Tribute Bearers” and was probably painted by Qiu Ying in the 1500s. It shows 10 foreign delegations traveling to pay tribute to the Chinese court — each with exotic features, distinctive costumes and gifts. It illustrates international relations in its period, according to catalog essayist Yang Wang.
This Pan-Asian exhibit includes objects from 20 countries and spans 2,000 years. Most are from the DAM’s own collection with a few loaned items. It is displayed in the Gallagher Gallery on the first floor. Admission is included with regular admission to the museum, which is at 13th Avenue and Bannock Street in downtown Denver. denverartmuseum.org.
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