Tuesday, February 19, 2019
- Europe & Africa
Divine Presence, Master Sculpture from Asia
Lange Gasthuisstraat 28,
2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Nov 29, 2018 To Dec 29, 2018
Detail: Philosophy uses the word ‘divine’ to denote the supernatural source from which all nature originates. Visualized as a vast array of deities, demi-deities and associated spirits, manifesting in miracles, prophecies and visions, it informs every aspect of Asian culture. The gods are venerated as sacred beings. Their transmundane genesis begets the belief that they are eternal and based in truth, whereas sublunary material things are ephemeral and based in illusion. The divine nature is immortal: its presence evokes a feeling of resurrection and spiritual salvation.
Some twenty years ago I made a tour of a number of excellent collections of Asian art in the Netherlands and Belgium with Jan van Alphen, then the Director of the Antwerp Ethnographic Museum. It was not long before we had both been seized with the idea of creating a major exhibition of bronzes from India and the Himalayas. We believed that such an exhibition, which would be focused only on the best collections in the Low Countries, would shed a fresh light – and for many a new light – on the superb bronze artworks those regions have produced. The exhibition, titled Cast for Eternity. Bronze Masterworks from India and the Himalayas in Belgian and Dutch Collections, took place in the Ethnographic Museum in 2005 and brought together more than eighty high-quality masterworks. Those dazzling bronze sculptures attested to dedicated craftmanship in the service of spirituality, as indeed they have done for centuries, for as the exhibition title indicated, they were created to be immutable, perpetual portals to the divine presence. The exhibition catalogue became internationally valued and today is a highly rated art book, searched for by many major collectors of Asian art around the globe.
Over many years I have known Jan van Alphen as a passionate scholar of Asian art, much appreciated for his extensive knowledge and natural eye for quality. From 1978, when he began his museological career, he held the positions of Scientifc Assistant Dept. India and Southeast Asia at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, Curator then Director of the Antwerp Ethnographic Museum, and co-founder of and lecturer at the Indian Study Centre at the University of Antwerp and the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp. In 2009 he became Chairman of the Scientifc Committee at the Centre for Fine Arts/Bozar in Brussels, and in 2011 he was appointed Director of Exhibitions, Collections and Research/Chief Curator at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. The number of outstanding museum exhibitions and publications that have been produced under his inspiring leadership is too great to ft on this page. Today he is a consultant for various museums, auction houses and art dealers. I am delighted and honoured that he agreed to write the entries in this catalogue: Divine Presence, Master Sculpture from Asia.
Marcel Nies, 2018
Cambodia, Angkor Wat, 12th century|
height 32.5 cm