The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) will launch an unprecedented long-term initiative to create innovative public programs, special exhibitions and new scholarship dedicated to Asian art. A $6 million bequest from Alfred P. Gale, the Gale Asian Art Initiative at Mia will allow for robust programming designed to foster broader understanding and appreciation of Asian art and culture. Mia’s collection of Asian art is comprised of some 16,800 objects ranging from ancient pottery and bronzes to works by contemporary artists, with nearly every Asian culture represented. Areas with particular depth include the arts of China, Japan and Korea.
Each year, Mia will focus on a particular area of its collection with in-depth programming and events, and will begin with the art of China. Its Chinese collection includes ancient Chinese bronze that is generally considered one of the nation’s top collections of its kind. Important examples include a famous vessel in the form of an owl, superb silver inlaid works, and many other outstanding vessels from the Shang and Zhou dynasties (c. 18th–3rd century BCE).
The Gale Asian Art Initiative builds on Mia’s growing collection of Asian art—one of the most comprehensive in the United States. Over the last three years, this collection has increased by 2,400 objects through generous gifts from Bill and Libby Clark and Mary Griggs Burke.
Special programming is at the heart of the Gale Asian Art Initiative, inviting visitors of all levels of familiarity with Asian art to find meaningful ways to understand Asian culture through the museum’s collections. Programs will include a Family Day that celebrates Chinese New Year with dance and music and a four-part series for adult learners that focuses on highpoints of Chinese art. Upcoming plans include public workshops on Japanese courtly painting and on the Japanese tea ceremony and an exhibition of Asian funerary objects from the permanent collection. The funerary exhibition will be shown in conjunction with the video “The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music,” a visual and musical journey through the fantastical funeral traditions and rituals of South Vietnam. In addition, Mia will host three special events designed to heighten awareness of the museum’s Asian collections among local Asian communities and to invite their involvement in future museum programs.
Mia’s Year of Chinese Art year will begin with “Ink Unbound: Paintings by Liu Dan,” a special exhibition of new works by one of China’s leading contemporary artists. An artist-in-residence at Mia (Sept. 17–30), Liu has been commissioned by the museum to create a new ink painting that responds to one of Mia’s old master paintings. Liu has selected a 17th-century Dutch painting by Willem de Poorter, “St. Paul and St. Barnabas at Lystra;” his painting will be unveiled on Sept.17 as part of “Ink Unbound.” The exhibition also will feature an expansive selection of his recent paintings — including meticulous and unexpected landscapes, rocks, and still-lifes — which showcase both his technical virtuosity and unrestrained imagination. Uniquely classical yet refreshingly contemporary, Liu’s paintings blend his deep appreciation of the Western art canon with the 2,000-year-old heritage of Chinese painting and will be on display from Sept. 17-Jan. 29, 2017.
The Gale Asian Art Initiative also allows the museum to host a Public Practice Fellow with knowledge and expertise in Asian art and public engagement. During a three-month residency, the fellow will develop strategies for community outreach and for effective and impactful in-gallery teaching and interpretation.
“It truly is exciting for us to see the broad and interesting scope of programming made possible by the bequest," said Edward Gale, Alfred Gale's son. "This is going to create more opportunities for the public and scholars to deepen their understanding and appreciation of Asian art forms. I am certain my grandfather, Richard P. Gale, and my great uncle, Alfred Pillsbury, who were so involved with the museum, would be equally pleased and proud of the continued family support. I am grateful that I am able to be a part of it."