TAASA Review Issues

June 2003

Vol: 12 Issue: 2
Editor: Sandra Forbes

Cover Photo
Dish with hibiscus spray design, China, Ming (Hongzhi period, 1488-1505). Porcelain decorated in underglaze blue and overglaze yellow, diam. 26.7cm. Art Gallery of NSW, Edward and Goldie Sternberg Chinese Art Purchase Fund 1989.
This dish was the first of many art works to be purchased for the Gallery by the Sternbergs’ Chinese Art Purchase Fund. Goldie Sternberg, who died earlier this year, was one of the great benefactors of the Gallery’s Asian collection. Edmund Capon remembers her life and her passion for the arts on pp.18-19.

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Editorial

As this issue goes to press, TAASA has just had its 13th Annual General Meeting. The balance sheet for 2002 shows the Society in good financial shape and, with increased membership, facing the current financial year with confidence.

Judith Rutherford, Ann MacArthur and Gill Green remain as President, Vice-President and Treasurer respectively, while I have stepped down as Secretary to concentrate on the editorship of TAASA Review. Susan Miller, who at the AGM (together with Ann Proctor, Sabrina Snow and Christina Sumner) was endorsed for the Committee of Management for a three-year term, will take over the role of Secretary. The complete list of members for TAASA’s Committee of Management for 2003-2004 appears at left.

TAASA’s full-day seminar Foreigners in Asia, held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney immediately following the AGM (see report p.25), brought out some interestingly relevant and contemporary themes. For archaeologists and historians seeking to understand the complex cultures of the past, the availability of the artefacts themselves is obviously crucial, as Dr Barber demonstrated in her analysis of funery textiles from China’s Tarim Basin. Many of the Christian tombstones of ancient Zaitun discussed by Professor Sam Lieu and Dr Ken Parry at this seminar (see also pp. 4-5 of this issue) were either destroyed during China’s Cultural Revolution or hidden away from scholarly eyes for decades. This reminds us of the tragedy which took place in Baghdad in April, where not only hospitals but also the city’s Museum and Library were left unprotected from the savage looting which followed the fall of Saddam Hussein. Priceless objects missing from the National Museum reportedly include a gold Sumerian harp, a ‘ram in the thicket’ from Ur and the cast copper mask of an Akkadian king from Niniveh said to be 4300 years old. Altogether the Museum held over 170,000 artefacts, and although some have already emerged at Customs checkpoints and on world markets, more than one commentator has described the looting as a ‘global catastrophe’.

Any discussion of art thefts is bound to lead to discussion of the role that museums and galleries play in the preservation of cultures. If Lord Elgin had not taken the famous marbles from the Parthenon to the British Museum, would they have been destroyed in the Greek War of Independence? Does this justify them remaining in England today?

The arguments continue, and seem timeless. So vital is the concept of public art museums to our approach to works of art today we forget that in the Western world they have existed for less than 200 years. In Asian cultures, art museums came even later – in China, for example, with the exception of religious art, the concept of the enjoyment of art involved personal ownership of the work. A painting in China was not ‘exhibited’ but was, as Andre Malraux says, ‘unfurled before an art lover in a fitting state of grace; its function was to deepen and enhance his communion with the universe.’

Public ownership of art has not of course today totally replaced private ownership, which continues to flourish. Some art lovers and collectors meanwhile bridge the gap, in that they seek not to own certain works of art but to provide the means by which they can be added to a public collection. One such person was the late Goldie Sternberg, whose remarkable series of gifts to the Asian collections of the Art Gallery of NSW began in 1984, as reported by Edmund Capon on pp.18-19. The role of the private collector can also be vital for preservation and historical investigation, as the fascinating journey of discovery described by textile collector Gill Green on pp.8-9. attests.

We in Australia are more than fortunate in the remarkable collections of Asian art in our public galleries, so much of it provided by individual gift. The next issue of TAASA Review (September 2003) is timed to celebrate the re-opening of the National Gallery of Victoria – and of particular relevance for TAASA, its expanded Asian Gallery spaces – in the Gallery’s substantially refurbished old home in St Kilda Road. In Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales will reopen an enhanced Asian gallery as well as an exciting new space above it.

Table of contents

ANGELS AND APSARAS: CHRISTIAN TOMBSTONES FROM QUANZHOU – Ken Parry

BOUNDED SPACE: THE CONTINUOUS GALLERIES AT ANGKOR – Martin Polkinghorne and Roland Fletcher

COLLECTOR’S CORNER: PANEL OF POWER – Gill Green

10  SWATOW WARES AND THEIR INFLUENCE IN VIETNAM AND JAPAN – Philip Courtenay and Gaelle Clements

14  ARTIST’S VIEWPOINT: TRUSTING THE PROCESS – Ma Deva Padma

16  CALCUTTA AND NEW SOUTH WALES – A SURPRISINGLY HISTORIC RELATIONSHIP – Suzanne Rickard

18  SPIRIT RESONANCE: IN MEMORIAM GOLDIE STERNBERG – Edmund Capon

20  IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: A FRIENDLY PROTECTOR – Heleanor Feltham

21  INSTALLATION REVIEW ADVENTUROUS ARTICULATIONS – Zoe Butt

22  EXHIBITION REVIEW DOMESTIC DEDICATION – Peg Fraser

24  FILM REVIEW FANTASYLAND – Freda Freiberg

25  WHO IS ‘FOREIGN’? AND OTHER QUESTIONS REPORT ON A TAASA SEMINAR

25  TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY JUNE – AUGUST 2003

26  WHAT’S ON – Compiled by Ann MacArthur

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