MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 15, 2016) — The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) on Monday announced the launch of an unprecedented long-term initiative to create innovative public programs, special exhibitions, and new scholarship dedicated to Asian art. Made possible by 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.
Thanks to the bequest, each year Mia will focus on a particular area of its collection, with in-depth programming and events; it begins with the art of China. 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, due to generous gifts from Bill and Libby Clark and Mary Griggs Burke.
“We are incredibly grateful to Alfred Gale and the Gale family for this significant investment in bringing Mia’s Asian art collection to life in new ways,” said Kaywin Feldman, Duncan and Nivin MacMillan, director and president of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. “By establishing the Gale Family Endowment at Mia, Mr. Gale recognized an important truth—that programming is key to maximizing the impact and excitement of permanent displays and exhibitions. This generosity will allow Mia to make centuries of Asian culture even more enticing for our visitors, including schoolchildren, interested adults, and seasoned connoisseurs, and continue to foster Mia’s position as one of the most important centers for the interpretation and study of Asian art.”
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 high points of Chinese art. Upcoming plans include public workshops on Japanese courtly painting and on the Japanese tea ceremony.
Under the auspices of the Gale Asian Art Initiative, the museum has also invited the Propeller Group, an artist collective based in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, to curate an exhibition of Asian funerary objects from the permanent collection to be shown in conjunction with their 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 commence 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 will also 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.
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.”
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.
Specific subsets and highlights of these collections rival the holdings of museums across the globe. For its stylistic diversity and condition, Mia’s collection of ancient Chinese bronze is typically 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). Mia’s Japanese collection has outstanding concentrations of Buddhist sculpture, woodblock prints, paintings, lacquer, works of bamboo, and ceramics, and is particularly rich in works from the Edo period (1610–1868).
The museum’s commitment to Asian art is also evident in the sheer volume of space devoted to its display. At present, Asian art occupies an impressive 20% (32,200 sq. ft.) of the total display space (161,000 sq. ft.) for art at Mia. The permanent display space for Japanese art is the largest in the Western world, with 15 galleries spanning more than 10,000 square feet.