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The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Photo by Timothy Tiebout

Online Artist Talk: Xu Bing
Wednesday, May 8, 12-1pm EDT

Xu Bing discusses his sculptural installation Monkeys Grasping for the Moon, currently on view in Mythical Creatures: China and the World, in the context of his larger practice. In conversation with Hiromi Kinoshita, PhD, The Hannah L. and J. Welles Henderson Curator of Chinese Art and Interim Head of Asian Art. l, and organized in conjunction with Mythical Creatures: China and the World.

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Artist/maker Unknown, Simurgh Attacking a Gaja-Simha Carrying Elephants, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Mawar Region, India, Asia, early 19th century, opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 12 5/8 x 9 in. (32.1 x 22.9 cm)

Mythical Creatures: China and the World

December 21, 2023 – June 1, 2025

Mythical creatures fascinate and capture the imagination of people across the globe. Whether benevolent or fearsome, they serve an important purpose – to help humans make sense of the world. This exhibition explores the theme of diversity by bringing together mythical creatures from China as well as across Asia and Europe. Representations of paintings, prints, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, and contemporary toy bricks, dating from the 1000s to today illustrate how these fantastical beasts, although sometimes perceived as the same, are quite different. Among the contemporary works are those by artists Xu Bing and Ai Weiwei inspired by ancient myths and legends that continue to shape the way we think about our lives today.

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PhilaCollectingJapaneseArt1200Tray, Nakashima Riokei (Manufacturer), Yi Cheong Seung (Artist/Maker), Satsuma (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture), Japan, Asia, Meiji Period (1868-1912), earthenware with enamel and gilt decoration (Satsuma ware), 4 3/16 x 5 1/4 x 7 5/16 in.(10.7 x 13.3 x 18.5 cm)

Collecting Japanese Art in Philadelphia

The 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia was the first world’s fair held in the United States and also the beginning of Japanese art collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Over nearly 150 years that followed, the museum’s Japanese art collection expanded and diversified. Drawn from the works highlighted in the new publication Art of Japan: Highlights from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the selections in this installation—ranging from ceramics, metalwork, painting, lacquerware, to contemporary bamboo art—showcase the breadth of Japanese art, and also spotlight the people—collectors, donors, curators—who were instrumental in shaping the collection.

Collection Highlight: Ceremonial Teahouse

The name of this teahouse, Sunkaraku (Evanescent Joys), reflects the spirit of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony as a temporary refuge from the complexities of daily life. The architecture reveals a special delight in natural materials, such as bamboo and cedar. Using elements from an eighteenth-century teahouse, Ōgi Rodō designed this retreat around 1917 for the grounds of his Tokyo home. Acquired by the museum from the architect in 1928, this is the only example of his work outside Japan.

Collection Highlight: Temple Hall

The more than sixty carved granite elements that comprise this monumental space were collected by Philadelphian Adeline Pepper Gibson during a visit in 1912 to Madurai, a city in the south of India known for its spectacular Hindu temples. Debuting to the public in the museum’s original home at Memorial Hall in 1920, the mandapam opened at its current location in 1940. Although a reconstruction, it incorporates many original architectural elements and provides visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the extraordinary synthesis of sculpture, architecture, and symbol that characterizes South India’s elaborate temple form.

Tile Mosaic Panel, 16th century, Artist/maker unknown, Iranian or Persian, stonepaste tiles with glaze decoration, 42 inches × 10 feet 6 inches (106.7 × 320 cm); Purchased with Museum funds, 1931

Arts of the Islamic World

Islam began over 1,400 years ago in the Arabian Peninsula and soon spread across Asia, Africa, and Europe. Today Muslims live on every continent and make up a quarter of the world’s population. The term “Islamic Art” refers to a variety of artwork made by and for Muslims over the centuries. Here are some exquisite examples drawn from the museum’s collection.

To view all the exhibitions click here.