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Once Upon a Roof: Vanished Korean Architecture

May 21–October 30, 2022
Roof tiles made of fired clay are key elements of traditional Korean architecture. They not only protected wooden structures from the weather; they also carried aesthetic value and symbolic meaning. One special type of ornamented roof tile is the focus of this exhibition. Called chimi in Korea, these impressive features crowned both ends of the main roof ridge of prominent buildings. In addition to protecting and embellishing building peaks, they were believed to ward off evil.

While the ancient wood frame buildings they adorned are long gone, clay roof tiles, including chimi, have survived more than one thousand years. This exhibition features three chimi unearthed from the sites of two Buddhist temples and one palace complex dating to the Three Kingdoms (Baekje) and Unified Silla periods. Also included are round roof tile ends excavated at the same sites. Together, these artifacts reveal hidden stories of the ancient architecture of Korea. Most of these works have never been exhibited outside Korea.

Living in Two Times: Photography by Bahman Jalali
and Rana Javadi

August 6, 2022–January 8, 2023

Living in Two Times features the work of Bahman Jalali (1944–2010) and his wife and closest collaborator Rana Javadi (born 1953). Noted for their sharp documentary images and haunting photomontage works, the artists are among the most influential figures in the development of late twentieth-century photography in Iran. Driven by the medium’s powerful—and fragile—relationship to memory, Jalali and Javadi created an unparalleled visual record of a tumultuous period in their homeland.

This exhibition features images by both photographers from the iconic series Days of Blood, Days of Fire, capturing events in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, as well as images from Jalali’s Khorramshahr: A City Destroyed and Abadan Fights On, drawn from his years spent on the Iran-Iraq warfront. Throughout his career, Jalali returned continually to his project of observing the changing lives and landscapes of Iran. A third section of the exhibition presents a selection of his images of fishing communities along the northern Persian Gulf. In addition to their documentary projects, Jalali and Javadi preserved early twentieth century archives, which they used as a basis for creating vivid photomontages that explore the role of the medium in documenting history. This will be the first museum retrospective in the United States that offers a glimpse of Jalali’s extensive practice and the first to be presented together with a selection of Javadi’s evocative work from the late 1970s to the present.

Feathered Ink

August 27, 2022-January 29, 2023
Across three galleries, Feathered Ink explores how Japanese artists have experimented over several centuries with different brush techniques in their depictions of avian subjects. Drawing from the Freer Gallery of Art’s extensive collection of bird-and-flower paintings, the exhibition includes hanging scroll paintings, folding screens, ceramics, and printed books.

In Japan, paintings on the theme of birds and flowers began to appear during the Heian period (794–1185) as a way of referencing seasonal associations or auspicious homonyms or of replicating the natural world in remarkable detail. Depicting a variety of bird species in naturalistic or paradisiacal environments offers a tantalizing opportunity for an artist to showcase their skills through the use of virtuosic ink brushwork techniques to represent different feather types and the textures of plumage and foliage. Adding colors can provide further layers of symbolic meaning and decorative effect. Birds are also popular motifs found on early modern Japanese ceramics, rendered through inlaid slip designs, molding, and polychrome pigments. Some of the vessels in this exhibition even provide a glimpse into how Japanese potters emulated the painterly effects of ink on clay surfaces.

Underdogs and Antiheroes: Japanese Prints from the Moskowitz Collection

March 19, 2022–January 29, 2023
Expect the unexpected. The exhibition Underdogs and Antiheroes: Japanese Prints from the Moskowitz Collection focuses on the captivating stories and urban legends of individuals living on the fringes of society in early modern Japan. Key subjects in theater, literature, and visual arts reveal antiheroes and underdogs whose virtues are often embodied by their rejection of societal norms, making them misfits and moral exemplars at the same time. The exhibition will follow virtuous bandits, tattooed firemen who love to fight, rogues from the kabuki theater, and others.

Highlighting the transformative gift of the Pearl and Seymour Moskowitz Collection to the National Museum of Asian Art, Underdogs and Antiheroes features subjects that are not commonly associated with traditional Japanese print culture but were nevertheless central to the interests of an early modern public. The exhibition will explore new visual and thematic ground, further strengthening the museum’s trailblazing role in reconsidering presentations of Asian cultures.

Meeting Tessai: Modern Japanese Art from the Cowles Collection

August 13, 2022–February 18, 2024
Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924) exemplifies the modern Japanese painter. Contemporaries praised his avant-garde works, yet Tessai created his nonconformist paintings in a traditional way, basing them on ancient Japanese art and Ming and Qing paintings imported from China. Tessai’s teacher Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875)—nun, potter, calligrapher, poet, political activist—was at the vortex of immense political changes in Japan as the country’s feudal system collapsed and a constitutional monarchy was established. Rengetsu’s art, which harks back to inspirations from the twelfth century, inspired a generation of modern artists like Tessai.

Meeting Tessai highlights a transformative gift of early modern and modern Japanese paintings and calligraphy from the Mary and Cheney Cowles Collection. It is also the first major American exhibition in five decades to explore the significance of pan–East Asian influences—a pertinent topic in today’s interconnected world—through the work of Tessai, Rengetsu, and modern Japanese painting.

Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand

Ongoing
Red painted spirals swirl across the surfaces of these vessels, testifying to the sophisticated material and aesthetic cultures of northeastern Thailand more than two thousand years ago. Their makers belonged to a loose network of settlements specializing in bronze and ceramic production. Recent research into their materials, techniques, and designs opens new lines of inquiry into the region’s heritage and its profound cultural and material legacy.

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room

Ongoing through 2025
The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room includes more than two hundred bronzes, paintings, silk hangings, and carpets that were created in Tibet, China, and Mongolia between the thirteenth and early twentieth centuries. Arranged to reflect Tibetan Buddhist concepts and customs rather than museum conventions, the glittering room evokes the Himalayan portals that bridge the mundane and the sacred worlds.

The objects, assembled by collector Alice S. Kandell over many years, are placed on painted furniture, arranged among paintings and textiles, and presented without labels. With an aural dimension of chanting monks, this dynamic and densely layered display restores the relationships between Buddhist figures and viewers that are typically dissolved within museums.

Lectures and Programs at NMAA

Journey to Korea’s Ancient Silla Kingdom
Live online lecture, October 5, 7pm
What can we learn by visiting the sites of ancient civilizations? Is it possible to recreate the architecture of the past today? Reflect on these questions as you travel to Korea in this online program inspired by the current exhibition Once Upon a Roof: Vanished Korean Architecture. The journey takes you from the galleries of the National Museum of Asian Art to the ancient city of Gyeongju in southeastern Korea. Once the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom that lasted one thousand years (57 BCE–935 CE), the city is a well-known tourist destination rich with history and culture. Yoon Sangdeok, an expert in art and archaeology, leads this tour through temples and royal tombs that have endured to this day and through treasures discovered in and around the city in order to understand the surviving legacy of the ancient kingdom. She is joined by curator Keith Wilson and Sunwoo Hwang. Visit the royal garden built for crown princes of the Silla kingdom, where more than thirty-three thousand artifacts were unearthed in 1975, including the ornamented roof tiles featured in the exhibition Once Upon a Roof, currently on view at the museum. This tour will give you a chance to imagine the ancient city as it was more than one thousand years ago.

Read more and register, click here

Translocation of South Asian Art: Provenance and Documentation
Two-day online program, October 6 and 7, 9am-12pm EDT
From the seventeenth century onward, Western visitors to the South Asian subcontinent were actively acquiring as well as commissioning works of art for private and public collections. A complex network of individuals and institutions encouraged collecting and facilitated the strategic movement of art out of South Asia. In our contemporary moment, histories of South Asian objects in museum collections are under increasing scrutiny, and questions about the art market and museum ethics are at the forefront of people’s minds. While this webinar engages with those important issues, it primarily focuses on documenting the provenance and circulation of South Asian art before 1970 as a way to better understand and reckon with the collections that exist today. Divided into two half-day sessions, this webinar will present scholarly talks and discussions that provide an overview of the field of South Asian provenance research and highlight important resources.

This program is the fifth installment in the series Hidden Networks: Trade in Asian Art, co-organized by the National Museum of Asian Art; Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; and The British Library.

Read more and register, click here