Museum receives 238 objects of Burmese, Chinese art

The University of Colorado Art Museum recently acquired a significant collection of Burmese and Chinese art ranging from the Neolithic Period through the Song Dynasty.

A gift from Warren and Shirley King, this collection of jade, bronze, stoneware, earthenware, porcelain and blackware will be available to art historians, scholars of Chinese and Burmese culture, ceramic specialists and archaeologists.

These objects will be used in CU Art Museum exhibitions and in support of educational programs and research endeavors to benefit both the public and students. The collection will facilitate learning about China and Burma and the rich art and cultural history of these regions.

This figurine of a dog by an unidentified Chinese artist dates to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) and was crafted with earthenware with green and iridescent glaze. It is part of a large gift from Warren and Shirley King to the CU Art Museum. Photo by Jeff Wells.

The collection from the Kings consists of 238 objects representing Neolithic China and Burma as well as the Shang Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Northern Wei Dynasty, Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Five Dynasties, Liao Dynasty, Jin Dynasty and Song Dynasty.

The donation of this major body of works strengthens the CU Art Museum’s burgeoning Asian collection and contributes to the breadth of the museum’s ceramic collection, which includes examples from numerous Neolithic cultures as well as modern and contemporary works.

Donor Warren King was raised in a Chinese art-collecting family, their collection focusing on Shang dynasty (1600-1029 BCE) and Zhou dynasty (1029- 256 BCE) bronzes.

When he married Shirley, who also came from a Chinese art-collecting family, the two began what was to be their lifelong passion of acquiring works for their own, distinctive Chinese art collection.

As a family, the Kings initially focused on art from the Shang dynasty (1600-1029 BCE) through the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) but with a special emphasis on early Chinese bronzes, which Mr. King tended to favor.

However, in time, Mr. King began to broaden his collecting vision when he acquired a piece of unique pottery that was presented to him as a Chinese example dating from the Neolithic period (7500 BCE – 1500 BCE).

The reddish-hued earthenware that was completely unlike other pieces dating from the same period intrigued Mr. King.

As he acquired additional pieces, he also began to research their origins and finally realized that such wares were not Chinese at all, but were from the Chinese-Burmese border region reflecting a short-lived cultural complex completely different from its Chinese counterpart. Today, these works continue to be relatively unknown to scholars and archaeologists due to their scarcity in the marketplace and museum collections.

Although the King personal collection incudes many fine examples of early Chinese and Burmese art ranging from the Neolithic period through the Song dynasty, the hallmark of the collection is its high quality.

A favorite work of Mr. King’s included in the gift is an oversized Eastern Han dynasty (24-220 CE) tomb figure of a dog covered in an iridescent glaze. Such large examples of dog tomb figures are extremely rare, and the dog’s animated face is especially appealing to Mr. King.

Mrs. King favors Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) porcelain, and her favorite example is a porcelain cup and stand covered in a light blue-green glaze known as Qingbai ware. Qingbai ceramics mark the beginning of the true porcelain culture in Chinese ceramic history—a time when Chinese potters perfected the clay composition, which, along with silk, became an internationally recognizable product of Chinese material culture.

Although the Kings live in Hong Kong, they have a long history with Colorado. With the help of the Asian Art Coordinating Council in Denver, the Kings decided that the CU Art Museum was an ideal home for the collection.

Lisa Tamiris Becker, who led the acquisition of the collection for the CU Art Museum while serving as the museum’s director, states:

“This gift enhances the University of Colorado Boulder’s and the CU Art Museum’s growing programs in Asian cultures, while also connecting with its highly ranked programs in studio ceramics. Students and faculty of Chinese and Burmese Art History, as well as those involved with studio ceramics, will benefit tremendously from the opportunity to engage directly with and study these works. … The Kings have made a most significant contribution to the CU Art Museum and its growing permanent collection.”

For more information on the CU Art Museum see cuartmuseum.colorado.edu.

August 2013

 

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