The Harvard Art Museums just reopened last month after having been under renovation ever since I moved to the Boston area six years ago. That means I have not had a chance to enjoy Harvard’s full range of art treasures until now. This has changed my whole outlook on living in the wintry Northeast.
First, let me rave about astounding Chinese artifacts from thousands of years ago that put us 21st century know-it-alls to shame. When I see an exquisite, beautifully crafted, imaginative and fun object—that I can admire and adore today—and realize that some “caveman” 4,000 years ago made it, I start wondering who is the “caveman,” us or them? These objects have been made with thought and care (I mean intelligence), down to every detail, and to the perfection of the shapes and forms. You can’t beat it. What are we making today that will sing to the soul thousands of years from now? Back then, instead of working at Foxconn, I guess Chinese peasants worked in the emperor’s bronze and jade workshops.
I like the scale of the Harvard Art Museums, which has combined three separate museums into one building, where you can wander from the Arthur M. Sackler Museum (Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean Art) to the Fogg Museum (Western and contemporary art) to the Busch-Reisinger Museum (Germanic art, medieval to modern) without really noticing.
This allows for some great discoveries:
The face of a bodhisattva statue from Afghanistan struck me as so familiar, and I realized she looked and felt like the contemporary portrait by Zhang Xiaogang. A bit later, I saw another painting in the museum that felt the same: a woman deep in thought, with a certain calm resolve. The human spirit crosses our geographical, cultural, and temporal categorizations…this can be discovered through art.
More fun discoveries…riveting but unfamiliar paintings which turned out to be early works of artists we all know. Guess who?
Just a few more things that I loved:
For much more information, and in case you cannot visit the museum in person, and for all researchers, be sure to explore the powerful Harvard Art Museums online collections database. You can enter different combinations of search terms, and get exciting results.