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Wednesday December 7th

Ackland Art Museum's ‘Religion and Ritual’ showcases extensive collection of Asian art

The Ackland Art Museum's exhibit "Religion and Ritual" will be on display until May 13. Photo courtesy of Emily Bowles.
Buy Photos The Ackland Art Museum's exhibit "Religion and Ritual" will be on display until May 13. Photo courtesy of Emily Bowles.

The Ackland Art Museum on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus remains home to the only collection of Asian art in the state — and one of the major collections in the southeast. 

The exhibit Religion and Ritual on display at the Ackland Art Museum from Jan. 3 to May 13 presents the beauty of some of this wondrous collection.

This exhibit is the third of a greater, groundbreaking re-installation titled The Asian Galleries Reimagined. While the previous installations from this series Flora and Fauna and Court and Capital covered themes of animals and plants in Asian art and major political and urban centers of Asian countries, Religion and Ritual explores the visual culture related to the different religions of Asia. 

With Asia as the birthplace of many of the world’s major belief systems, this installation ranges from Buddhism to Hinduism to Shintoism and more.

“I think that the details in the pieces are stunning, and they reflect deities and artistic tradition from religion in Asia," said Audrey Shore, the communications assistant at the Ackland. "The techniques as well, are really beautiful, so it’s really something that you should look closely at because of the richness of the details.” 

Religion and Ritual showcases permanent pieces from the museum, as well as a few pieces that have been loaned to the museum to make the exhibit more cohesive . What Peter Nisbet, the deputy director for curatorial affairs at the Ackland, said he admires most about the exhibit is its openness and its freshness.

“It’s not a heavy-handed presentation … it’s much more fluid, open, engaging and presenting many different kinds of objects from manuscripts of the Islamic Quran to a spectacular large scale vase with a Shinto procession on it,” Nisbet said.

With such a large collection of Asian art, the Ackland feels a responsibility to showcase different installments so that they can rotate objects and have the public see them more frequently.

“Having these installments for a period of months allows us to circulate the art through the museum and gives people more of a sense of the depth of our Asian art collection, which is extensive," said Emily Bowles, the director of communications at the Ackland. "Our Asian art collection includes ceramics, sculptures, textiles, scrolls, prints and many other forms.”

One piece titled “Skeleton Family” by Doi Goga is a Japanese hanging scroll from the 1800s. It’s made up of ink on paper and shows two skeletons that appear to be dancing or moving together. Bowles described this piece as an incredible example of brushwork and also as her favorite piece from the exhibit.

“I like the variety we have on view. It’s a treat to be able to see beautiful illuminated copies of the Quran next to a sculpture of Vishnu from India and a photograph of Buddha figures in Thailand all in the same room,” Bowles said.

Although Religion and Ritual is the last installment of The Asian Galleries Reimagined, it will certainly not be the museum’s last showcase of Asian art. Over the years, the Ackland has presented galleries of Asian art and will continue to do so in the future.

Former associate curator of Asian art at the Ackland Bradley Bailey curated this exhibit as a special re-installation. The three exhibits in The Asian Galleries Reimagined series were all conceived to run alongside a longer term installation of Asian art titled Color Across Asia, which is located in the adjacent gallery from Religion and Ritual. It focuses more on the aesthetic experience of Asian art and the category of color through pigments, decorative motifs and glazing techniques made in different countries across Asia. 

This exhibit will also be on display until May 13.


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