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"Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Tibet, and Nepal"
2002-03-02 until 2002-06-02
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara, CA, USA

The collection of John and Berthe Ford is one of the most important private holdings of Indian and Himalayan art in the world. Certain objects have been widely exhibited, such as the Green Tara, a painting executed in India around 1100 for a Tibetan patron and recognized as both a masterpiece and a cornerstone for the study of Tibetan painting. Other works have never been publicly shown. This exhibition brings together works from both India and the Himalayas, demonstrating the range and depth of the Ford collection; it provides an extraordinary overview of 2,000 years of history and illustrates the enduring themes in the art of southern Asia.

Chronologically and geographically, the exhibition of 150 objects falls into three chief divisions. First, Indian sculpture in clay, stone, metal, and wood, dating from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD (33 works). Secondly, 10th- to 19th-century Himalayan metal sculpture and paintings (51 works from Tibet and 26 from Nepal). The final section consists of Indian miniature painting from the 17th to 19th centuries (40 works). With few exceptions, the objects are either Hindu or Buddhist.

The exhibition is held together by certain recurring topics or themes, chiefly having to do with the human body. Systems of ideal beauty, based on fixed proportions and characteristic attributes, were established early and have remained constant for centuries. The gods are depicted with perfected bodies. Sculptures and pictures of both humans and deities also express sentiments such as serenity, anger and desire. These sentiments are the outward manifestations of internal mental processes that are directed toward a supreme end: Serenity represents an enlightened mind; anger represents the mind's battle with evil; and desire represents the mind's engagement with philosophical perfection. These themes will be discussed in the catalogue, wall texts, and labels.

Dr. Pratapaditya Pal, former curator of Indian and Southeast Asian art at LACMA and now consulting curator for Chicago Art Institute and the Norton Simon Museum, will be the principal author of the catalogue.


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