President’s Report 2011-12
The SAA highlights of the past year are easily identified with the special exhibitions at the ASIAN – Poetry in Clay: Korean Buncheong Ceramics from the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art; and Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts. We planned many lectures and events for these exhibitions, with the highlights being the two Symposia the Society organized with invited speakers from all over the world who shared their knowledge with our members.
Summer 2011 began a revised Arts of Asia Program in conjunction with the start of the new docent training class (Class of 2014). 60 docent trainees became members of the Society, many of whom are already volunteering by joining some of the Society committees.
In September we launched our new website with a new design and with many new features including an on-line sign up for most events: www.societyforasianart.org.
The pinnacle of the past year was the donation of $125,000 from the Society to the ASIAN as lead cultural sponsor of the Maharaja exhibition. A gala pre-opening reception was held in Samsung Hall for our members who enjoyed the early opportunity to view this exceptional exhibition. Over 250 Society members joined Director Jay Xu, Exhibition Curator Qamar Adamjee and many other Museum staff to celebrate the close co-operation and continued support by the Society for Asian Art to the ASIAN.
Your support of the Society makes all this possible.
Arts of Asia
Asian Art Museum Chief Curator Forrest McGill was instructor of record for both the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters. The theme of the 15 Fall Arts of Asia lecture series was “The Art of Culture of South Asia and the Islamic World: Beliefs Made Visible.” The 15 Spring 2012 series was titled “The Arts of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas: the Sacred and the Secular.” The lectures coincided with the first year of training of a new class of more than 60 docent trainees and the Arts of Asia series achieved record attendance. A total of 245 docents, docent trainees and other Society for Asian Art members bought series tickets to the Fall and Spring lectures held in Samsung Hall.
We sponsored lunches for guest speakers in the Peterson Room and invited 8 to 12 guests for each luncheon, including AAM curators and staff, SAA manager and directors, Docent Council members as well as visiting scholars and other interested docents and Society for Asian Art members.
Since the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 lecture series will be connected to the second year of the new docent training class, the Arts of Asia committee of interested docents and other SAA members met with Director of Education Deb Clearwaters and Senior Curator Michael Knight to chart the year-long course on Chinese art history and culture. Planning for the Fall 2012 portion of the lecture series is almost completed with 15 lecture slots filled between August 24 and December 7. The title of the Fall lectures is “The Culture and Arts of China: From the Neolithic Age Through the Tang Dynasty.” Michael Knight is the instructor of record for both the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 lectures. The latter 15 lectures will focus on Chinese art and culture from the Song Dynasty to the present. The Arts of Asia is co-chaired by Peter Sinton and Linda Lei.
The Study Group Committee organizes day long, in depth workshops about four times a year on Saturdays. This year began with a program on Buncheong Ceramics given by AAM Curator for Korean Art, H.J. Kim Han. It was scheduled to coincide with an exhibition on view in the Korean Galleries of Korean Buncheong Ceramics. In February Sylvia Fraser-Lu spoke about Burmese crafts in the morning. In the afternoon the group examined objects they had brought in for show and tell. This Study Group served as excellent preparation for the SAA's trip to Burma, planned for January 2013.
Our third Study Group in April will feature Toru Sugita, a print maker and painter originally from Japan, talking about the print making process and its history. He will also give a demonstration of his work. In June Jeff Durham, AAM Curator of Himalayan Art will help us discover the secrets of the "Thangka" art tradition. He will focus on thangka art and philosophy. The Study Group Committee is chaired by Phyllis Kempner. Her excellent committee includes Eileen Bitten, Sheila Diehl, Barbara Levinson, and Carolyn Young.
Literature and Culture of Asia
This year the “Literature and Culture of Asia” series presented one six-week session and one eight-week session. In Fall 2011 Professor John Wallace presented an eight-week course entitled “Identity in Japanese Stories and Film.” The participants in the course read three novels – The Makioka Sisters, Norwegian Wood and the graphic novel The Ghost in the Shell – and viewed the corresponding films. The subject of the Spring 2012 six-week session, presented by Drs. Robert and Sally Goldman, moved to South Asia in a course entitled “Krishna Tales.” Using various texts and a reader, the subject matter focused on Krishna in his various roles in the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, the Puranas, and the Jatakas.
Judy Fraschella is the Chair of the Literature and Culture Committee. Other members of the committee have been Vince Fausone, Barbara Liddell, Elinor Cullen, Anne Kahn, and Jeanne Newman.
Chaired by Coral Reiff, this series continued to be a popular offering by the Society. The Bali Exhibition kept our First Thursday attendees coming to our lectures during Spring 2011 with a series on this fascinating island that concluded with Cory Combs’ presentation on Contemporary Indonesian Music. AAM’s Assistant Curator of South Asian galleries Qamar Adamjee provided an informative and colorful preview of the Maharaja Exhibition. We concluded our 2011 Fall season with two lectures on Chinese Art by our AAM Curators, one on the 338 Buddha by Michael Knight, and the other on a contemporary painter by Dany Chan.
In April 2012 Marsha Vargas Handley, President of the International Netsuke Society, will speak on these magnificent Japanese miniatures. AAM's Chief Curator Dr. Forrest McGill will speak on his 2011 summer in Cambodia in May. Then in June AAM's Exhibition Preparator Kelly Bennett will describe what it is like to work "behind the scenes" of Phantoms, the AAM's first Pan Asian Contemporary Artists Exhibition.
Events for Members
The Member Events’ Committee was co-chaired by Annie Dorsey and Anne Kahn this year and included thirteen committee members. At least two Member events were offered most months, and these events included scholarly lectures, private collection visits, a curator exhibition walkthrough, gallery visits, a documentary film event followed by a director Q&A, an Indian classical music concert, and several lunch and dinner events at galleries, restaurants, and private homes.
Offsite visits included a gourmet lunch in Napa, a gallery and workshop tour in Marin, a lunch and snuff bottle lecture in San Francisco, a holiday party at Inja’s in the Design Center, a curator’s tour of a contemporary Indian art exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center, a trip to Monterey beginning with a cocktail party at a private home followed by a dinner and Japanese lacquer exhibition at Orientations Gallery, and most recently a visit to a collection of contemporary art in Saratoga. Rounding out the year are a lecture on an upcoming Nepalese art exhibit at the Crocker Art Museum, a Spring dinner at the Empress of China, a curator tour of the Himalayan Pilgrimage exhibit at the Berkeley Museum, and a lecture by installation artist Adrian Wong on his work and the Phantoms’ exhibit.
Lecturers have included Joseph Fischer, Forrest McGill, Joseph Chang, Melissa Rinne, Laura Allen, Emma Bunker, Anna Jackson, Bob Del Bonta, Sanjyot Mehendale, Daniel Ehnbom, and Munis Faruqui.
Upper Category Member Events
The “Society Conversations” offer Upper Level members (supporters at the $100 Contributor or $250 Donor level) the opportunity to meet in small groups with a scholar, curator or Society advisor in the intimate setting of private homes. Content is driven by questions from our members and topics of interest to our guests. Co-chaired by Jeanne Dorward and Carolyn Young, the easy exchange of ideas creates a different dynamic from the large lecture hall and is always a popular program.
This year the SAA Travel Committee is composed of 13 members, including Board members, docents, and general members. Teri Sandison is the Travel Chair.
Arts and Religions of Bali and Java, Indonesia (August 20-September 11, 2011). Sixteen SAA members began the trip in Singapore, where our scholar, Dr. Robert Brown, arrived with pneumonia! SAA Travel Committee chair Teri Sandison worked with Distant Horizons owner Janet Moore to arrange locally based scholars to provide our educational component. The successful results included a lecture series in the Jogjakarta/Borobudur area, lectures on the ancient religions of Eastern Java, and explanations of the mask and dance ceremonies of Bali.
East India and the Coromandel Coast (January 6-23, 2012) with scholar Dr. Mary-Ann Milford-Lutzker. This trip was fully booked and everyone reported a great journey with Mary-Ann. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, and scholarship provided a rich learning experience for all. Thanks to Anne Adelmann and her committee for all of her planning and attention to detail.
Philadelphia was our SAA destination May 24-28, 2011. This was a fully booked and very successful trip. Thanks to Anne Adams Kahn and her committee for excellent planning and follow-through to create a perfect trip. Sites visited included the Penn Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rosenbach Museum, Brandywine River Museum, Longwood Gardens and Winterthur, with an optional extension to the Barnes Foundation.
Minneapolis will be an exciting and eclectic trip May 19-24, 2012. Susan McCabe and Linda Lei are planning and organizing an unusual arts tour of many diverse museums and venues in the greater Minneapolis area, including St. John’s University with its St. John’s Bible, and the pottery studio of master potter Richard Bresnahan. There is still space available to join this tour.
Two Symposia were organized by the SAA in the past year in tandem with the related exhibitions at the ASIAN: Buncheong Symposium in September 2011 and Maharaja Symposium in January 2012. An illustrious group of scholars was invited for each symposium. Ideally the attendance could have been better as it was necessary for the SAA to subsidize the Symposia with about $2500.
Publications and Public Relations
Shelley Sorani, Judy Fraschella and Jeanne Dorward served as co-editors at different points during the year. They continued the goal from the previous year to make the newsletter more readable and useful, as well as more appealing by using more photos of Society events. On page 2 of the newsletter readers can find a list of current and upcoming events. On the following pages those events are explained in more detail. Major categories of events include the Arts of Asia series, Member Events, Literature and Culture Courses, Study Groups, Travel, First Thursday lectures and often those sponsored by the museum. In addition to the print version, the newsletter can also be found on-line in brilliant color. This year, as a major innovation, reservations and payment for all society sponsored events can be made on-line. The co-editors look forward to comments, suggestions and contributions from the membership.
Bob Oaks continued as editor of Lotus Leaves and published two issues this year. The spring 2012 issue was published in color for the first time, rather than in black and white as in the past. This will be Bob’s last issue as editor since he is terming out on the Society board. Alice Trinkl will take over the editorship beginning with the fall 2012 issue.
The fall 2011 issue contained articles on Korean Buncheong ceramics and on the temples of Veranasi. The spring 2012 issue had articles on an Asian Art Museum Cambodian path marker with scenes of Krishna (by Forrest McGill) and one on Burmese Buddhism (by Dawn Rooney).
The Society continued its support of the Museum Library with a monthly donation of $1500, for a total of $18,000. Ehler Spliedt, assisted by a small group of volunteers, organized the annual Society Book Sale which netted over $7000 in March 2012. The Library Committee is chaired by Tony Pan.
In September we launched our new website with a new design and with many new features including an on-line sign up for most of our events. It can be accessed at www.societyforasianart.org. Susan Lai and Susan McCabe, together with Jim Frank, were instrumental in preparing the details for a third party Website designer.
Development and Outreach
Chaired by Merrill Randol Sherwin, the Society of Asian Art’s membership committee is happy to report that the SAA’s membership rolls grew significantly this year, in large part due to the addition of many docent trainees. From March 2011 to March 2012 membership grew from approximately 580 members to over 650. However the increase in our membership was primarily due to new members who signed up for the $50 membership, the most basic level of membership. In hopes of increasing enrollment in the Upper Categories, as well as our wish to include all active museum participants on our SAA rolls, we decided to reach out to the new Asian Art Museum trustees and commissioners and invited them to join by recently sending a letter enclosing SAA publications.
Our other activities included organizing and holding a reception for North Bay members and potential members. Dr. and Mrs. Matt Janin generously hosted the reception last June. With this North Bay reception we completed our cycle of receptions for members who live outside of San Francisco. We held receptions in the following areas and years: the East Bay (2009), Peninsula (2010) and the North Bay (2011).
The Society for Asian Art has a group of 25 advisors, many of them professors at some of the Bay Area universities as well as independent scholars, several of whom have given lectures during the year. Each year the board invites all the advisors to a lunch with the board members; this offers the opportunity to meet on a personal basis and to exchange ideas and information between the two groups and also among the advisors. The lunch is held in the Peterson Room in April. The committee is chaired by Don Meyer.