A Docent's Perspective on Contemporary Art

As a docent at the Asian, I love connecting with the ancient beauty of Asia. And as the Asian expands its collection of contemporary art, I was initially a little disturbed by some of the “new” objects. After a very enlightening and enjoyable talk by Abby Chen at this spring’s Arts of Asia lectures, I began to use the viewing techniques I had been trained in. I rested a while with a piece, watching my responses to it. No cheating and looking at the labels! What thoughts or sensations was I having? And asked what is this piece saying to me – the same way I encountered our Buddhas. What is the context surrounding the art that was driving the artist to create? We can do this in a new way now that we can know the artist and actually listen to the artist. We have a window into contemporary art we didn’t have with the ancient art. I am so grateful that the fall Arts of Asia lecture series will shine for me a brighter light on my new world of Asian Art and its artists and teaches a new perspective on beauty.

By Peggy Mathers, SAA Board Member

A Lady and a Road Map, 1962, by Bernice Bing (American, 1936–1998).
Oil on canvas. Asian Art Museum, museum purchase, 2020.26. © Estate of Bernice Bing. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Note: The Museum’s Hambrecht gallery will be devoted to changing exhibitions of contemporary art. The painting shown here will be included in an upcoming exhibition, Into View, currently scheduled to open in November 2022.