National Museum of Asian Art

I just like this cow. State of Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, 12th century

Today my super amazing girlfriend and I went to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art! Look, there is a very good chance that this blog will now become just a series of descriptions of adventures to various Smithsonian museums. The National Museum of Asian Art may very well come up again because the Sackler gallery was closed and so we didn’t go there of course, but the Freer gallery was already so emotionally overwhelming I don’t know if I could have handled a whole extra gallery.

One big advantage of visiting this museum over visiting the National Museum of African Art for me, personally, is that now I got to go with my super amazing girlfriend. In the last blog post I mentioned she had not yet arrived but that is no longer true because we have moved down here and live in the DC area now! Very exciting! So on a weekend when we were otherwise trying to organize our new apartment into something resembling a calm and soothing place to live, we decided to spend the time to go out and do something.

The Freer gallery is a very nice size for an afternoon’s outing. They are particularly proud of their Hokusai collection, as they should be. When we visited it took up a notable proportion of their gallery space, and more is coming because they had one gallery closed for an exhibition of his work they are still putting together. Everyone knows Hokusai, so I know Hokusai, and I was excited to see his stuff. But man. Look I dunno. When I turned and saw the above piece, titled Portrait of a Courtesan Walking and photographed so shittily on my phone that it is a travesty, my heart leapt. I mean, Christ, look at those lines, look at her outfit, look how he has captured her poise. How was I supposed to move on from that? Luckily they also had a cute birb done by him:

After recovering from Hokusai, I was surprised to discover that they also had a collection of works done by Thomas Dewing, and again there is just some stuff I couldn’t believe. Look I shouldn’t be an art critic. Plus it is late at night when I am writing this and I had to wrestle with my insurance company just now. I didn’t know Thomas Dewing before this, and my surprise came from the fact that he was not Asian, so I was a little confused about why I was seeing his works in the National Museum of Asian Art, but I am glad I did. Below is “Study of a Head,” and man just look at it. First off, look how finely her features are rendered. That’s phenomenal in and of itself. Second, it’s done in silverpoint, which lends the work a ghostly quality, like she is just appearing fully formed on the page from some other realm. I think I already said “phenomenal” but I’ll say it again: phenomenal.

We had proceed through the museum counter-clockwise, but I think next time we go through it’ll be clockwise. The China stuff is off to the left when you come in from the mall entrance. My super amazing girlfriend is a China specialist, and so that is her jam, but by the time we came to the China section our emotional fortitude was already sapped by the beauty we had witnessed. But one especially interesting part of the China section is their Neolithic stuff. The museum had a number of jade pieces from the Liangzhu culture, and again wow the stuff was amazing. I mean I suppose Neolithic people are gonna be know for their stone but these peeps took it to another level. The pieces in the below photo are up to 5,000 years old. As I have discussed before I just like being the presence of things shaped by human hands from such an ancient era, but these are gorgeous and translucent and yet again phenomenal to boot!

Emotionally drained, culturally bombarded, and artistically wrecked my super amazing girlfriend and I stumbled out of the museum and onto the national mall where we looked to the symbols of democracy sprinkled about until we regained enough adventurous fervor to get back on the metro. We went off to look for pillows. We didn’t buy any. But how could any pillow even come close to the art we had just witnessed? You should go see it yourself.