courtesy photoA Thai statue

courtesy photoA Thai statue

Asian Art Museum’s ‘Gorgeous’ has no claims on what’s beautiful

“Gorgeous,” an unusual new exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, is a wild mixture of many things, but museum Director Jay Xu emphasizes what it is not: “The curatorial team … did not attempt grand statements contrasting the traditional and the modern, or opposing East and West. Instead, they planned an exhibition that would focus on ‘just looking,’” Xu said at a media preview for the show, which opens Friday.

Running through Sept. 14, the exhibition — the first collaboration between the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which is closed for renovation — features 72 works that, curators say, “extend beyond conventional notions of beauty.”

Ancient Asian objects are displayed side by side with still-provocative works by Joan Miro, Robert Mapplethorpe and Pablo Picasso. Sacred objects from Southeast Asia are near contemporary consumer goods such as a first-generation iPhone and a gold-plated coke spoon by Tobias Wong.

Co-curator Forrest McGill says, “Multiple impressions and associations, and information overload may leave us numb. A question as seemingly straightforward as, ‘Do I find it gorgeous?’ may become unanswerable.”

As it is often said, beauty — or gorgeousness — is in the eye of the beholder. This exhibit emphatically encourages visitors to assess and debate the works on their own terms, rather than rely on preconceived notions or guidance from the museum. To that end, descriptions of each piece are accompanied by fun, enlightening and personal commentary by McGill and co-curator Allison Harding, both staff members of the Asian Art Museum.

If Jeff Koons’ bizarre porcelain-and-gold statue of Michael Jackson and Bubbles has a possible relationship to the 200-year-old Indian watercolor “Forlorn Woman on a Terrace,” the context comes from a particular individual’s sensibility.

It may be a challenge to describe a Mapplethorpe photographic nude, Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s photo “Marilyn” of a transvestite, Mark Rothko’s painting “No. 14, 1960” or designer Hartmut Esslinger’s Yamaha Frog 750 bike prototype — from SFMOMA — as more gorgeous than the Asian museum’s representations of the Buddha, or even the bizarre 18th-century Thai sculpture Mythical bird-man, but each work needs to be seen on its own terms.

An interactive display with reproductions of artworks allows visitors to curate their own exhibition, and amusing on-the-street videos reveal what some San Franciscans consider gorgeous.

Some of the works, such as American painter John Currin’s oil “Laughing Nude,” may push boundaries, the curators admit: “They balance on the tipping point between the seductive and the repulsive, the disturbing and the comforting, the intimate and the ironic, the serene and the obsessive.”

IF YOU GO </p>

Gorgeous

Where: Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., S.F.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, except open until 9 p.m. Thursdays; closes Sept. 14

Tickets: $10 to $15 ($5 after 5 p.m. Thursdays)

Contact: (415) 581-3500, www.asianart.orgArt & MuseumsartsAsian Art MuseumGorgeousSFMOMA

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The Rev. Norman Fong of the Chinatown Community Development Center joined San Francisco city leaders and community partners in a “Campaign for Solidarity” at Civic Center Plaza on Saturday, Apr 17, 2021. (CraigLee/Special to the S.F. Examiner)
City launches ‘Campaign for Solidarity’ to combat racial violence

Mayor London Breed, the city’s Human Rights Commission and community leaders launched… Continue reading

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Muni’s K-Ingleside line will return six months earlier than previously announced. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

The Warriors will be back inside the Chase Center against the Denver Nuggets on April 23. <ins>(Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Sports weekahead for week of April 18, 2021

A look at the upcoming major Bay Area sports events (schedules subject… Continue reading

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

Most Read