Emily Sano is back, bearing treasures to share.
The former director of the Asian Art Museum is now consultant to billionaire Larry Ellison, Oracle Corp. CEO, who has a large collection of Japanese art in his home. Sano was instrumental in arranging Ellison's loan of 60 rare artworks, spanning 1,100 years, for the museum's new exhibit.
The occasion coincides with the America's Cup in San Francisco, — racing begins today — with Ellison's Oracle Team defending the title.
“In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection,” curated by Laura Allen and Melissa Rinne of the Asian Art Museum in consultation with Sano, is unusual, diverting from typical static, institutional displays.
Museum director Jay Xu calls it a “rare glimpse of an extraordinary collection presented in a fresh and original way that explores traditional Japanese principles.”
“I hope visitors will be charmed and excited by the unusual selection that is so expressive of Japanese emotion and skill,” Sano says.
Some of the religious art, lacquer, metalwork, armor and spectacular folding screens are shown in varying light, reflecting the Japanese custom of shifting art around.
For example, designer Marco Centin created a special environment for a large screen, “Waves and Rocks,” by setting it in a room where a 3½-minute cycle of lights turning on and off mimics day and night.
Japanese people often keep some art stored, rolled up or folded up to be put on display for specific occasions. The beautifully detailed painting “The Death of Buddha” in the exhibit is seen only once a year in Japan as part of commemorative observations.
Curator Allen particularly likes a “tiger that looks directly out at you” by Maruyama Okyo, an 18th-century Kyoto painter. She says, “From the very start, it's been my favorite work because it connects with you in such a direct way. It's charming, a catlike tiger you want to pet.”
Ellison's fondness for pets also is reflected in the choice of objects, including a 13th-century lacquer on wood of “Two Puppies at Play” and the detail of a hanging scroll, “Young Cat Sleeping Under Flowering Saxifrage.”
IF YOU GO
In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection
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. 22
Tickets: $8 to $12
Contact: (415) 581-3500, www.asianart.org