Importance in Art

Sometimes a piece of art just movies you.

One day, when I was prowling around Art of Asia, no doubt looking for a young person to question and harass into deeper thought ;) I spotted a really beautiful sculpture. Actually, I had just left a student who was sketching a lion, which I mistakenly called a dog, and was laughed at. It happens.

So I’m walking my way from this Liog, trying to regain my composure, and I spot it. Before I tell you what it is… let me read the label. Fool me twice eh?

I don’t know what it was, but something just drew me to it. Let me tell you about what I saw.

The sculpture was a small figure, almost cherub like, with wide swirls of hair like pasta. Despite its size, it looked strong; legs apart, sturdy, with one arm outstretched. Clearly it’s very old. Showing signs of wear and deterioration over time. It’s a human like form, but there’s something otherworldly about it too. A body made for a specific purpose, in perfect proportion, to stand and hold that one arm up. Like much of the Glenbow’s Art of Asia collection, the contours of the body have a round fullness to them and a distinctive feel and tone, much different from the realism of Roman sculpture of the same era.

Turns out, it’s a Dwarf, an attendant, from Nepal, and made some time in the 10th century. And, it turns out, it’s missing someone.

This dwarf is one of a pair.

The other one lives at the LA County Museum (wonderful! Go if you can!)

I wonder if they miss each other.

 

This is an interesting piece of art. It’s got a significance culturally, historically, and socially as well. It says a lot about the world we live in, as well as our institutions, and our culture, that we can come to own important objects such as this one and display them so far from their home.

But objects also have personal significance. This one drew me in, now I’ve written about it, and it takes on a new importance to me and everyone who reads this (hi mom!)

But, maybe they have an importance specifically their own.

Does it matter that they are apart?

Is that yearning for lost love that I see on the Dwarf’s face? (As I write this, someone in Nepal is shivering with disgust at my cultural blunders).

 

But we in museums must weigh importance.

How much value can we create out of one Dwarf? The answer needs to be: more than it would garner anywhere else. There are so many other important places for this dwarf to be, (maybe not with its partner…I get that wood is probably not capable of love but you never know) but maybe in other places, where other people might need it too.

Bus since it is here, we work hard to make sure that the young people in Museum School really, really see it.

P.S. Here’s a link to see the Dwarf at LACMA… The moment when I found it was a very good one. Have a look at this link, then come in to the museum for your own moment.

 

 

 

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