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Passion for Form: Selections of Southeast Asian Art from the MacLean Collection

Hood Quarterly, winter 2008

Note: This exhibition was cancelled.

Beautiful form and dynamic design are hallmarks of the over eighty objects in this exhibition of Southeast Asian ceramics, bronzes, and stone sculpture from the collection of Barry and Mary Ann MacLean. This collection encompasses the present geopolitical areas of Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia and includes objects from a variety of cultures dating to as early as 2200 BCE (the Ban Chiang culture, in the area that is now Thailand) and as late as 1200 CE (the Khmer culture, in what is now Cambodia). From the blackware pottery of the Early Ban Chiang Period to the buff-colored ware with sinuous red slip designs of its Middle Period, the ceramics in this exhibition attest to the superlative quality of ancient Thai pottery.

The bronze traditions of Southeast Asia are equally impressive, particularly the Dong Son (Vietnam) drums from the first to the fourth centuries CE and the later examples found in Myanmar and the southern Chinese province of Guangxi. Perhaps the most spectacular objects in this exhibition are the bronze ceremonial urn and the bronze bell, both dating from just after 1000 CE. They were probably used as percussion instruments in religious rituals, and the bell is in fact from the Battambang region, where a number of fine examples have been discovered. Other bronze objects range from utensils, jewelry, and decorative ornaments (including Palanquin hooks and chariot finials) to Hindu and Buddhist statues and small sculpture.

Lastly, the exhibition includes impressive stone sculpture from what is now Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Of particular note is a Khmer sandstone sculpture of a lion from the 10th century CE and a giant head of a deva (god) that, according to exhibition curator Richard Pegg, “probably once surmounted one of the fifty-four kneeling devas that hold up the body of a naga (snake) lining the causeway that runs over the moat leading into the South Gate of Angkor Thom.” This exhibition, which marks the first time the Hood Museum of Art has presented work from Southeast Asia, will be on view in the museum’s Kim and Gutman Galleries through early December of this year.

Barry MacLean, Dartmouth Class of 1960 and Thayer School of Engineering Class of 1961, and his wife, Mary Ann, have been generous supporters of Dartmouth College. Mr. MacLean was a member of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees in the 1990s, and his longtime roles in arts organizations include serving as a trustee of the Newberry Library and the Museum of Science and Industry, and as chair of the board of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Collecting has always been a strong passion of the MacLeans, and examples from their antique map collection were a highlight of the Hood’s important 1991 exhibition Age of the Marvelous.

Passion for Form, which was organized by the MacLean Collection and the Honolulu Academy of Arts, is a tribute to Barry and Mary Ann MacLean’s recognition of and commitment to the beauty of Southeast Asian art, and the Hood is pleased to present this exhibition of stunning works of ancient art and craftsmanship to audiences of the Upper Valley.

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