Friday, August 17, 2012

Phantoms of Asia

Yesterday I had to leave work early for the dentist, and afterwards took the opportunity of being out in the world to meet up with the family and go check out the Phantoms of Asia show at the Asian Art Museum. I really liked this show. All about spirits, death, and the afterlife, it employs the very cool curatorial device of mixing cutting-edge contemporary art with ancient objects from the museum's permanent collection, all to great effect. You visit a museum differently with a two-year-old, drifting and careening about, letting the artworks just make fleeting impressions on your inner eye, which you can then think more about later on.

Mabel very much liked this show, too. Afterwards we had time to wander through some of the museum's monumental spaces. The building is an astonishing modern conversion by architect Gae Aulenti (best known for designing the Musée d'Orsay in Paris) of what used to be the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. A grand staircase has been transformed into a display area for ceramics, and one great big old reading room has been left almost entirely alone. Good places to drift.

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