Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Sonia Fraser at Sonia.Fraser@colorado.edu.
The CU Art Museum has a new exhibition sure to please art lovers and history buffs alike. The exhibit, “Life and the Afterlife,” is composed entirely of ancient Chinese artwork, given to the university by private collectors.
The museum received the generous gift that made this exhibit possible in 2012. The 224-piece set was donated from the private collection of Warren and Shirley King, both of whom were raised in Chinese art-collecting families and continued collecting as a married couple. Of those 224 works, 59 were selected to represent the collection. The exhibition is designed to give visitors a glimpse into the lives of the ancient artists responsible for the pieces.
Opening on Feb. 12, the same night as the museum’s “Celebrate!” culture festival, the show strives to embody the museum’s mission to promote greater understanding of art and societal issues within a global and historical context. “Life and the Afterlife” is designed to showcase art pieces that were meant to be enjoyed by the living, as well as pieces that speak to Chinese views of the afterlife through history.
The show includes works spanning thousands of years of history, making it a uniquely challenging exhibition to put together. An expert in ancient Chinese ceramics, Virginia Bower was invited as a guest curator to help museum staff choose pieces for the exhibit.
“It’s difficult to place objects from so many historical epochs into a cohesive exhibition,” Director of Marketing and Membership Jessica Brunecky recounted in an email interview. “With the guest curator we had to conduct research and spend a long time considering the common themes among the artworks.”
In addition to the challenges associated with creating a cohesive show from a broad set of works, the staff faced the issue of coordinating the final call on selections. Since the guest curator was visiting from New Jersey to help, it fell to CU Art Museum Curator Sandra Firmin and staff to make the final decisions during the installation.
The intention of the setup for the show was to create an atmosphere in which visitors could engage in a dialogue with the artworks. Staff invited close examination of the pieces by using dark colors and low lighting to highlight the objects individually.
So far, staff members say that feedback has been positive. Guests have enjoyed the evocative atmosphere and appreciate the history behind each work of art.
“Most of our visitors have told us they find the objects intriguing,” Brunecky said when asked about the general response to the show. “They like the overall design, which is quite different from that seen in our other galleries.”
“Life and the Afterlife” will remain open to the public through June 25. For more information on this show, and on upcoming exhibitions, check out the museum’s website.