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Dr. Nancy Berliner appointed Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Dr. Berliner comes to the MFA from the Peabody Essex Museum.

BOSTON, MASS.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has announced that Dr. Nancy Berliner has been appointed the Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art at the Museum, effective October 26, 2012. Dr. Berliner comes to the MFA from the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), where she has been the curator of Chinese Art since 2000. Among her many accomplishments there was the conception and development of the landmark Yin Yu Tang House project, which brought a 200-year-old rural Chinese merchant home to the Peabody Essex Museum (2003). In addition, she curated at PEM the much-lauded exhibition Emperor’s Private Paradise, Treasures from the Forbidden City in 2010, which traveled from PEM to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Milwaukee Museum of Art.

“Nancy brings to the MFA a rich record of research, writing, and curatorial work that has sought to frame a broad definition of Chinese art and visual culture, including Chinese architecture, gardens, and furniture, as well as popular and vernacular cultures,” said Jane Portal, the Matsutaro Shoriki Chair, Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the MFA.

Dr. Berliner also serves as an interpretive advisor to the World Monuments Fund on the Forbidden City Qianlong Garden project. Before her tenure at PEM, she was the guest curator of Beyond the Screen, Chinese Furniture of the 16th and 17th Centuries at the MFA. Dr. Berliner is the author of The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City (Yale University Press, 2010); Yin Yu Tang, the Daily Life and Architecture of a Chinese House (Tuttle, 2003), selected as a Notable Book of 2003 by the New York Times Book Review Section; Friends of the House, Furniture of China’s Towns and Villages (Peabody Essex Museum, 1996); Beyond the Screen, Chinese Furniture of the 16th and 17th Centuries (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1996); and Chinese Folk Art: The Small Skills of Carving Insects (Little, Brown, 1987). She was co-author with Edward Cooke of Inspired by China: Contemporary Furnituremakers Explore Chinese Traditions, and was editor of Juanqinzhai in the Qianlong Garden.

A native of Boston, Dr. Berliner received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, and completed additional studies at the Central Academy of Art in Beijing. She is fluent in Chinese.

Chinese Art at the MFA
The strength of the MFA’s Chinese collection is seen in three areas: Buddhist stone sculptures, master paintings, and ceramics. Included in the Museum’s holdings are Buddhist stone sculptures and non-Buddhist stone works of the Han to Tang periods. Three important sixth-century examples are the Seated Bodhisattva (about AD 530), the standing Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion (about A.D. 580), and Offering shrine with engraved figures and inscriptions (early 6th century AD), which features notable engraved narratives that distinguish this work as a unique masterpiece outside of China. The collection also includes paintings by masters of the Tang to modern periods (7th to 12th century), among the best in the West. Of the paintings, the handscrolls of The Thirteen Emperors (second half of the 7th century AD), attributed to the Tang painter Yan Liben, and Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk (early 12th century), and the Five-colored parakeet on a blossoming apricot tree (early 12th century), both attributed to Song Emperor Huizong, are well known, as are a group of 100 modern painting and calligraphy scrolls. Additionally, ceramics dating from the Neolithic period to the 20th century are well represented. Among the rare ceramics is a Neolithic vessel, Granary with sculpted shaman head (late 3rd millennium BC), and a group of imperial porcelains decorated in sepia of the early 18th century. In recent years, the Museum has further expanded its holdings in later Chinese painting, and is currently building a dynamic assemblage of works by contemporary Chinese artists. Additionally, it presented in 2010 the groundbreaking exhibition Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition, in which 10 Chinese artists responded to works in the MFA’s collection.

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