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First North American exhibition to explore the art of the Wari opens in Cleveland
Bag with Human Face, 600–1000. Peru, Wari. Alpaca or llama hide, human hair, pigment, cotton, coca leaf contents; h. 26 cm (bag), l. 64.7 cm (strap). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 2011.35. Image © The Cleveland Museum of Art.
CLEVELAND, OH.- The Cleveland Museum of Art presents Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, the first North American exhibition to explore the art of the Wari, a cosmopolitan society that existed in the Andes Mountains of Peru between 600 and 1000 AD and is widely regarded today as ancient Peru’s first empire. The groundbreaking exhibition examines this relatively unknown episode in ancient South American history through 150 masterful artworks representing a variety of Wari media. Organized and presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes is on view from October 28, 2012 through January 6, 2013. The exhibition will travel to Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

“This exhibition exemplifies the museum’s commitment to original scholarship and exploring all areas of its renowned comprehensive collection,” said David Franklin, the Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “We’re excited to share these rare objects, most gathered together for the first time, with the Northeast Ohio community and beyond.”

Visitors to Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes will learn that the history of South American civilization long predates the more well-known Inca of the 15th and 16th centuries, and that artwork is crucial to understanding early human endeavors in this hemisphere. Like other ancient Andean people, the Wari did not develop a writing system and used works of art, including elaborate textiles, as vehicles to communicate their ideas about the human, natural and supernatural realms. The exhibition is organized thematically and focuses on some of the mechanisms that the Wari used to build and maintain a complex society. For instance, Wari elites seem to have hosted lavish feasts and beer-drinking events that involved finely made ceramics decorated with images of important Wari deities, among other things. Such events likely helped the Wari to forge alliances with important guests.

Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes contains superior examples of Wari artwork selected from more than forty public and private collections in Canada, Europe, Peru and the United States, including the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Lima’s Museo Nacional de Antropología, Arqueología e Historia in Lima, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. All major Wari media are represented in this comprehensive exhibition: ceramics; ornaments made of precious inlays or of gold and silver; small stone and wood sculptures; and intricately woven textiles that are among the finest ever made in the Andean region. The objects are of the highest aesthetic quality and cultural significance, and many have never or only rarely been seen outside of the countries where they now reside.

The remarkable artistic and cultural accomplishments of the Wari haven’t received the attention that they deserve,” stated Susan E. Bergh, the exhibition organizer and curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “I’m delighted to be part of the effort to introduce this important ancient American civilization to U.S. audiences.”

Highlights of Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes include:
Bag with Human Face, 600–1000. Acquired recently by the Cleveland Museum of Art, this bag is made from animal hide, an ancient Andean artistic medium that is now rare due to the poor survival of this material in an extreme climate. The bag flares into a decorated panel to which a three-dimensional lifelike human face, made of hardened hide, is stitched. The youthful face, which may represent an individual or a social group, is compelling: the gaze is direct and candid and the lips part slightly, as though in speech. Still-lustrous tresses of human hair fall from beneath a cap.

Figure Pendant, 600–1000. Many Wari personal ornaments are made of intricate, brightly colored mosaics attached with a resinous adhesive to a variety of media. This rare figure from the Kimbell Museum of Art in Fort Worth is pierced for suspension, perhaps from a necklace. The figure’s garment seems to represent a tapestry-woven tunic that, together with the large, circular ear ornaments, identifies the figure as an elite male. Materials range from the silver of the headdress to colored stones such as lapis lazuli and shells, including Spondylus oyster shell that had great ritual and economic value.

Panel, probably a Hanging, from Corral Redondo, 600–1000. Textiles covered with brilliant feathers of rain forest birds are among the most striking works created by artists in Pre-Columbian Peru. This large panel, from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is made of the feathers of the blue-and-yellow macaw and was found in an impressive buried offering that may have commemorated either an elite Wari burial or an important human sacrifice. It is one of 96 similar panels from the offering site.

Tapestry-Woven Tunic with Staff-Bearing Creature in Profile, 600–1000. Wari tapestry-woven tunics are known for their beauty and artistic complexity. In antiquity, they were forms of wealth and prestige, serving as the attire of elite Wari men, including rulers. This exquisite, sleeved tunic from the Brooklyn Museum, however, is a miniature that probably had devotional purposes. It is exceptionally finely woven with the image of a supernatural creature whose features mingle human and animal traits.

Urn with Staff Deities, 600–1000. This large vessel, from the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Arqueología e Historia in Lima, may have been used to serve lavish feasts that the Wari hosted in order to establish alliances with elite guests. The interior and exterior of the urn are painted with images of the deity who was the focus of Wari state religion. Appendages radiate from the head and both hands hold a staff, a powerful symbol of both divine and human authority. The urn was reconstructed from fragments found in a three-ton offering of ceramic vessels that were deliberately shattered and buried in antiquity.

Warrior Plaque, 600–1000. Among Wari ornaments are impressive fine metal plaques that originally may have been mounted on a backing of some kind, such as a textile. This plaque from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston takes the shape of a sumo-like warrior who carries an axe and rectangular shield. This warrior’s high status is indicated by silver from which he is made and the elite garments that he wears: a four-cornered hat and a tie-dyed tunic covered with interlocked hooks.





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