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Significant collection of Asian art makes its US debut at the Kimbell
Lion. China. Tang dynasty, 618–907. Marble. The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection. Photo by Thierry Ollivier.

FORT WORTH, TX.- This spring, the Kimbell Art Museum presents the U.S. debut of From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection. This exhibition will feature nearly 450 objects from this remarkable collection, with works representing key periods in the history of the art of China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea and Vietnam.

"In following their passion, Sam and Myrna Myers have assembled one of the finest Asian art collections ever amassed," commented Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. "These objects create a rich, complex and magical tapestry----a panoramic history of Asian cultures from ancient times to modern days."

When Sam Myers was sent to Paris by his law firm in the mid-1960s, he and his wife Myrna became so enamored with the city that they decided to make it their home. There, over the course of 50 years, they built an extraordinary collection that until now has never been exhibited publicly in the United States. Beginning by acquiring Greek and Roman antiquities but eventually focusing on Asia, the Myers assembled some 5,000 works that offer a very personal vision of the world of Asian art.

The exhibition covers a broad historical range, from the Neolithic era to the 20th century. The objects are also highly varied in nature, from porcelain, ivory and precious stones such as jade and rock crystal to Buddhist art and textiles and stunning costumes from Central Asia, Tibet, China and Japan. Each treasure is exceptional in its shape, rarity, quality, function or inherent message. The exhibition recounts fascinating historical events through themes such as the symbolism of Chinese jade, the trade in blue-and-white porcelain, Buddhism, Noh theater, the Japanese samurai, the tea ceremony and the scholar's studio.

"This exhibition provides a unique opportunity for visitors to experience a journey of discovery----much as the Myers did over the course of 50 years of collecting----through an extraordinarily diverse and impressive range of Asian works of art," said Jennifer Casler Price, the Kimbell's curator for Asian and non-Western art.

While Paris was their center, the initial spark for the Myers' collecting was the small town of Ascona, Switzerland, where the couple arrived on vacation quite by chance. It was in 1966, during their first visit, that they discovered Casa Serodine, an antique gallery owned by Dr. Wladimir Rosenbaum (1894--1984), an erudite dealer who became their mentor. He helped them realize that, despite limited means, it was possible to acquire authentic works of art.

The exhibition begins with a selection of classical antiquities illustrating the couple's earliest forays into collecting, including works from Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Middle East. From the time of those acquisitions on, the Myers were driven by their shared passion for art, which became an organizing principle for the rest of their lives. As their experience and expertise grew, enhanced by their scholarly bent and numerous travels throughout the world, they became irresistibly drawn to the art of Asia. Their collection eventually focused on four principal areas, which constitute the main themes of the exhibition.

"Costumes and Customs" presents an ensemble of sumptuous robes dating from the 16th through 19th centuries that illustrate several major chapters in the history of Asian textile art. From China, where silk fabrics reflected the wearers' wealth and social status, the collection features a rare complete scholar's robe and an imperial prince's armor. Japan is represented by a range of kimonos, among the most elegant garments in the world, as well as by luxurious Noh theater costumes and samurai attire adapted for wearing armor. Central Asian textiles include a Tibetan dance outfit and prime minister's jacket and flamboyantly colorful Ikat garments from Uzbekistan. Complementing these costumes will be a selection of Japanese lacquerware and tea ceremony implements, as well as accessories used in a Chinese scholar's studio.

"An Ocean of Porcelain" illustrates 500 years of blue-and-white porcelain production in China through pieces that demonstrate a diverse range of forms and decoration. The earliest piece in the Myers collection is a rare and unusual 14th-century Yuan dynasty meiping vase. Trade with the Middle East and Islamic influence are evident in several examples of 15th- and 16th-century Ming dynasty vessels. The fascination in Europe with porcelain led to a thriving maritime commerce, first with the Portuguese in the 16th century and then with the Dutch in the 17th century. Forty years ago, the first shipwreck with Chinese porcelain was found----a discovery that was soon followed by increasingly well-documented underwater excavations. The Myers' collection of items from a mid-17th century cargo vessel includes some of the best Transitional-period porcelain ever recovered from the ocean floor.

The introduction of Buddhism can be considered one of the major events that defined Asia, being both a spiritual and artistic revolution. "A Thousand Years of Buddhism" traces the spread of the religion from its origins in northern India to China, Tibet, Korea and Japan, with a superb selection of carved stone and wood images, metal sculptures and paintings. The collection includes a significant number of Buddhist textiles such as appliquéd, embroidered and patchwork thangkas, mandalas, banners and liturgical garments. These transcendent works reveal that as each of these cultures embraced the Buddhist faith, they created a religious art imbued with their own unique aesthetic utilizing indigenous materials.

A rare and mysterious material, jade is regarded in China as the most precious of stones. "The Magic of Jade" showcases one of the richest and most complete private collections of archaic jade in the world, ranging from the Neolithic period to the Yuan dynasty (3000 BC--14th c. AD). Two objects particularly symbolic of the Neolithic period are the bi disc, which may have been used as a funerary object to guide the spirit of the deceased to heaven, and the cong cylinder, which is said to symbolize the earth and have religious and ritual significance. The series of ritual blades with delicately beveled contours and the finely carved pendants portraying legendary animals like the dragon and the phoenix are examples of the stunning capacity of the jade carvers of the second millennium BC. The humanism of the Han dynasty (206 BC--AD 220) is reflected in more naturalistic figurative representations.

The astonishing array of outstanding works of art in the Myers Collection is testimony to Asia's rich cultural and religious heritage and unique customs and offers a broad panorama of Asian history in all its beauty and diversity.

The exhibition was curated by Jean-Paul Desroches, former chief curator of the Musée des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, Paris, and senior curator of the French National Patrimony.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue, Two Americans in Paris: A Quest for Asian Art, available for $60 in the Museum Shops. This exhibition is produced by Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, Montréal, Canada, in partnership with Sam Myers.

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