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Asian Games: The Art of Contest Opens
Inlaid bronze die, China, Han Dynasty(206 B.C. - A.D. 220) Bronze inlaid with gold, silver, turquoise, agate and rock crystal. Diameter 1 3/8 inches (3.5 cm. Anonymous Loan

NEW YORK.- Asia Society and Museum presents Asian Games: The Art of Contest, through January 16th. Presenting stunning works spanning 2,000 years, a major exhibition at Asia Society examines the art and legacy of games in Asia. Using paintings, prints, and decorative arts that depict people playing games as well as the paraphernalia of games, Asian Games: The Art of Contest is the first major exhibition to explore Asia as a source of chess, Parcheesi, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, playing cards, polo and other games. Featuring key loans from China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany, the exhibition examines the role of games as social activity and as indices of cultural values in the diverse societies of Asia. The exhibition will be on view to the public at Asia Society and Museum from October 14, 2004 through January 16, 2005.

“Many of the games that we take for granted today have their origins in ancient Asian societies,” notes Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu. “What we see in this exhibition is that games have been as significant as trade and religion in transmitting cultural forms and ideas. In tracing their spread across different societies, we also see how certain games retained unique qualities that reflect the cultural aspirations and values of their players.”

“Without games, people would be unendurably bored,” notes exhibition curator Colin Mackenzie, Middlebury College Museum of Art. “Yet the role of games in society has been largely neglected by cultural historians. By exploring the evolution and social functions of games in Asia and their transfer to other regions, Asian Games illuminates important yet unfamiliar aspects of Asian culture and their ongoing legacy.”

The Exhibition - In traditional societies, games were enjoyed by kings and commoners, men and women, young and old. Game sets and paraphernalia were treasured possessions and status symbols, finely crafted and elaborately decorated. Images of games and game-playing pervade literature and the visual arts throughout the ages. Artists have been fascinated by the drama and excitement of games and the range of emotions that are revealed by the players of games.

Asian Games: The Art of Contest has a broad chronological and geographical reach and is comprised of approximately 200 works of art of the highest quality. Included in the exhibition are spectacular examples of game sets dating from the 12th to early 20th century, Persian and Indian court paintings and illuminated manuscripts of the 14th to 18th century and Chinese and Japanese scroll paintings, screens and ceramics that depict game-playing. Select earlier examples of games dating back as early as 200 B.C.E. are included.

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