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The CU Art Museum announces major gift of ancient Burmese and Chinese art from Warren and Shirley King
Unidentified artist, Chinese Figurine (dog), n.d., Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), earthenware with green glaze, 12 1/2 x 13 x 4 1/2 inches. Gift of Warren and Shirley King, CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder, 2012.12.08a. Photo: Jeff Wells / © CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder.
BOULDER, CO.- The CU Art Museum announced the recent acquisition of a significant collection of Burmese and Chinese art ranging from the Neolithic Period through the Song Dynasty. Gifted by Warren and Shirley King, this unique collection of jade, bronze, stoneware, earthenware, porcelain, and blackware will be readily available to art historians, scholars of Chinese and Burmese culture, ceramic specialists, and archaeologists. These objects will be actively and creatively used in CU Art Museum exhibitions and as part of ongoing educational programs and research endeavors to benefit both the general pubic and students. The collection will facilitate learning about China and Burma and the rich art and cultural history of these regions.

The collection was generously gifted by Warren and Shirley King of Hong Kong and San Francisco and consists of 238 objects representing Neolithic China and Burma as well as the Shang Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Northern Wei Dynasty, Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Five Dynasties, Liao Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, and Song Dynasty. The donation of this major body of works strengthens the CU Art Museum’s burgeoning Asian collection and significantly contributes to the breadth of the museum’s ceramic collection, which includes examples from numerous Neolithic cultures as well as modern and contemporary works, many of which pay homage to earlier ceramic traditions.

Donor Warren King was raised in a Chinese art-collecting family, their collection focusing on Shang dynasty (1600-1029 BCE) and Zhou dynasty (1029- 256 BCE) bronzes. When he married his wife Shirley, who also came from a Chinese art-collecting family, the two began what was to be their life-long passion of acquiring works to form their own, distinctive, Chinese art collection.

As a family, the Kings initially focused on art from the Shang dynasty (1600-1029 BCE) through the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) but with a special emphasis on early Chinese bronzes, which Mr. King tended to favor. In the mid-1980s, however, Mr. King began to broaden his collecting vision when he acquired a piece of unique pottery that was presented to him as a Chinese example dating from the Neolithic period (7500 BCE – 1500 BCE). The reddish-hued earthenware that was completely unlike other pieces dating from the same period intrigued Mr. King. As he acquired additional pieces, he also began to research their origins and finally realized that such wares were not Chinese at all, but were from the Chinese-Burmese border region reflecting a short-lived cultural complex completely different from its Chinese counterpart. Today these works continue to be relatively unknown to scholars and archaeologists due to their scarcity in the market place and museum collections.

Although the King personal collection incudes many fine examples of early Chinese and Burmese art ranging from the Neolithic period through the Song dynasty, the hallmark of their personal collection is its high quality, which is reflected in the 238 works gifted to the CU Art Museum. A favorite work of Mr. King’s included in the gift is an oversized Eastern Han dynasty (24-220 CE) tomb figure of a dog covered in an iridescent glaze. Such large examples of dog tomb figures are extremely rare, and the dog’s animated face is especially appealing to Mr. King. Mrs. King favors Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) porcelain, and her favorite example is a porcelain cup and stand covered in a light blue-green glaze known as Qingbai ware. Indeed, Qingbai ceramics mark the beginning of the true porcelain culture in Chinese ceramic history; a time when Chinese potters perfected the clay composition, which along with silk, became an internationally recognizable product of Chinese material culture.

Although the Kings live in San Francisco and Hong Kong, they have a long history with Colorado. With the help of the Asian Art Coordinating Council in Denver, the Kings decided to select 238 works from their personal collection to gift to the CU Art Museum, acknowledging that it was an ideal home.

Lisa Tamiris Becker, who led the acquisition of the collection for the CU Art Museum while serving as the museum’s Director, states: The CU Art Museum is committed to engaging audiences of all ages from across the community and the campus with its exhibitions, education programs, and permanent collection and is also actively involved with the use of its collection in teaching and research. This most generous gift of extremely fine examples of Chinese and Burmese art from the preeminent collectors Warren and Shirley King endows the CU Art Museum with a significant repository of artworks from these regions. This gift enhances the University of Colorado Boulder’s and the CU Art Museum’s growing programs in Asian cultures, while also connecting with its highly-ranked programs in studio ceramics. Students and faculty of Chinese and Burmese Art History, as well as those involved with studio ceramics, will benefit tremendously from the opportunity to engage directly with and study these works. The museum’s visitors from the general public will also be delighted with the opportunity to view and learn about Chinese and Burmese culture through the many remarkable pieces in the collection. The Kings have made a most significant contribution to the CU Art Museum and its growing permanent collection.

The CU Art Museum's permanent collection contains over 8,000 works of art. The collection was started in 1939 as a teaching tool for students. It has grown into a comprehensive art collection that enriches the educational experience of students, faculty, and the broader campus community, as well as the Colorado public, through exposure to original works of art. The collection also serves to facilitate art historical research about larger societal issues through a greater understanding of the arts. It is the only public resource of its kind for the state of Colorado and is the only public art collection in Boulder.





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