Pulitzer Foundation Workshop
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Pulitzer Foundation Workshop

On November 10 and 11, 2011, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis sponsored a workshop in which twelve graduate students and four professors of Asian art history commented on the context of objects in the Foundation’s exhibition “Reflections of the Buddha” (9 September 2011–10 March 2012). Many of the participants were not familiar with this exhibition of Buddhist art or the Foundation and its Tadao Andō–designed headquarters and exhibition space opened in 2001. However, the workshop raised many questions of context and meaning that should be of great interest to students, scholars, and curators of Asian art. Hence the publication of the following short reports from participants in the workshop.

The Ando structure (Fig. 1) is a stunning setting for art assembled by the Founder and Chair of the Foundation, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, as well as special exhibitions such as “Urban Alchemy: Gordon Matta-Clark,” “Stylus: A Project by Ann Hamilton,” “Dreamscapes,” and now “Reflections of the Buddha.” For the exhibition, ebullient senior curator Francesca Herndon-Consagra (with the assistance of Robert Mowry of the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum) selected twenty-two objects from the collections of the Asia Society, New York; Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum; Saint Louis Art Museum; Oscar Muñoz/Sicardi Gallery; and a private collection. In addition, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts collaborated with the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum on research on the wood sculpture Left Hand of a Colossal Buddha Amitābha, attributed to Kaikei. The graduate student workshop was one of a series of symposia devoted to the research, conservation, and display of these objects. An illustrated publication and online catalogue are available; see: http://pulitzerarts.org.

The workshop was organized by Phillip Bloom, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University. Presentations were made by Katherine Brooks (Harvard University), Kerry Lucinda Brown (Virginia Commonwealth University), Kevin Greenwood (University of Kansas), Jungmin Ha (Duke University), Bing Huang (Harvard University), Shea Ingram (Harvard University), Kristopher Kersey (University of California, Berkeley), Ye-Gee Kwon (University of Kansas), William Ma (University of California, Berkeley), Sooa Im McCormick (University of Kansas), Catherine Roche (University of Washington), Yueni Zhong (University of California, Berkeley). Discussants were Catherine Becker (University of Illinois at Chicago), Marsha Haufler (University of Kansas), Yukio Lippit (Harvard University), and myself.

Stanley K. Abe
Duke University
Reflections on “Reflections of the Buddha” and “Buddhist Art: Objects and Contexts”

The distinctly modernist space of the Tadao-Andō–designed Pulitzer Foundation served as a major driving force behind the exhibition “Reflections of the Buddha.” As is true of all shows at the Pulitzer, the objects were chosen and installed with the building in mind; indeed, the exhibition seems to have been largely inspired by Andō’s self-proclaimed connection to Buddhist thought and aesthetics.

Renouncing a narrative or historically contextualized approach to exhibition design, the Pulitzer staff divided the objects into four main thematic groups, each in its own gallery. In each of these galleries—one devoted to Japanese Buddhist sculpture of the late-Heian (794–1185) and Kamakura (1185–1333) periods (Fig. 2); another, to stone sculpture of India and China (Figs. 1, 3); a third, to works related to the Vajrayāna traditions of the Himalayan region (Fig. 4); and a final gallery devoted to later Chinese, Japanese, and Korean works [End Page 81] (Fig. 5)—the objects were placed in subtle aesthetic dialogue with each other and with the building. The fragmented hand of a monumental Kamakura-period sculpture of Amitābha Buddha, for example, pointed to a smaller, slightly later image of the same deity (Fig. 2); meanwhile, a standing Tang-dynasty (618–907) sculpture of Ānanda in dark-gray limestone and a Northern Qi (550–577) or Sui (589–618) white-marble standing image of Śākyamuni were aligned such that they were framed both by the ethereal natural light that is one of the building’s most alluring features and by Ellsworth Kelly’s monumental diptych Blue...