Ancient Bronzes of the Asian Grasslands from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation

Ornament, Northern China or Inner Mongolia, 5th-3rd Century BCE [photo]Buckle Plaque, Northern China, 2nd Century BCE [photo]A major exhibition of ancient steppe art on loan from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in New York will run Jan. 21 through April 1 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. The exhibition brings to life the complex cultures that flourished across the Asian grasslands from northern China and Mongolia to Central Asia and Eastern Europe during the late second and first millennia BCE.

Curated by Trudy Kawami, director of research for the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, "Ancient Bronzes of the Asian Grasslands" reveals how the ancient, horse-riding cultures of Mongolia and Central Asia used the animal world as a source of symbols to indicate tribe, social rank and connection to the spirit world. The exhibition shows how these complex cultures helped facilitate travel and trade along the Silk Road during the first millennia BCE.

The exhibition features more than 80 masterpieces of steppe art, including bronze belt buckles, plaques, pendants, ornaments and weapons. Animal motifs such as antlered stags, wild boars and birds of prey are a primary theme. The exhibition includes text panels, annotated labels, a map, photomurals, a free color brochure and a full-color, hardcover book by scholar and research consultant Emma Bunker.

As a special feature, Kawami will present an illustrated lecture on the ancient bronzes of the Asian grasslands Friday, Jan. 27, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Paulus Lecture Hall at Willamette's College of Law. She will discuss the role of bronzes among the ancient, horse-riding cultures of Mongolia and Central Asia. Admission to her lecture is free.

In addition to Kawami's lecture, an ongoing series of gallery talks on the exhibition will be offered Tuesday afternoons from 12:30 to 1 p.m. from Jan. 31 through March 24. Gallery talks will be presented by Elizabeth Garrison, the Cameron Paulin Curator of Education, or a Hallie Ford Museum of Art docent. Admission is free.

Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), a research psychiatrist, medical publisher, connoisseur and art collector, established the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in 1965 to make his extensive art collections available to a wide audience. The foundation collection has more than 1,100 works of art, including Chinese ritual bronzes and ceramics, Buddhist stone sculpture and the Ch'u Silk Manuscript, the oldest existing Chinese written document.

Kawami received her doctorate from Columbia University in art history and archaeology, where she specialized in the art of ancient Western Asia. She has conducted research in Turkey, Iran and Israel and is the author of "Monumental Art of the Parthian Period in Iran" (Leiden: 1987) and "Ancient Iranian Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections" (New York: 1992). Kawami is a frequent lecturer and has published numerous articles.

"Ancient Bronzes of the Asian Grasslands from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation" has been supported by grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and the City of Salem's Transient Occupancy Tax funds.

The Hallie Ford Museum of Art is located at 700 State Street (the corner of State and Cottage Streets) in downtown Salem near the campus of Willamette University. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed Sunday and Monday. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and students. Children under 12 are admitted free, and Tuesday is an admission-free day. For more information call 503-370-6855.