Like so many of us, Dr. Rachel Saunders had a tough 2020. As the curator of Asian art at the Harvard Art Museums, she was thrilled to co-curate, with professor Yukio Lippit, the exhibition "Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection," the largest single exhibition the museum had ever mounted. And then, a month after its opening, it was shuttered by Covid, and remained closed until the entire exhibition came down early last month.
But what could have been a bitter disappointment actually became exceptionally educational - perhaps par for the course at a prestigious university art museum, but with far-reaching implications for museums everywhere. Because when we talk about accessibility - and inaccessibility - in this context, we start to think about it in every context. How accessible are museums, ever? How authentically cross-cultural are our conversations? How do art historians wrestle with and decide on narratives? And how do we honor the multiplicity of these objects' histories while still making them present, today?
I sat down with Dr. Saunders this past May, the last month that the exhibition was up on the gallery walls but still behind locked doors, and we dove into these issues and more.
See the images discussed:
The Blue Dot Sessions, “One Little Triumph,” “Sage the Hunter”
Tamar’s exhibition review in the New York Review of Books:
The Lonely Palette episode on Painting Edo:
The HAM page on Painting Edo
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