By Qingcheng Huang, the OISS 2012 Summer Intern
The Yale University Art Gallery is just across the street from the Yale Center for British Art. The day I visited the YUAG it was very hot. The in-door atmosphere immediately cooled us down.
At the entrance hall you need to put your backpack in a locker which requires a quarter dollar coin.
Many parts of the gallery are currently under renovation and won’t be open to the public until December 2012. However, you can see the renovations in progress through glass doors.
The elevator in the museum was much larger than those I’ve seen before (even larger than those in a hospital). Now I realize that it is essential in order to transport some bulky antiques. (Inside the elevator, there was a poster stating that both the 3rd and 4th floors were closed for renovation.)
The second floor galleries feature the African and Asian arts. In the African part, there are numerous modern art collections. Curiously, most of them still persist in a primitive and abstract form. If I had not read the descriptions I would have mistaken much of this art as actual antiques.
I found many motherly figures depicted in the African arts. I learned that these figures were representations of fertility. I believe that these kinds of figures are not common in Chinese antiques. In ancient China, people prayed for prosperity and victories in wars rather than fertility.
I saw some jewelry from the North African Nomads. The necklaces, brooches, pendants, earrings were all so delicate and attractive.
Curiously, I didn’t meet student groups this time, but I did encounter a group of artists trying to draw different statues in the galleries. They were also discussing the meaning and emotion of these statues.
The southern part of the 2nd floor galleries is the Asian art collections. Much of this artwork dates back to about 500BC. I found that I could easily distinguish between Southeast Asian Buddhist statues and Chinese ones. In China people tended to depict more "auspicious clouds" along with the Buddhist figures and the faces of those figures were Chinese.
I was surprised to find that all the fragile bowls and vases were complete and without visible cracks. In Chinese museums I usually find these porcelain items have been broken once and more obviously repaired.
Sometimes I could not tell Japanese paintings from Chinese ones. The Japanese followed the painting style from the Chinese Tang and Song Dynasties, and some of these Japanese paintings even included Chinese characters. I really appreciated a display showing a Japanese painting and a Chinese teacup.
I have to mention that many of the Chinese items were probably taken from tombs. For example, one exhibit showed a life-like tomb guardian monster. This monster is supposed to protect the tomb owner and ensure that they reach a better afterlife.
I observed a complicated statue depicting the gods’ world ruled by Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu), which is a Taoist goddess of longevity.
I especially liked a wall painting depicting the half-human-half-phoenix flying attendant dispensing flowers from Heaven. In China this kind of painting would definitely be covered by a glass box and you could not appreciate it so closely.
There were free posters with the Art Gallery calendar on the back available on the 1st floor. The YUAG courtyard is a great place for taking pictures.
When my friend and I left the YUAG museum, a heavy rain suddenly started falling. The streets were covered with curtains of rain and humid scents floated in the air. The air of remote, ancient mysteries still lingered in my mind.
Links to attractions mentioned in this post: