The Star Bulletin named the Academy’s landmark exhibition “The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan” as one of the top 10 entertainment stories of 2008. Taking a cue from the newspaper, we looked back at the eventful year to come up with our own top 10 Academy stories.
1. “The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan”: We agree with the Star Bulletin. This exhibition, the first ever of thangkas and sculptures borrowed from monasteries throughout Bhutan, and accompanied by monks, was a five-year Herculean endeavor that had people lining up around the block for the opening in February. Oh, and Bhutanese princess HRH Sonam Dechan Wangchuck was there too (she’s pictured with Director Stephen Little). It also attracted international attention, with coverage in the New York Times, Travel + Leisure magazine (U.S. and Australian editions) and scores of other publications. But more important, for a few months it was a community touchstone, with people regularly attending the visiting monks’ daily puja and studying the inspiring artwork. Some Academy staff grew close to the visiting monks Norbu, Sonam and Sonam, taking them on island excursions and seeing how they reacted to local food (they especially liked Costco pizza). Maybe you saw them dancing at NextDoor. The Academy also held a Bhutanese film festival (the first ever on the planet) and a two-day symposium. The show is now traveling, ending its well-attended run at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York on Jan. 5. It opens at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco on Feb. 20.
2. DJ Rekha at ARTafterDARK: So Sari! In July, the biggest, most joyful ARTafterDARK ever saw Central Court in a mass dance trance as star New York bhangra DJ Rekha stood next to Penelope and let rip her beats. A sea of giant smiles on bobbing sweaty heads. It was a record-setting year for ARTafterDARK, the Academy’s volunteer-run monthly party. The Academy is indebted to the AAD committee members who, despite busy professional and private lives, devote time to make this event one of the most popular in town. AAD has raised thousands of dollars for museum programs and attracted hundreds of new members—crucial for the Academy’s survival in these hard times. Other notable ARTafterDARKs were Dragon Thunder in February; Jet Set featuring Holunape in May; and Hawaii Ink featuring Makana in August.
3. 1st Annual Bollywood Film Festival: Film Curator Gina Caruso had no idea how the inaugural Bollywood Film Festival would do. It turned out to be such a hit that it’s back on Jan. 2! Doris Duke Theatre was packed every night for the comprehensive survey of Bollywood films, from the 1960 classic “Mugahl-E-Azam” to the 21st-century slick production “Saawariya.”
4. Mika Tajima’s “Extruded Plaid (Suicidal Desires)” performance: The Brooklyn-based artist shook up Gallery 28 when she smashed a mirror with a hammer then made electronic noise on her guitar on June 25. Defiant in sexy heels and black jumpsuit, Tajima jump-started the Academy’s big summer program. On view from June to August were “One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now,” “Shu: Reinventing the Book in Contemporary Chinese Art” and “Leland Miyano: Historia Naturalia et Artificialia.”
5. He ho’ala ana / An awakening: Kapa by Marie McDonald: Still on view are the incredible works of this Big Island artist, who at 82 vigorously pounds the wauka she grows on her farm. Then she colors the carefully pounded kapa with dyes she makes herself from flora she harvests from her land. The Academy never offers a solo show in the Textile Gallery. But McDonald’s contemporary interpretations of an ancient traditional art hypnotized Sara Oka, Manager of the Textile Collection.
6. Literati Modern: Bunjinga from Late-Edo to Twentieth-Century Japan: The Academy’s acquisition of the Terry Welch Collection makes its 20th-century Japanese art holdings one of the best in the country. Already known for putting Taishô on the American art map, the Academy continues to be at the forefront of this era of Japanese art. Landscape designer and collector Terry Welch and curator Michiyo Morioka came for the opening, which drew a cluster of Japanese art aficionados, and took the time for a couple of podcasts.
7. Social networking: Speaking of podcasts, the Academy got cracking with its virtual presence, stepping up updates on its website and establishing a presence on myspace, facebook, twitter and flickr—thanks to the addition of Sabrina Velazquez to the Communications Department.
The next five coming on Jan. 2. Happy New Year!