The Indian Express
Asia Society Celebrates 50 Years In New York
The Leogryph, which guards the entrances of Buddhist temples, is the Asia Society’s symbol.
By Joseph Aranha
The Rockefellers are an icon in the United States and whatever they touch seems to turn to gold. And this is exactly what has happened with the Asia Society, founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller III, and celebrating its golden anniversary this year.
Under the able leadership of Vishakha N Desai, the first woman and the first American of Indian origin to be its President, the Asia Society is really taking a leap forward into the second half of its first century, promoting a deeper understanding of Asia.
This will kick off with a number of exhibitions, lectures, panel discussions, symposiums and other activities, not only in New York but also in other parts of the world.
The Asia Society was first located at the Asia House on 64th Street in Manhattan and then moved to its present location on Park Avenue. Last month it opened
The 50th anniversary celebration was kicked off with the world premiere of “5 Streams,” a cross media work conceived by the renowned conceptual artist and director Ibrahim Quraishi, who was inspired by the roiling physical and cultural geography of Asia – a region marked by the five Indus Rivers, identified by its five core nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and inspired also by the five pillars of Islam and the five principles of Hinduism.
As Rachel Cooper, Director of Cultural Programs and Performing Arts at the Society, said “In creating ‘5 Streams,’Quraishi boldly reinterprets the religious and cultural texts from within the Hindu and Islamic traditions”.
Also as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations the Asia Society presents a major exhibition that focuses on the important contributions of three generations of the Rockefeller family. “A Passion for Asia: The Rockefeller Family Collects”features 150 of the most stunning and important Asian artworks originally purchased and owned by various members of this family, is the centerpiece of the anniversary celebrations. The exhibition comprises paintings, sculptures and decorative art and the first of its kind, which also includes archival photographs and documents that illuminate the commitment of the Rockefeller family to honoring and preserving the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the diverse peoples of Asia.
The Rockefeller’s are known in the art world for their “gemlike” collections from sculptures to imperial porcelain. Included in their collection is a set of 15 Indian bronzes from the Chola period. Other than the above there are other exhibitions: “The International Asian Art Fair” and “The Asian American Art Now, Gilded Splendor: Treasurers of China’s Liao Empire.” A gala 50th anniversary dinner will launch the anniversary celebrations and a street fair, which is a whole day event, will take place between Lexington and Park Avenue in June. At this fair there will be arts and crafts booths, music, dance, martial arts, yoga demonstrations and games and foods of Asia.
Those interested in its activities may contact (212) 327-2742 or go to www.asiasociety.org.