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The Gallery’s Indo-Pacific art collection represents the art of maritime Southeast Asia and includes about 1,900 objects, with strengths in ethnographic sculpture, Javanese gold from the prehistoric to the late medieval period, and Indonesian textiles.
About Indo-Pacific Art
Established in 2009, the Department of Indo-Pacific Art oversees the newest collection at the Yale University Art Gallery and has three areas of strength: ethnographic sculpture, ancient Javanese gold, and Indonesian textiles. The spectacular ethnographic carvings—including ancestral sculpture, ceremonial objects, and architectural components from Indonesia, the Philippines, the aborigines of Taiwan, and mainland Southeast Asia—are a promised gift to the Gallery from Thomas Jaffe, B.A. 1971, who also endowed the department’s curator.
The earliest materials in the department’s holdings are a collection of approximately 500 gold objects—coins, jewelry, statues, and ritual objects—from Central and East Java. Donated to the Gallery by Valerie and Hunter Thompson, these date mainly from the 8th to the 13th century but also include some prehistoric material. The collection also holds about 600 textiles from Indonesia, mainly collected by Robert Holmgren and Anita Spertus. This group is of exceptional quality and ranks among the finest in any museum. The collection includes particularly superb textiles from South Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Borneo, and it includes rare and unique weavings that reflect the history of Indonesian designs.
The permanent-collection galleries, named for Yale professors Robert Farris Thompson and the late George Kubler, display approximately 450 objects. Regional highlights include sculpture and textiles from Sumatra, Borneo, and Eastern Indonesia. A selection of Javanese gold is also on permanent display.
Note from the Curator
The recently established Department of Indo-Pacific Art still requires extensive collection documentation. Not only are we checking the provenance and publication history, but we also intend to work closely with Yale’s new Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and the Gallery’s Center for Conservation and Preservation to help us determine materials and techniques. Radiocarbon dating of some of our textiles and wooden objects has been carried out, and further results are expected. Prior to the permanent-collection gallery opening, I curated the well-received Old Javanese Gold exhibition showing the Hunter and Valerie Thompson collection of Javanese gold in the summer of 2011. It was highlighted by a symposium of scholars from all over the world. An updated edition of John Miksic’s book Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery was released with new photography and many enhancements. A publication featuring articles from scholars who participated in the symposium at Yale is in process and has been submitted to the Council on Southeast Asian Studies’ Yale Monograph Series.
The Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art
Meet the Curator
Ruth Barnes is the inaugural Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art. She received her doctorate from Oxford University and was previously textile curator at the Ashmolean Museum, where she organized exhibitions on Asian and Islamic textiles, early Indian Ocean trade, and the theme of pilgrimage. Her publications include The Ikat Textiles of Lamalera and Indian Block-Printed Textiles in Egypt: The Newberry Collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.Download CV
Barbier, Jean Paul, and Douglas Newton. Islands and Ancestors: Indigenous Styles of Southeast Asia, exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988.
Barnes, Ruth, and Mary Kahlenberg, eds. Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles. New York: Prestel, 2010.
Holmgren, Robert J., and Anita E. Spertus. Early Indonesian Textiles from Three Island Cultures, exh. cat. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989.
Miksic, John. Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.