Thursday, October 01, 2015

Jeunesse dorée

Found my way today to the Asia Society, which is hosting an exhibition of gold objects from "forgotten kingdoms" of the 10th to 13th centuries. The works, some found 150 years ago but most unearthed in recent decades, show mastery of many different kinds of goldworking skills, as well as participation in networks of trade and religion with other areas of Southeast Asia. They are apparently also a source of great national pride, proof of sophisticated and prosperous civilization long before the arrival of the Spanish. Still, there is a poignancy in gold articles being the only survivals from a culture. The narrator to an attending film averred that elites had filled their graves with gold in "an attempt to extend their social privilege" beyond death, and I felt briefly coopted by that attempt. But the works themselves recall not their owners but the artisans, their great skill and finesse, patience and grace.

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