New Asian art exhibit at UMFA

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

The Dai Viet people, who lived in the area known today as northern Vietnam around 2,200 years ago, beat large drums to summon the annual monsoon rains, symbolizing change.

These large drums, called Dong Son drums, were also used by tribes in the area for funeral rituals. The Dai Viet would place the deceased in boats and transport the bodies via the Ma or Red rivers to their burial spots.

The boat ride symbolized the crossing from one world to the next, said Boreth Ly, assistant professor of Asian art and visual culture. Smaller drums that sounded like bells and were about the size of a fist would be placed in the grave with the body.

About a dozen of these fragile drums, in addition to other artifacts native to Southeastern Asia during the last 3,000 years, have been on display at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts since June.

Although the UMFA has a permanent collection of Asian art, “Passion for Form: Selections of Southeast Asian Art from the MacLean Collection,” which exclusively features art found in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, will run through Sept. 23.

“Southeast Asian art is not as well represented in art museums,” said Dana Rogers, a spokeswoman for the museum. The 53 objects in the exhibition are part of a larger collection of Southeastern Asian Art from the MacLean Collection in Chicago. The exhibit at the UMFA is the first ever public showing of the private collection.

Barbara Pence of Salt Lake City visited the exhibit Thursday.

“The rest of the world is so far away from us,” she said.

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 2 p.m., art history students give visitors guided tours of the exhibit.

The exhibit title, “Passion for Form,” comes from the owners of the artifacts, the MacLeans. The items in the collection don’t follow a special theme, but were chosen for their pleasing shape and form, said Luke Kelly, associate curator of antiquities at the UMFA.

The MacLeans have been collecting Southeastern Asian art for 30 years and now have more than 10,000 pieces in the collection.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the UMFA will screen “Nostalgia for the Countryland,” a film about life in communist Vietnam, on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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Cameron Strickland

“Havagraha Altar” from Cambodia sits on display at The Utah Museum of Fine Art, which plays host to the first public showing of the Southeast Asian Art Exhibit “Passion for Form.”