For personal reasons, I’m not traveling these days but I managed to make one exception: a same-day round trip to LA to spend exactly 2 1/2 hours at LACMA in order to see “The Jeweled Isles: Art From Sri Lanka.”
The first article on art I ever wrote for the WSJ was on a 1993 show of sculpture from Sri Lanka at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery of Art, and it blew me away. That show focused only on sculptures from about the 7th to 9th centuries, and its works have stuck with me ever since. Don’t have any photos, no catalog, just images in my mind, particularly one of a bodhisattva seated in royal ease, one leg drawn up, the other dangling. It is a pose we see a lot in later Chinese artists’ renditions of Guanyin (like the one at the MFA, Boston), but in the 8th-9th century, the Indian model for such a pose was not as… well, here, you check out the difference.
That I know of, there has only been one other US show devoted to Sri Lanka. After it opened in 2003 at the Phoenix Art Museum, it traveled, but I never made it to any of the venues. It was broader in scope than the Sackler’s both in terms of time periods and mediums. Always regretted missing it, so when a second, similarly wide-ranging show appeared on the horizon, I kept my fingers crossed I’d be able to make the trip. And I did. Here are some snapshots I took along with my review.