At the end of every year, the Art Institute celebrates its “Gifts to the City”—the most recent acquisitions to the collection. You might not realize that each year we add hundreds—if not thousands—of new pieces to the museum’s permanent collection and they’re often added without much fanfare. So we take this time to celebrate these additions and the breadth and depth they contribute to the Art Institute’s holdings.
One of the pieces we're most excited to show off is this exquisitely crafted altar set which includes a tripod censer, two candlesticks, and two beaker vases. Five-piece altar sets like this one were initially used exclusively in Buddhist rituals that had been introduced to China by the 14th century, but were subsequently appropriated for both Confucian and Daoist ceremonies.
The vessels were consistently arranged in a line across the altar, with the censer in the middle and the candlesticks and vases flanking it symmetrically. During the ritual, participants would light incense and say a prayer. Only after the prayer was said would incense be placed in the censer, so the fragrance could carry the prayers skyward and communicate with deities or deceased family members. The candles were meant to shine light on ignorance and flowers were offered in the vases to symbolize ephemerality.
The Art Institute’s recently acquired set was likely made for a Buddhist or ancestral hall in one of the Qing imperial temples or palaces. Each vessel bears an inscription that identifies it as an imperial commission of the Jiaqing emperor (reigned 1796–1820), son of the mighty emperor Qianlong and a devout Buddhist. This piece is extremely rare in both its remarkable quality of surface decoration and its preservation and adds a new level to the Art Institute’s already strong collection of Chinese art.
Pick up our holiday brochure to take this year’s Gifts to the City tour, including this altar set as well as some other recent additions to the collection.
Image Credit: Altar Set, Qing dynasty, Jiaqing reign mark and period (1796–1820). China. Charles H. and Mary F. Worcester Collection Fund.
2 hours 9 sec ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—John Massey: Cartón de Venezuela
One of Chicago’s great design stories emerged from the Container Corporation of America (CCA) in the middle of the 20th century. Upon his appointment in 1964 as the CCA's head of design, Chicagoan John Massey formed a research arm, the Center for Advanced Research in Design (CARD), that enabled great creativity and innovation within a corporate structure.
This exhibition features a set of posters by Massey for the CCA’s subsidiary Cartón de Venezuela. Each poster represents a different month of the year, with strong, clean lines and bold colors reflecting one of Massey’s primary influences, the Swiss school of design.
Closing March 5—http://bit.ly/2lYlz6I
2 days 2 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago "Be a good craftsman; it won't stop you being a genius.”
Advice from Pierre-Auguste Renoir, on his birthday.
See 13 paintings by the great French Impressionist—now on view: http://bit.ly/2lj3AVq
2 days 20 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Go
Speed is both a product of modern life and an agent of it. At the turn of the 20th century, new technologies of mobility and transmission—trains, cars, airplanes, radio, film, television, to name only a few—increased the pace of life, collapsing distances between people and places and assaulting the senses.
Go, the second exhibition in the Art Institute’s Modern Series, explores how artists responded to different ways of experiencing and seeing the world in the accelerated modern age—through paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, designed objects, textiles, books, and films.