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AAMD’s Objects Registry: Metropolitan Museum Adds Three Sculptures with Incomplete Provenance

Jade disc (bi), Eastern Zhou Western Han Dynasty, 3rd-2nd Century B.C., Metropolitan Museum

While I was looking for updates on the website of the Association of Art Museum Directors, I surfed over to what has, for many months, been a one-object Object Registry of “archaeological material and
ancient art [recently acquired by AAMD member institutions and] lacking complete provenance after November 1970.” The registry was created pursuant to the association’s year-old revised guidelines for acquisitions of such material.

Lo and behold, there are now three new entries on that registry—all from the Metropolitan Museum. Good for the Met: With entries that are comprehensive and transparent, it has helped to make this registry actually serve a purpose, rather than serve as cultural-property window dressing.

The three Met objects come from three diverse cultures. What I particularly like about these entries, as distinguished from that of the Portland Art Museum, is that they give clear, detailed “reasons for acquisition as an exception to the 1970 rule.” The Met not only provides information about each object’s known history (including ownership, exhibitions and when the object was first published), but also why it represents an important addition to the Met’s collection (thus making it worth the risk that a claimant may come forward).

Here, for example, is an excerpt from the entry for a jade bi (disc) from China (pictured above), acquired by the Met for $121,000 from a March 2008 auction at Christie’s:

This work has provenance established to at least 1984, when the work was
published and offered for sale at public auction. This work fills a
major gap in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s comprehensive collection
of Asian art because the Museum has no other bi of this type from the
3rd century B.C. in its collection and because of the work’s excellent
quality and condition.

To read the Met’s entries on AAMD’s registry for the two other sculptures—an Olmec (Mexico) seated figure and an early medieval Jain enthroned Jina (India), go here and here.

an ArtsJournal blog