Recent Acquisition: Korean Scholar’s Screen

Korean Scholar’s Screen, 1930–45. Ink and color on paper, 67 ½ x 160 in. Purchased with funds from the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2018.1

Thanks to the generosity of the late Thomas Solley and the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art, we were able to purchase an eight-panel folding screen. It is not only a significant example of Korean art but also a real showstopper. Chaekgeori, or scholar’s screens such as this one, can loosely be described as a still life genre painting suitable for the scholar or any other individual wishing to visually inform others of their erudition, sophistication, and taste. The earliest known Chaekgeori screens date to the late eighteenth century, a time of peace and stability after the destructive
Manchurian and Japanese invasions of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. With increased prosperity art patrons and scholars could once again relish the accoutrements of a genteel life. This type of painting continued to enjoy popularity through the mid-twentieth century.

Korean Scholar’s Screen (detail), 1930–45. Ink and color on paper, 67 ½ x 160 in. Purchased with funds from the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for Asian Art, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2018.1

The word Chaekgeori literally means “books and things,” and books, which are displayed in towering stacks on every panel, are certainly the most prominent and important motif in such paintings. Perhaps some of the books here are the Confucian Classics, which all respectable scholars would own and consult. But other objects also populate the screen: fine ceramics, writing brushes, exotic flowers and fruits, butterflies, carp, Buddha’s hand citron, pomegranates, and images of cranes, all of which reference the long-standing vocabulary of wealth and auspicious symbols representing prosperity, longevity, and fecundity.

There are also references to a larger world beyond the boundaries of Asia represented by the inclusion of the round, black eyeglass in the left-most screen. While smoky quartz or glass had been used by the Chinese at an early date to shield their faces and vision, proper eyeglasses were not imported to China until the sixteenth century. Eyeglasses in the East and West are associated with the scholar. Also of note are the Western-style rulers stuck in the brush pots in the two right-most panels. All the objects represented in the screen are not only artifacts of refinement but also of their owner’s worldliness since many of them were priceless imports from China and Japan and, to a lesser degree, the West.

The origins of this kind of genre painting are obscure, but the assemblage of objects and recent scholarship indicate that the ideas are drawn from both the long-established Chinese tradition of paintings referencing the scholar’s study and recently introduced ideas from the West such as antiquarian collecting.

Judith A. Stubbs, PhD
Pamela Buell Curator of Asian Art

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

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Alumni Spotlight: Andrew Wang

Andrew Wang photo
Andrew Wang

After graduating from Indiana University with a Master of Arts in art history in 2017 and serving as a graduate assistant at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Andrew Wang has completed a Kress Fellowship at Yale University and has accepted a new position as Instructional Design Librarian at the Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, Florida. We recently caught up with Andrew to hear more about his experiences at IU and after.

1. Tell us a little bit about your experience at IU and specifically the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

I was the graduate assistant to Jenny McComas, Curator of European and American Art, from 2014 to 2017. I worked on a wide variety of projects during those three years, including regular maintenance of curatorial files and electronic records for the museum’s collections. I also assisted MFA students with the installation of their thesis exhibitions and curated special installations in the galleries.

I saw the museum transform dramatically in just a few short years. Jenny executed a major reinstallation in the first floor gallery, we migrated our data to a new collections management system, the museum was renamed, and David Brenneman joined as the new director.

I worked at the Fine Arts Library throughout my graduate program in the art history department as well, so I practically lived in the building.

Andrew Wang discusses the legacy of Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades at a Noon Talk in 2017.  Photo: Doug Paul Case

2. What was your experience at Yale like?

The Kress Fellowship in Art Librarianship at Yale allowed me to pursue my own independent projects with the support and guidance of leading professionals in the field. I created visual indexes for the Visual Resources Collection, managed a digital exhibition, and designed a user study for Yale’s art history department. I also provided research consultations for students, instructed classes on research methods and information literacy, oversaw the Haas Arts Library’s social media platforms, and organized the annual Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and rotating thematic book displays. I spent most of my time working at the Arts Library, but I spent one day a week at the Center for British Art so I could gain experience working in a museum library. At the center I conducted a collection analysis project to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Reference Library’s holdings. The center is involved with so many groundbreaking projects, like the International Image Interoperability Framework.

3. Did you spend much time at the Yale University Art Gallery? How does it compare to the museum here at IU?

I took almost everyone who visited me in New Haven to the Art Gallery, so I ended up spending a lot of time there. Their permanent collection is encyclopedic in scope, like the Eskenazi Museum’s, and the galleries are organized similarly. I think Yale’s Art Gallery has exceptional strengths in its contemporary collection, with works by Gerhard Richter, Barkley L. Hendricks, and Kerry James Marshall, to name a few. They also have Marcel Duchamp’s last painting on canvas, Tu m’, which I loved seeing since Jenny and I had co-curated a special installation in celebration of the centennial of Duchamp’s Fountain. Yale has a larger infrastructure and staff, but the Eskenazi Museum has a competitive collection.

4. Tell us about your new job at the Ringling College of Art + Design.

My new position at Ringling College of Art + Design is Instructional Design Librarian. I was surprised by how much I really loved teaching and conducting research consultations during my time at Yale, and this new position at the Ringling will allow me to focus primarily on those aspects of librarianship. In collaboration with another Instructional Design Librarian (who also happens to be an IU alum!), I will be teaching undergraduate art students how to conduct research and about critical information/visual literacy. In this position I hope to continue to develop public speaking skills while bringing a fresh perspective to library instruction. I want to introduce more engaging activities and relatable analogies to help students take advantage of the resources offered at an academic institution. At the very least, I want students to understand their own agency in their research process and to feel more comfortable approaching librarians for help. I was attracted to this position because the director of the library at the Ringling, Kristina Keogh, was my former supervisor at the IU Fine Arts Library. She encouraged me to pursue so many professional development opportunities as a student, and I always loved working with her. I always said that it would be a dream-come-true scenario to work with her again.

5. How did your experience at IU and the art museum prepare you for post-graduation?

I can’t thank Jenny and the museum’s registrar, Anita Bracalente, enough for the opportunities they gave me at the museum. Working at the museum gave me such a well-rounded perspective on how to serve patrons as an art librarian. I feel as though I have a particularly nuanced understanding of what my patrons need, whether they’re conducting provenance research or just starting to browse the available literature on a new subject. Getting to work so closely with TMS, the museum’s collection management system, helped me better understand metadata standards, which is crucial for efficiently managing projects that are related to digital collections. The Yale Center for British Art also uses TMS, so I felt confident diving straight into my work there.

I think my curatorial experience helped me stand out as a candidate for the Kress Fellowship. At IU I had curated a special installation about Josef Albers’s pedagogy while he was an instructor at Yale, so I had a unique understanding of his legacy in the School of Art’s curricula. Also, working closely with MFA students provided me the opportunity to understand a variety of working processes. I’m especially grateful that Jenny trusted me to work with them.

6. What do you miss about IU and Bloomington the most?

I miss the B-Line/Clear Creek trail and how easy it was to bike everywhere! I made a lot of close friends while I was there, so I plan to visit as soon as I have time. I also find myself craving food from the Owlery and Rainbow Bakery.

7. Are there any areas of research that you are interested in exploring in the future?

I’d like to continue researching queer theory and underground subcultures, but I’m also starting to read more about critical and feminist pedagogy. Right now, I’m working on an essay about comics, their history of censorship, and their current place in academic libraries. My reading list is never-ending, so I’m not sure where my research will take me in the future.

8. Anything else that you would like to add?

I just want to reiterate my thanks to the staff at the museum who supported me throughout grad school. With the relocation of the Fine Arts Library, the renovations at the museum, and the relocation of both the art history and information and library science departments, I might not see the IU I knew as a student when I get the chance to visit in the future, but at least I know that I have a fantastic network of friends, colleagues, and mentors in Bloomington.

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website