Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book launch: The Albert Bender Collection of Asian Art in the National Museum of Ireland

Dr Audrey Whitty, the Collins Barracks curator who very kindly did an interview with Dublin Culture earlier this year, has published a new book in the National Museum's Monograph Series on the Albert Bender Collection, just in time for Christmas!

Albert Bender was born in Ireland but went to live with an uncle in San Francisco at an early age.  He went into the insurance business and was a multi-millionaire by his mid-twenties.  San Francisco was a gateway from the East and Bender developed an interest in Asian art and later became a great philanthropist.  He donated a fantastic collection of over 250 items to the National Museum in the 1930s.  The Louvre actually wanted it but Bender gave Dublin, his native city, first refusal and luckily they didn't.  Ireland didn't have much in the way of Asian art at this stage and our fledgling museum kept it.  The collection includes some particularly beautiful Tibetan Buddhist Thangkas (painted textiles depicting Buddhist scenes) and Japanese ukiyo-e (wood-block prints).  Through almost benign neglect, it was stored and ignored for several decades until Audrey got her hands on it.  The permanent exhibition opened in the Barracks in 2008 and this book is the result of several years research by Audrey.  She not only documents the collection but goes into the backdrop of how the museum ended up with it.  It's beautifully photographed as well.

The book was launched last night in the Barracks by Roisín Ingle of the Irish Times and is on sale now in the Museum Book shop.

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