The exhibition “Arts of Ancient Vietnam: From River Plain to Open Sea,” now on view at the Asia Society Museum took over 20 years to produce.
Is the show worth the wait? It is, according to Holland Cotter. “From the moment you enter the galleries you’re seeing things you won’t find anywhere else and certainly not in this combination: a bronze drum as hefty as a hot tub; a wooden Buddha, tall, dark, and Giacometti-thin. Avid-eyed Hindu deities keep company with contortionist dancers. A tiny serpent of beaten gold basks in a spotlight. Ceramic plates and bowls crowd a room just as they had once filled the hold of a ship that went down in the South China Sea.” As a trade hub, Vietnam absorbed cultural influences from China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and more, and these disparate influences are reflected in the show. “Once you’ve made your way through the society’s suave installation, you’ve seen treasures from 10 Vietnamese museums. You’ve time-traveled from the first millennium B.C. to the 17th century A.D. And you’ve style-traveled through dozens of cultures both inside and outside Vietnam itself.”