Spotlight on the Collection

Besides its unbeatable lineup of special exhibitions, the BMA has one of the finest permanent collections in the Southeast. With more than 24,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, videos, and decorative arts, the collection spans more than 4000 years and represents cultures from around the globe. Now, discover your Museum with the Spotlight on the Collection series. Experience the spotlight work in the galleries with an ArtBreak or Slow Art Sunday, like us on Facebook to learn more, or join the conversation below to tell us what you think about these artworks!

Ganesha, 10th century. Cambodian, Angkor style. Sandstone. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles B. Crow, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. William A. Grant, Jr., 1978.73

April 2014: Ganesha

Ganesha, Cambodian, 10th century In Hinduism, the god Ganesha both places and clears away obstacles. He appears frequently in all walks of Hindu life: by the roadside, in household shrines, in temples and shops, and inside covers of books. His

March 2014: Hamilton Folios

March 2014: Hamilton Folios

Etruscan, Greek, and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of the Honble William Hamilton, Baron Pierre d’Hancarville, 1766-1767 What is the value in collecting vases? In 1772, Sir William Hamilton sold his collection of  Greek vases and other antiquities to the British

Jizō Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha).
Japanese, Heian period (AD 794-1185), about 1100. Wood. 
36 × 10 × 5 1/2 inches. 
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Estate of Carolyn Quinn, 2005.16a-b.

February 2014: Jizo Bosatsu

Jizō Bosatsu, Japanese, about 1100 One of the most beloved Buddhist deities in Japan, Jizō is a bosatsu (bodhisattva), one of a group of enlightened beings who choose to delay entry into nirvana in order to help others. As the

Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California. Albert Bierstadt, 1865. Oil on canvas. 64 1/2 × 96 1/2 inches. Gift of the Birmingham Public Library, 1991.879.

January 2014: Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California

Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California, Albert Bierstadt, 1865 Albert Bierstadt’s adept handling of the brush, sensitivity to composition and color, and ability to capture the atmospheric qualities of light place him among the most effective painters of the natural splendor of

Jar. Vietnam, 16th century. Glazed stoneware with four monster-head bosses below rim, mythological animals with cloud and flame motifs painted in underglaze-blue cobalt-oxide and overglaze enamels, with inset, reticulated, bisque-fired roundels with cranes. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchased with funds provided by the Estate of William M. Spencer III, AFI289.2010.

December 2013: Jar

Jar. Vietnamese, 16th century. Glazed stoneware with four monster-head bosses below rim, mythological animals with cloud and flame motifs painted in underglaze-blue cobalt-oxide and overglaze enamels, with inset, reticulated, bisque-fired roundels with cranes. 24 1/4 × 15 inches. Collection of

November 2013: Chilkat Blanket

November 2013: Chilkat Blanket

Chilkat Blanket, Native American, Tlingit people, 19th century A chilkat blanket is worn draped over the shoulders of chiefs or high-ranking men during important ceremonial occasions. The graphic, bold design elements are derived from family crests and are composed of

Cup (Qero). Colonial Period Inca culture (1532 – 1821) , Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, 18th century. Wood and lacquer. 8 × 6 7/8 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by John M. Harbert III, by exchange, 1994.28.

October 2013: Cup

Cup, colonial period Inca culture, 18th century Some traditions withstand the test of time – through generations, cultural changes, and even centuries of progress and modernization. Yet, these same outside influences often result in new ideas and approaches that supplant

I Am a Man: Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tennessee, March 28th, 1968. Ernest Withers, 1968; printed 1994. Gelatin silver print. Museum purchase, 2006.322.1.

September 2013: I Am a Man

I Am a Man: Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tennessee, March 28th, 1968, Ernest Withers, 1968 After Ernest Withers (1922-2007) received his first camera in high school, he quickly began documenting events and people in his immediate community.  A quiet determination

L’aurore (Dawn). William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1881. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Estate of Nelle H. Stringfellow, 2005.111.

August 2013: Dawn

L’Aurore (Dawn), William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1881 Dawn – early morning represented by a female figure reaching back to smell a blooming calla lily – exemplifies William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s standards of beauty and technical skill. His attention to detail and smooth finished surfaces

Perfume Fountain. Paris, France, about 1710. Porcelain with underglaze blue enamel decoration and gilt bronze. 17 1/4 × 10 inches. The Eugenia Woodward Hitt Collection, 1991.22a-b.

July 2013: Perfume Fountain

Perfume Fountain, French, about 1710 Porcelain, a ceramic material first made in China, was a staple of trade between Europe and East Asia. Though the present in Europe in the early 17th century, King Louis XIV of France’s affinity for

Portland Vase Copy. Wedgwood, about 1790. Stoneware (jasperware). The Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection.

June 2013: Portland Vase copy

Portland Vase Copy, Josiah Wedgwood, 1789 A Roman artist carved the Portland Vase from cameo glass around the 1st century AD. Unearthed in the late 16th or early 17th century, it came into the collection of Margaret Bentinck, 2nd Duchess

School of Beauty, School of Culture. Kerry James Marshall, 2012. Acrylic and glitter on unstretched canvas. Museum purchase with funds provided by Elizabeth (Bibby) Smith, the Collectors Circle for Contemporary Art, Jane Comer, the Sankofa Society, and general acquisition funds, 2012.57. © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of Kerry James Marshall and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.

May 2013: School of Beauty, School of Culture

School of Beauty, School of Culture, Kerry James Marshall, 2012 For many African American artists born during the Civil Rights Movement, turbulent events they witnessed or experienced growing up during that time affect their later work. Kerry James Marshall, who

Urn Representing Cosijo, the God of Rain. Zapotec Culture, Mexico, about AD 450. Fired clay. 21 × 12 × 11 inches. Museum purchase, 1965.33.

April 2013: Urn Representing Cosijo, the God of Rain

Urn Representing Cosijo, the God of Rain, Zapotec culture, Mexico, about AD 450 You can’t take it with you – or can you? The saying “you can’t take it with you” encourages people to enjoy life to the fullest since

Shiva and Parvati (Uma-Mahesvara). India, Halebid region, Karnataka, 12th-13th centuries. Chloritic schist. Museum purchase with funds provided by the 1990 Museum Dinner and Ball, 1990.109.

March 2013: Shiva and Parvati

Shiva and Parvati (Uma-Mahesvara), Indian, about 1150 Shiva and Parvati (Uma-Mahesvara) once adorned a temple in Halebid, India. This sculpture depicts the Hindu gods Shiva, his wife Parvati, and their two sons: the elephant-headed god Ganesha on their right, and

Power Figure (Nkishi). Songye people, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lubao Territory, early 20th century. Wood, hide, horn, metal, fiber, glass beads. 35 × 7 1/2 × 8 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Birmingham City Council through the Birmingham Arts Commission, and the Endowed Fund for Acquisitions, 1989.64.

February 2013: Power Figure (Nkishi)

Power Figure (Nkishi), Songye People Every culture has idea about power and how to represent it. Some may define power as physical strength; others may conceive of it as the ability to change and influence people; still others may describe