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Chinese culture considers peaches very lucky, symbolizing longevity and good fortune. This bowl from the Qing dynasty (about 1700) certainly shows that the peach has stood the test of time! // Bowl, China, Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), about 1700. Porcelain with overglaze enamels. Gift of Mrs. Helen Hudgens in memory of her husband Mr. James W. Hudgens. 1998.18.

7 Lucky Works of Art

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re highlighting pieces in our collection that bring us luck all year round. Take a look at 7 Lucky Works of Art in our collection, found from cultures across the globe! 1. Qing Dynasty

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5 Things To Know About Holi

Each March, the Museum celebrates Indian culture at our Holi family festival. With live performances, bright colors, and fun activities, it is the perfect way to welcome springtime!

Here are 5 Things To Know About Holi before the big day!

1. It’s a Celebration of Spring.

Holi begins in India on the last full moon of winter. The celebration also prompts spring-cleaning and, for many Hindus, the start of a new year. After the relentless winter we had this year, we couldn’t be happier to welcome warmer weather!

2. It Symbolizes New Beginnings.

Holi is a chance to forgive and forget, reconciling with those we have hurt and who have hurt us. Holi is the time to let the past go, and let love abound!

3. It’s Known for Vibrant Colors.

It is believed that the changing seasons make it easy to catch a cold. In Indian tradition, the bright colors thrown were also medicinal herbs to ward off illness before spring. Today, the colors that are thrown are not herbs, but are just for fun! Anyone who is at the festival is free game to be hit by some color. At the end of each day, everyone is covered in vivid colors to greet the spring season.

4. It Promotes Harmony.

The festival breaks down all barriers of caste, creed, sex, and religion; anything that divides a society is forgotten, as everyone celebrates the festival together. Holi fosters unity and a common bond throughout the country, spreading goodwill and cheer to all.

5. It’s a Party!

More than anything, Holi is the ultimate party. With music, dance, food, and drinks in the streets, everyone stops their usual routine to have some fun. The party begins on the eve of Holi by setting a bonfire, as a symbol of good over evil, and lasts several days.

Join us to learn more and celebrate this weekend! Happy Holi!


Image from the Pravasi Herald, from Holi Festival 2011 at the BMA

Into The Streets: A Community Day of Service

Into The Streets: A Community Day of Service

The Museum is always looking for ways to take art beyond our walls and into Birmingham, as a part of our mission to provide cultural and educational experiences for our community. The perfect weather this weekend had everyone looking for

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Callahan Lecture: Illustrating Victorious Lives: Jaina Narrative Painting

On Saturday, March 8, the BMA welcomed Robert J. Del Bontà, Ph.D., who led the discussion Illustrating Victorious Lives: Jaina Narrative Painting. Dr. Del Bontà examined the illustrated manuscripts that detail the lives of the Jainas, through the lens of the Svetambara and Digambara. Seeing these illustrated narratives side by side was both rare and informative, and it was the first lecture on this topic held at the BMA.

Dr. Del Bontà has taught courses at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and curated many shows there and elsewhere. He has written on a wide range of subjects, but his major interest is Jaina art. Since 2006, he has worked with the Centre of Jaina Studies at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

Play the lecture below to learn about these fascinating works, which show how similar stories can be told differently through art.

Spotlight on the Collection

March 2014: Hamilton Folios

SOTC March 2014 2Etruscan, 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 Museum for £8140. However, monetary value was the least of ambitions for Hamilton: he sought to document his collection in great detail. The so-called Hamilton Folios were not only the most precise and comprehensive documentation of its kind, but they also paved the way for artistic and cultural tastes in Europe.

When Hamilton arrived in Naples as the British ambassador in 1764, he feverishly began collecting antique vases, a common hobby among Neapolitan scholars, artists, and courtiers. He acquired many directly from archaeological excavations – such as those ongoing at Pompeii and Herculaneum – rather than dealers. The Etruscan and Greco-Roman origins of these artifacts coincided with the formation of patriotic identity in Italy.

Hamilton believed the folios should provide theoretical principles of classical art, supported by examples. He meticulously and systematically documented his collection, noting the variety of forms, styles, and painted ornamentation. His drawings and paintings showed different views and sections, and he included detailed analysis of the vases’ inscriptions and imagery.

In addition to scholarship, Hamilton intended the folios as didactic tools, “useful to Artists, to Men of Letters and by their means to the Word in General,” as described in Hancarville’s preface to the first volume. Indeed, by the end of the 18th century, ancient vases, coins, mosaics, reliefs, and manuscripts appeared regularly in Neoclassical paintings. The folios served particularly well as a pattern book for ceramic manufacturing, specifically for Josiah Wedgwood. Hamilton sent the first prints to Wedgwood, who developed new production techniques with black basalt and encaustic painting to imitate the Etruscan paintings’ black and red-ochre color scheme. Not only were Wedgwood’s craft qualities at the forefront of pottery production, but his marketing techniques enticed Europeans to buy vases and art in the Etruscan style.

—Charling Chen, Goodrich Curatorial Intern 2013-2014

See it for yourself!

Modern edition in the Museum’s Hanson Library: D’Hancarville, Pierre. The Collection of Antiquities from the Cabinet of Sir William Hamilton. Köln: Taschen, 2004.

Boston Public Library’s archived copy

Join the conversation!

How does one culture’s art influence other cultures throughout history? Visit the links below to learn more about Hamilton’s folios, the Etruscan style, and how the classical world has shaped our world today.

“The Big Picture: The Ancient Mediterranean in Early America,” Common-place, July 2008

“Of Ancient Vases and Pleated Skirts,” Irenebrination, December 10, 2013

"Mrs. Evelyn Nash, London" (1953), Inge Morath, American, born Austria (1923-2002). Gelatin silver print. Gift of C. Martin Hames in honor of Gail Andrews 2001.54.

The BMA’s Best Dressed

With Oscar Sunday upon us, anticipation is in the air as we await the winners of the year’s best films, performances, and – of course – fashions. There is certainly an art to selecting the right look for the red

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Fête Delacroix a Success!

courtesy of Nik Layman Photo Video

courtesy of Nik Layman Photo Video

Who Is Delacroix? Apparently Birmingham was ready to find out, as the preview party for Delacroix and the Matter of Finish had an overwhelming response of more than 1,300 guests.

An opening lecture by the Museum’s new curator of European art, Dr. Robert Schindler, introduced us to the fascinating life and world of Eugène Delacroix, from his childhood in France to his rise as the Leader of the Romantic Movement. The lecture, which quickly sold out, received rave reviews by the lucky 400 guests in the audience.

Upstairs, the doors to the exhibition were opened for the first time, and visitors were able to finally lay eyes on the collection of Delacroix works, flown in from cities around the world to be in Birmingham.

During the party, guests toasted the arrival of the exhibition with complimentary champagne cocktails. A Social Affair provided indulgent French hors d’oeuvres, including petite chicken cordon bleu, crepes, a charcuterie platter, and macarons. Some guests explored varieties of French wines at a station dedicated to wine tastings, while others documented their experience by posing at our photo booth with a real-life Eugène Delacroix. As musical entertainment, soloist Diane McNarron performed a French cabaret piece accompanied by pianist Ray Reach. Later in the evening, DJ Lee Jeffries kicked it up a notch, spinning selections of contemporary French house music.

If you missed out on Fête Delacroix, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the acclaimed exhibition in a lively setting. Our First Thursday series will make the exhibition available after regular museum hours on the first Thursdays of March, April, and May. During those evenings, guests will also be able to enjoy wine, tapas, and special Delacroix-related programming. Click here for more details.



Mobile Tours

BMA smartguide

Launched in October 2013, the BMA’s smartguide offers an innovative and fun way for visitors to engage more deeply with artworks from special exhibitions and the collection. The smartguide provides text, primary and alternate images of artworks, audio and video clips, links to web resources, and other related information. Visitors can search by a unique stop number – printed on labels adjacent to artworks in the Museum – or choose a thematic tour by special exhibition or collecting area. A special Family Focus! section provides opportunities to adults and children to explore the Museum together.

The smartguide, accessed for FREE here, is a responsive mobile application optimized for tablets, smartphones, and other web-enabled devices. Visitors without their own devices may check out an iPad for FREE from the Museum’s information desk, located on the 2nd floor in front of Oscar’s café; FREE WiFi is also available throughout the Museum.

New artworks and tours are added regularly, so check in often to see what’s new!

The Museum is grateful to Dr. & Mrs. David Skier for funding the purchase of iPads for the Museum and the initial development and implementation of this project.

Using your web-enabled smart device, click here to get started.

Mobile Tours

Art Speaks mobile app

iPad-Art Speaks homeIn August 2013, the Museum debuted its second mobile app, which engaged with a series of exhibitions commemorating the Civil Rights Movement.

The Art Speaks app was designed to enhance the experience of onsite and offsite visitors with original content, including contributions by scholars, collectors, community members, and the artists themselves. The app offered images, text, audio and video clips, links to web resources, and other related exhibition and event information.

In 2013, Birmingham hosted a citywide Civil Rights Movement commemoration, marked by the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which took the lives of four little girls. The Museum’s series Art Speaks: 50 Years Forward dealt with the history of the movement, specific events, and the continued struggle for human rights.

Etched in Collective History (August 18-November 17, 2013) presented the work of artists who interrogate, depict, and memorialize the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to an introduction by curator Dr. Jeffreen Hayes, the app provided exclusive interviews with contemporary artists Emma Amos, Whitfield Lovell, Radcliffe Bailey, Jefferson Pinder, and Shinique Smith, among others, whose artworks deal with the legacy of the movement.

For The Birmingham Project (September 8-December 2, 2013), acclaimed photographer Dawoud Bey commemorated the four young girls and two boys whose lives were lost in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Bey photographed girls, women, boys and men that represent the ages of the young victims at the time of their deaths, and the ages they would be today. The app provided video commentary on the project from Bey, as well as audio interviews with community members who served as portrait sitters.

Question Bridge: Black Males (October 6-December 29, 2013) explored challenging issues within the Black male community through transmedia conversations that cross geographic, economic, generational, educational, and social strata of American society. The app included video excerpts of the project curated by the Question Bridge team – which includes Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith, and Kamal Sinclair.

Finally, the app included video of the full performance of the Museum’s first commissioned, site-specific performance art piece. Introduced by curator Dr. Jeffreen Hayes, ‘Tis So Sweet Or I Need Sugar Lawd (April 25, 2013) featured Theaster Gates, an ensemble of musicians, and community members who shared stories and reflected on the pivotal themes of the movement and African American heritage.

“The contributions from artists, collectors, and community members made the Art Speaks app truly unique,” said Kristi McMillan, assistant curator of education for visitor engagement. “Some of the artists rarely speak about their art. We also interviewed some of the artist’s subjects, including Dr. Renée Jones-Jeffery, the infant pushed in a carriage in Ernest Withers’s iconic 1961 photograph Daddy, I Want to Be Free Too. These voices breathed life into the artwork, providing insights into the histories of people and objects. Their take on how the art speaks to them likewise encouraged visitors to reflect on the impact and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.”

“The web-based app allowed visitors to access Art Speaks in a variety of ways,” said Sean Pathasema, new technology initiatives project manager. “For example, visitors to the Museum’s galleries could use a smartphone or tablet, or off-site visitors could pull it up at home on a desktop. This versatile platform gave our visitors not only the widest possible access through the device of their choice but also the most up-to-date information each time they visit any section of the app.”

Visitors without their own devices checked out an iPad from the Museum’s information desk. Complimentary public WiFi is available throughout the Museum and the Ireland Sculpture Garden.