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Buddhist votive stele with Buddha and two Bodhisattvas, 678
Unknown artist, China
The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund 2021.34
In Tang dynasty China (618–906), patrons commissioned Buddhist artworks to accrue spiritual merit—and political favor. This stele, which depicts a seated Buddha flanked by bodhisattvas, once occupied a temple niche. An inscription states the creation date, the patrons who commissioned it, and its dedicatee: Emperor Gaozong and his consort the Empress Wu. The Empress (r. 690–705) would soon become the dynasty’s most powerful woman. She wielded authority for over 50 years, first as consort to a weak emperor and later as the power behind the throne held by her youngest son. The inscription proves that, in 678, her influence was already evident.
Fourth Family Octagon, 2013
Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Iranian, 1922–2019
Reverse painted glass, mirrored glass, plaster
The William Hood Dunwoody Fund and gift of funds from Mary and Bob Mersky 2021.35.2
Monir Shohroudy Farmanfarmaian lived many years within New York City’s vibrant artistic community. Yet, a visit to a mirrored mosque in Shiraz, Iran, inspired her creative revelation:
“The very space seemed on fire, the lamps blazing in hundreds and thousands of reflections . . . . It was a universe unto itself, architecture transformed by performance, all movement and fluid light, all solids fractured and dissolved in brilliance in space, in prayer.”
Farmanfarmaian would thereafter focus on geometry and light, employed in Islamic art to evoke divine presence. She explored their capacity to transform the material world into the infinite, also finding affinity with her minimalist counterparts.
Transformation Mask, 2017
Beau Dick, Kwakwaka’wakw (Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation), 1955–2016
Red cedar, acrylic, faux fur
Gift of funds from Mary and Bob Mersky and the Jane and James Emison Endowment for Native American Art 2021.38
A Chief within his Kwakwaka’wakw community, Beau Dick actively engaged the contemporary art world, challenging it to accept First Nations art on its own terms. Mia’s approach to global contemporary art, with its broad decolonial framework, ensures that his work is presented as both Native and contemporary.
Dick embraced community and communal sharing of resources over Western concepts of material wealth and ownership. He created this Transformation Mask for the international exhibition Documenta 14 (2017), but held it back so it could be danced in a potlatch ceremony, a gift-giving feast that reaffirms community bonds and the supernatural world.
Double Plot, 2018
Otobong Nkanga, Nigerian/Belgian, born 1974
Viscose, polyester, cotton, wool, acrylic; 5 inkjet prints on laser
cut Forex plates
The Christina N. and Swan J. Turnblad Memorial Fund 2021.47
A preoccupation of Otobong Nkanga’s work is the environmental and human legacy of European colonialism within the African continent. In Double Plot, Nkanga’s interest in mining and landscape scarification is reflected in the lines that run throughout the tapestry; they gesture to geographical borders, tree roots, veins of precious ores and of the human body. Using silver and copper threads, Nkanga makes literal the connection to these precious metals.