Popularly known as the “Chinese horse gallery,” the Paul and Helen Bernat Gallery, 274, is the latest in the Museum’s extensive program to upgrade and improve our galleries. Opening on February 6, the gallery treats visitors to an innovative new display offering a contemplative atmosphere centered on a sublime sculpture, Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, surrounded by paintings, smaller sculptures, and ceramics from the Song dynasty. Curated by Nancy Berliner, Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art, the gallery celebrates the pinnacles of artistic production reached in China between the 10th and 13th centuries. With a flourishing economy and Buddhism’s growing influence, the imperial household, the elite, and temples commissioned fine works of art. Artisans explored fresh techniques and styles to enchant their clients, and artists developed radically new modes of expression.
The gallery includes an interactive touchscreen that interprets one of the Chinese scroll paintings on view. While only a small portion of the actual painting can be seen in the gallery, this screen allows visitors to explore the entire painting from end to end, zoom in on details, and learn more about Chinese painting. This gallery allows many of the MFA collection’s world-renowned Song masterpieces to again be shared with the public. The recently conserved 13th-century wood and polychrome painted Guanyin, a beloved work of art at the MFA, is on view after more than a year of treatment by objects conservator Abigail Hykin. Patrons at the Sponsor level and higher will get a behind-the-scenes look at the conservation treatment of Guanyin and hear about the new display at a special evening program on January 19.