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Enku: The Sculptor Monk

Exporting Enlightenment

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
7:00 PM–8:30 PM

Jan van Alphen, Director of Exhibitions, Collections, and Research at the Rubin Museum of Art, will present a lecture on the Japanese priest-sculptor Enku (1632–1695), a subject that was featured in his 1999 exhibition at the Antwerpen Etnografisch Museum, where he was Curator and Director. This event is presented jointly by JASA and the Rubin Museum of Art.
Van Alphen will not only outline the life and work of Enku, but detail Enku’s practice of Shugendo and demonstrate how his artistic style looked forward to European modernism in its Brancusian simplicity of line. The story of how the curator gathered material and pieces for the exhibition in Antwerp becomes itself a pilgrimage, capped by a journey to the seasonally accessible Mount Omine.
Includes a gallery tour of From India East: Sculpture of Devotion from the Brooklyn Museum at 6:15 p.m. prior to the lecture.

About the Speaker

Jan van Alphen commenced his studies in Oriental Philology at the University of Ghent in Belgium. Continuing his post-graduate studies at the Bharatya Vidya Bhavan Mungalal Goenka Institute for post-graduate studies at the University of Mumbai, India, he focused on the translation of the Sanskrit treatise on Indian music”Natya Shastra” (1st century BCE). He also holds a doctorate in archaeology from the University of Ghent (Belgium), specializing in India and Southeast Asia. Starting his career at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, he was appointed Curator of the Asia Department at the Ethnographic Museum of Antwerp (Belgium) in 1985, a post he held for ten years. During this time he mounted eleven exhibitions on Asian themes, and supervised eight exhibitions on African and South-American art. From 1995 to 2009 he was Director of the Ethnographic Museum Antwerp, and concluded his time in Europe as Chairman of the Scientific Committee at the Centre for Fine Arts/BOZAR in Brussels (2009–2010). His later exhibitions include Tejas – 1500 years of Indian Art for the Centre of Fine Arts/BOZAR, Brussels, which brought over 200 sculptures from 28 major Indian museums and archaeological sites to Belgium for the first time; The Smile of Buddha: 1,600 years of Buddhist Art in Korea for the Centre of Fine Arts/BOZAR, Brussels, with 127 masterpieces from the National Museums of Korea; and A Passage to Asia: 25 Centuries of Exchange between Asia and Europe at the Centre for Fine Arts/BOZAR, Brussels. Joining the Rubin Museum in 2011, Van Alphen has been directly responsible for the exhibitions From India Eastand Fiercely Modern, an exhibition about the Naga people of northwestern India. Between 2000 and 2011 he served on the jury for the biennial Enku Grand Award, a competition for contemporary artists in the prefecture of Gifu, Japan.