The Tiger in Asian Art
Time Out says
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It’s getting a bit late in 2010, even when looking at the Chinese lunar calendar, to celebrate the Year of the Tiger, but it nevertheless provides the hook for this display of feline-focused Asian art and artefacts from the first century BC onwards.
The works are loosely grouped under five themes synonymous with the tiger in Asian cultures, including its role as a protector and a symbol of a spiritual journey. But with loans from the British Museum and the V&A, as well as from private collections, many of the pieces stand alone in their own right. Among these are an early eighteenth-century Chinese wool rug shaped like tiger pelt and a magical Hokusai scroll painting of a tiger with a grin like a Cheshire cat flying through a snowstorm, which was made in the last year of the artist’s life.
‘Tipoo’s Tiger’ – the V&A’s famous wooden automaton that shows a tiger mauling a prostrate European, with built-in sound effects – may not be here but there is a jewel-encrusted tiger head finial from the throne of Tipu, the Sultan of Mysore who had the tiger made and who later died fighting the British in India. The impact of colonialism on the tiger’s current status as one of the world’s most endangered species isn’t ignored here either. A fantastic sepia photograph shows three British army officers in India posing manfully against a staggering display of tiger and other big cat skins, skulls and trophies.
If the tiger’s association with change and conflict seems to be playing out accurately in 2010 (particularly in the political sphere), then perhaps there’s some reassurance that 2011’s year of the rabbit should promise more peaceful times.