The Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art. Courtesy of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida.


The Ringling’s new Center For Asian Art to open in May 2016
Designed by Machado Silvetti, Center underlines Ringling’s commitment to the study and appreciation of Asian arts and culture.
Sarasota, Fla., Jan. 21, 2016 – A striking new center devoted to the arts and cultures of Asia will open at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in May 2016. The Center for Asian Art in the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Gallery of Asian Art will foster the exploration of historical and contemporary Asian cultures through research, exhibitions and programs celebrating all aspects of Asian arts and cultures. The Ringling commissioned the internationally renowned architecture firm Machado Silvetti to design a new building and renovate a portion of the existing Museum of Art, which together will provide approximately 25,000 square-feet for the new Center.
 The project includes the renovation of approximately 18,000 square feet within the Museum of Art’s 1966 expansion, as well as creation of a new 7,500 square-foot pavilion. The Center includes 6,800 square feet of gallery space for the display of rotating selections from The Ringling’s collection of Asian art, a 125-person lecture hall, a print/study room, a seminar room and open object storage, all linked by a new bridge connecting the pavilion to the Museum’s West Wing. The renovations to the existing Museum of Art respect the original architecture while enhancing the interior space to open up currently under-utilized areas as gallery space and improve the visitor experience.

Posted 22 January 2016

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The new pavilion’s design draws inspiration from Asian art and architecture, creating a distinctive addition to The Ringling campus, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Developed from a lead gift of $4.1 million from Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt, followed by several key gifts from area foundations and individuals, the new $10.2 million Center will further The Ringling’s commitment to Asian art and position The Ringling as a scholarly destination and resource for the study and appreciation of Asian art and culture.
 In addition to premier galleries for viewing and understanding Asian art, the Center embraces a broader academic mission in concert with The Ringling’s parent institution, Florida State University (FSU). In future years, The Ringling plans to offer undergraduate and graduate Asian art history seminars, primarily geared toward FSU and local college students, and scholars from a range of fields will be in residence to conduct research for publication and presentation. The lecture hall will host visiting specialists and artists. Visitors from around the world will be able to experience objects up close in the study room, and public programs for all ages focused on the arts and cultures of Asia will be expanded.
 “Through the creation of this Center, The Ringling underscores its dedication to and investment in the arts of Asia,” said Steven High, Executive Director of The Ringling. “The Center will allow us to cultivate strategic partnerships with individuals and institutions around the globe, making Sarasota and The Ringling an important site for both scholars and enthusiasts of Asian arts and culture. As part of a leading research university like FSU, this Center gives us the ability to engage with faculty, students and the community on a whole new level.”  
 “It has been an incredible process to work with the renowned architecture and design firm Machado Silvetti to build this new icon on The Ringling’s campus,” continued High.                           

The new three-story pavilion, which will connect to the existing Museum of Art on every floor, will also include an open loggia on the ground floor, with shaded space for rest and contemplation, a gallery on the second floor, and a flexible space on the third level for meetings and events, overlooking The Ringling’s beautiful grounds and Sarasota Bay. Extending out from the Museum of Art to the west, the pavilion will create a new entry point to the Museum of Art for visitors who wish to enter from the southwest side of the 66-acre campus. 
The new pavilion is itself a work of art, its façade a mosaic of large terra cotta tiles that respond to the tonality and textures of The Ringling’s architecture and landscape. The tiles—which are covered in a custom green glaze, inspired by the shades of jade found in Asian art, garden ornaments, and pavilions—are designed to evoke colors found in The Ringling’s lush natural gardens and grounds. Terra cotta was selected for its beauty, durability, and moisture resistance as well as for the fact that it has been used elsewhere on The Ringling’s campus, most notably at the historic Ca’ d’Zan mansion. Terra cotta is also one of the oldest and most reliable building materials in the history of architecture and has been used in traditional Eastern architecture for millennia.

“The project’s goal was to create an architecturally significant statement that would not be seen anywhere else,” said Rodolfo Machado, principal architect on the project. “We hope visitors will come away with a fresh awareness of the value of architecture and how it can inform inventive new approaches and profound responses to visual art,” Machado added.
Two special exhibitions will be mounted in the Museum of Art’s Searing Wing leading up to the opening of the new Center for Asian Art: Samurai: The Way of the Warrior (on view Jan. 15 through Apr. 17, 2016) traces a thrilling period of social and political history in Japan by focusing on the arms, armor and accessories of the legendary Samurai warriors, who ruled from 1185-1868. The more than 80 rare and exquisite objects, on loan from the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy – one of the most significant private samurai collections outside Japan – include full suits of armor, ornamented helmets, distinctive swords and adorned sword-hilts, and saddles.  Ink, Silk and Gold: Islamic Art from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (on view Feb. 5 through May 1, 2016) offers a window into the multifaceted artistic traditions of the Islamic world, from Spain to Indonesia. The exhibition features approximately 100 superb works of art from the 8thto the 21st centuries, and allows The Ringling to host a conversation about Islamic art as a synthesis of numerous cultures over the centuries.
 Most recently, The Ringling-organized exhibition Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts inFifteenth-Century China, was on view.Curated by Fan Zhang, the Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt Associate Curator of Asian Art, the exhibition explored the lives of nobility in late imperial China, and represented the first in a series of collaborations between The Ringling and the Hubei Provincial Museum in China. 
To inaugurate and celebrate this dynamic new Center, The Ringling has organized several special events: On February 17 and 18 Ringling donors and members will enjoy an opportunity to preview the new galleries and two major special exhibitions--Samurai: The Way of the Warrior and Ink, Silk and Gold: Islamic Art from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. And on May 15, the official opening of the Center will be celebrated with a day-long community festival which includes engaging performances, storytelling, art-making activities, games, demonstrations, culinary tours and gallery guides for visitors of all ages.
The Ringling is a center for art and history, situated on 66 magnificent acres on the shores of Sarasota Bay. It is built on the remarkable legacy of circus entrepreneur, collector of art, and financier John Ringling and his wife Mable.
The Ringling inspires visitors with an acclaimed collection of Old Master paintings, delights them with the story of the American circus as told through the first American circus museum as well as the world’s largest circus model, and transports them to the Roaring Twenties during a tour of the magnificent Ca’ d’Zan mansion.
The Ringling is also committed to exhibiting the work of an emerging community of living artists whose work moves beyond traditional practice and features dynamic and engaging contemporary visual and performing arts, including a diverse roster of theater, music, dance and film.
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