One of the most thrilling aspects of my visit to California was the obvious Asian influence on the local culture. In San Francisco I saw a Japantown for the first time. In Berkeley most restaurants were an eclectic mix of Asian cuisines. In Oakland I tasted the best Vietnamese sandwich ever. Even Sacramento enriched that angle of my Californian experiences, as happened in my short stop at the Crocker Art Museum.
I measure up a museum’s exhibition success by its ability to surprise me and transform the visit into an exciting adventure. A surprise in an art museum would mean an unexpected connection between two cultures or an unknown angle of a given artist. Crocker did it; after seeing its Asian collection I almost cancelled my scheduled trip to Thailand for the following month.
Crocker’s permanent collection is too big for being in display, only about 4 percent of its 14,000 works of art are in display at a given moment; however, Digital Crocker allows seeing works not in display during a visit. The collection is divided into eight categories, namely California Art, Drawings & Prints, Asian Art, International Ceramics, American Art, European Art, Photography and Recent Acquisitions.
The Early California Art collection includes outstanding examples dating from the Gold Rush through 1945, and was thus complementary to the visit to Sutter’s Fort. Judge E. B. Crocker assembled the core collection in the early 1870s; the collection was afterwards enriched by other contributors. It includes scenes from the mines, the Grand Canyon and the life in the nineteenth century settlements.
The main points of interest for me were the various Asian artifacts displayed in the museum. Korean ceramics, Chinese textiles, Japanese arms and armor, and tea ware by 20th-century masters as Shoji Hamada and Tatsuko Shimaoka were there to be seen. Thai and Burmese sculpture and decorative arts offer a foretaste of the rich religious tradition and the role of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Overall, the collection shows the diversity of Buddhism in Asia, and makes a good prelude to a trip there.
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am – 5pm; Thursday, 10am – 9pm
Free admission on Sundays from 10am to 1pm