Caught in the Act

PEM Curator of Chinese Art Moves to MFA

By Jared Bowen

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August 10, 2012
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Dr. Nancy Berliner (MFA)

In museum circles this is pretty big. Not "I-found-a-da Vinci-behind-the-furnace" big, but a major change in the art world, nonetheless. Dr. Nancy Berliner, curator of Chinese Art at the Peabody Essex Museum and an absolute treasure herself, today was named the new Curator of Chinese Art a the Museum of Fine Arts.

At PEM, where she'd held the same position since 2000, Berliner was the force behind the aquisition of the Yin Yu Tang House, moved from a Chinese village to the museum where it now resides, just off the courtyard. Even more striking was her 2010 exhibition, The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City. Regarded with high esteem by the Chinese government for her scholarly work, she was given the unprecedented opportunity of curating a show of Forbidden City artifacts and was allowed to exhibit them outside of China for the first time ever. It was on view here before going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and it would not have happened without her.

It is monumental then, that Berliner is moving over to the MFA and leaving a tremendous legacy at PEM.  It's also very interesting in light of the fact that PEM disclosed last fall that its ongoing capital campaign had already brought in $550 million. That is considerably more than the $504 million the MFA netted with the close of its own capital campaign in 2008. Stakes are high and the quest for talent seems to be getting a little bruising.

Read the piece about finding art in surprising places that Berliner contributed to our Go Straight to the Art page earlier this summer:

"I have walked into humble houses in remote Chinese villages and seen dynamically-composed patchwork bed covers and door curtains made from old clothes by the women of the house. I’ve blown away dust in the Forbidden City to reveal intricately inlaid mother-of-pearl patterning in black lacquer." Read more....

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About the Author
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 

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