Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The István Zelnik Southeast Asian Gold Museum

A few weeks ago The István Zelnik Southeast Asian Gold Museum has opened its gates on the Andrassy Boulvard, in the city center.

The István Zelnik Southeast Asian Gold Museum provides a home for nearly a thousand artifacts from eleven of the states of  today’s Southeast Asia. Most of these objects are of gold and date from prehistoric times to the 20th century. The museum’s material is founded on the unique collection of Dr. István Zelnik, a former diplomat, now a businessman and art collector.

The Gold Museum presents the realms of culture and art in this colourful and multifaceted region. The museum halls lead the visitor across the eras of Southeast Asian art and its exceptional wealth.
The mainstays of the collection are the gold and silver artefacts from Cham, Khmer, Javanese and tribal cultures. . The collection of  religious objects, statues connected to Buddhism and Hinduism is also outs standing.

Representations connected to Buddhism can be found in all sections of the collection. Standing, sitting or walking Buddhas and the ‘thousand Buddha’ representations on the Buddha Wall are very important in the collection, but many articles of religious practice can also be seen, for example, a stupa-shaped reliquary, votive plates and ritual vessels.

Hindu deities - Indian influences have affected the region’s art significantly since the 5th century. In the Hindu religion Shiva plays a central role, which the collection reflects perfectly.

The multicoloured character of the civilisations in the area have been enriched by Southeast Asia’s own trade network, which existed alongside the Central Asian Silk Road, that is, the ‘Maritime Silk Route’, and it was similarly important. Trade on these routes is shown in a separate exhibition hall, where the many distinctive goods it distributed can be seen, including gemstones, silk, porcelain and precious metal objects that changed hands within the trade network.

The upstairs halls of the museum house groups of objects that offer a view of the Cham, Khmer and Javanese court cultures, as well as the refined art of smithying in the tribal cultures of the mainland and the archipelago, mainly through gold objects. There is also a separate hall here dedicated to the Shiva cult within Hinduism because of the particular importance it gained in Southeast Asia. The influence of Islam from around the 12th – 13th centuries can also be felt in various groups of objects.

In the Cham collection more of the so-called kosha—which were used to decorate or ‘dress’ linga (phallic symbols) in the cult of the god Shiva—can be seen, and in better condition, than in any other collection in the world. Cham statue jewellery: medals, rings, armlets, diadems and crowns also appear in matchless diversity. The collection of Cham silver statues is another uniquely rich source of iconographic plastic art, some of them have never been seen intact and in their full glory before. The inscribed Cham ritual vessels represent similar historic value and rarity. Secular jewellery forms a separate category in the museum that sometimes overlaps with that of statue jewellery.

The group of small sheets for ritual purposes, inscribed and decorated with figures or other representations, forms a subgroup within the Khmer collection. The Khmer jewellery compilation includes some outstandingly valuable and unique rarities, as does the group of small, everyday ritual objects such as small boxes, pots and storage vessels.

The collection of materials from tribal cultures presents some rarities never seen before, from human-shaped ritual objects likely to have been part of death or ancestral cults, through to the Bronze Age gold drum from the Dong Son Culture and death cult masks, and on to the series of medals (plates) from Taninbar. The tribal jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago is both spectacular and unusual.
In addition to tribal artworks, court art in the Southeast Asian Archipelago is also richly represented  in this collection.

Each and every one of the artefacts placed in the Hall of Treasures is a spiritual treasure in the deepest sense, whilst also guiding the visitor to an interpretation of the meaning of secular treasures.

A Tropical Statue Garden and an Asian Teahouse also await guests at the Gold Museum located on the museum axis of Andrássy Avenue (in the former Rauch Villa).

More information: Zelnik István Museum

Budapest, Andrássy út 100.

Open all year. Opening Hours:  Monday: 9am -6pm, Tuesday to Sunday: 9am -7 pm

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