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One of the collection’s most important pieces is a life-size 13th century wooden sculpture of a multi-armed Buddhist deity astride a kneeling bull.
“I’ve been coveting something like that for years,” said Matthew Welch, the museum’s deputy director and present Japanese curator. “When anyone says Buddhism in America, people think serenity and tranquility because that’s what people collect here, but there is a much more energetic side of Buddhist imagery like these protectors of the faith that scowl, grimace and wave their six arms and hands.”
‘They’re like children’
The Clarks’ robust, sometimes bawdy imagery and idiosyncratic motifs will fill many gaps in the institute’s collection. That includes historic and contemporary bamboo baskets, some as elaborate as sculptures, as well as 80 ceramics by Fukami Sueharu, a contemporary artist known for sculptural abstractions.
The gift would complement a promised bequest from St. Paul-born, New York-based collector Mary Griggs Burke, who, at her death in December, divided her legendary Japanese collection between the MIA and the Met in New York. That might bring roughly 500 pieces to Minneapolis, including early paintings, lacquerware, sculpture and calligraphy dating from about 3000 B.C. to the mid-19th-century.
Officially, Clark’s wife is involved with the collection, but “she’s a passive collector,” Bill Clark said. “She says, ‘Honey, I don’t care what you buy, just don’t tell me what it costs.’ ”
As for Clark, he loves every piece.
“They’re like children, everyone has a story,” he said. “But I know they’re going to a good home.”
Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431