The Arts of Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art
_The following is an excerpt from the 2013 publication _The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Early gifts of Southeast Asian art at the Dallas Museum of Art include the 10th-century rearing lion [1970.17], a gift of the Dallas Art Association and The Art League Fund, and the 10th-century head of a deity, perhaps Vishnu [1969.10], also a Dallas Art Association purchase. From the art of the Khmer empire in Cambodia the large head of an asura, from the Bayon period [1994.256], a gift of David T. Owsley and the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation in honor of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, represents a demon who competes with the gods for the elixir of immortality. This grand theme was perhaps best expressed in the great balustrade of the bridge at Angkor that leads to the Bayon temple. From the large Buddhist Lokeshvara figure [PG.2007.29], to the sculpture of a female deity, probably a Hindu goddess [PG.2007.50], both intended gifts of David T. Owsley, to the virtually abstract and monumental linga [2010.7], a gift of David T. Owsley, to the corner relief with devatas, an architectural element with relief sculpture [2003.22.A-D], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alconda-Owsley Foundation and the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, it is possible to see at the DMA a group of artworks revealing the refined elegance and majestic calm of Khmer art.
For centuries, Thailand was under Khmer rule from neighboring Cambodia, and later Thai art reveals this Khmer influence. The DMA collection has been enhanced by a number of examples of Thai bronze work, including the fine early bronze probably depicting Maitreya [PG.2007.53], an intended gift of David T. Owsley. Mr. Owsley has contributed several works of Thai Buddhist figures, as well as a Khmer palanquin ring [PG.2007.54], a Thai dragon finial [PG.2007.57], and a Khmer ritual conch shell [PG.2007.65.A-B], all intended gifts from David T. Owsley, which display the delicate ornamental designs of Khmer and Thai art. The most impressive Thai work is a large 15th-century standing gilded sculpture of Shakyamuni, a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and the Wendover Fund, where the Buddha is shown as a royal figure [2006.21]. It may be compared with the Thai crowned Buddha head [PG.2007.52], an intended gift of David T. Owsley, as well as the Lan Na Buddha [1998.65], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, where the Buddha is shown in simple monk’s robes, touching the earth after having subdued Mara, the demon of ignorance.
Javanese art, which often expresses Indian influence and Hindu and Buddhist themes, makes up a small portion of the DMA collection. Important examples, however, include the massive figure of the elephant-headed god Ganesha [1963.33], a Dallas Art Association purchase in 1963 from the Arts of Man exhibition, and Mr. Owsley’s intended gift of a seated ancestor figure [PG.2007.11]. These Indian-related works are a good complement to the museum’s holdings in tribal Indonesian art.
Anne Bromberg, "The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art: A History" in The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013: 17-18.