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  INTERACTIVE GALLERY
Click to see the exhibit

Exhibit of major collection spans history of Japanese art

June 13, 2000
Web posted at: 5:26 p.m. EDT (2126 GMT)

(CNN) -- Mary Griggs Burke began seriously collecting Japanese art 27 years ago.

Now she has the largest, privately owned collection outside Japan, part of which is on display until June 25 at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The collection, which covers the development of Japanese art from 3000 B.C. to the 19th century, encompasses just about every aspect, Murase said, including ceramics, lacquerware, sculpture and paintings.

The curator is prominent art historian Miyeko Murase, who went on her first of many buying trips with Burke in 1964.

"We visited some dealers together and she bought a number of things during that trip," Murase said. "It was wonderful. I was really impressed by the good eyes she has, as we call 'good eyes.' Very sharp appreciation of good paintings."

The exhibition, the first major exhibition of Japanese art at the museum in 25 years, reveals the remarkable range and quality of Burke's collection, along with her love for Japan and its culture.

It includes works never seen before by the public, and one of the first pieces Burke bought -- a Shinto goddess who offers protection against floods.

A love for cranes

Mary Griggs Burke and Miyeko Murase
Mary Griggs Burke, left, and art historian Miyeko Murase made their first buying trip to Japan in 1964  

"I was very impressed by Mrs. Burke because it's not a flashy painting," Murase said. "It's a religious painting, and, in old, not terribly good condition. Nevertheless, she went right at it."

"The first prerequisite for inclusion in the show was that it was of high quality, and then also I tried to give variety to the period," Murase said.

The exhibition, Burke's second show at the Met, contains just one-eighth of Burke's collection. Burke, who was married to printer and designer Jackson Burke, also has had an exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum.

There are a number of works depicting cranes in the collection, reflecting the Minnesota native's passion for the birds' preservation.

"I call her a cranes freak," Murase said. "She went to Africa, she went to China, she went to northern Japan looking for cranes, looking at cranes."

Murase said she learned a great deal from Burke, who studied art at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University and the Institute of Fine Arts in New York.

The collection, meanwhile, keeps growing as Burke buys still more treasures.

"Collecting, apparently, is a lifelong obsession," Murase said.



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