The Art of the Nomad at ISAW

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When the word nomad is mentioned, what usually comes to mind is a group of people moving from place to place to hunt or find fresh grass for their livestock. On March 6, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), at 15 E. 84th St., kicked off a new exhibit called Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan to focus on the rich cultures that thrived in the nomadic groups of ancient times. The show is dedicated solely to the nomadic culture and history of ancient Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is a relatively new country, established in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union, but was the home of ancient civilizations stretching back thousands of years. The country is northeast of China and southeast of Russia. The idea for the exhbit came about two years ago, when Kazakhstan Ambassador Erlan A. Idrissov traveled to California and visited the Getty Museum with his colleague, General Counsel Steven Jaffe. The ambassador was so impressed with the institution he began formulating ideas on how to have his countrymen's art featured in the United States.

Nomads and Networks is the manifestation of this idea. The exhibit focuses on the art of the people of this region from the 8th to 1st centuries BCE. Various items on display range from beautiful carvings to pottery, jewelry, brass stands and decorative ornaments.

Chief curator Jennifer Chi said, "This art is representative of the network created through the nomadic people's interaction with the various other cultures they came into contact with throughout their distinct patterns of movement." The show also features a presentation detailing the excavation process that uncovered the artifacts. Everything, from the dig to the transportation of artifacts to the preservation process, is on display.

caption id="attachment_14188" align="alignleft" width="291" caption="Plaque of perched raptor, made of gold and turqoise."][[/caption]

ISAW, with the assistance of Idrissov, negotiated with four other national museums to borrow the many items on display. "It [the artifacts in the show] is only a small part of what we have," he said.

Given the lack of tools at the time the objects were made, it's interesting to see how they were inspired by the natural elements surrounding them. Intricate carvings of dragons, wolves and horses speak much about the abilities of these nonsedentary people. Chi said the mission statement of her curatorial team is to "enable us to look at ancient worlds and recognize how they communicate with each other and how that communication is expressed in art."

The show will run from March 7 to June 3.

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