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Cofrin Asian Art Wing Opens at the Harn Museum of Art

The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida announced the opening of its 26,000-square-foot Asian art wing to the public on March 31, 2012.

Harn Museum of Art

The new Asian art wing will triple the space the museum has dedicated to Asian art, and will make it the leading center for the study and preservation of Asian art in the Southeastern United States. The galleries will be dedicated to art from China, India, Japan, Korea, and South and Southeast Asia, and will feature masterpieces from the Neolithic period to the present day. The lower level will provide dedicated space for conservation labs, art storage, and curatorial research. The new wing, which will also feature two newly created Asian-inspired gardens, will be named for the late Dr. David A. Cofrin, a founding supporter of the Harn and noted Asian art collector.

“With the opening of the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing, the Harn will become one of the nation’s leading university art museums for the exhibition and study of Asian art,” said Rebecca Nagy, Director of the Harn Museum of Art. “We are excited that the new space will allow us to share even more of our rich and diverse permanent collection on a daily basis with our students, faculty, and community.”

The new wing will be a dynamic space that will allow the curatorial team to put many of the 2,000 Asian works from the permanent collection on rotating view. The variety and quality of the works—including particular strengths in ceramics, jades, metalwork, paintings, sculpture, and works on paper—will provide many opportunities to explore regional and transnational developments, from ceramic traditions to the spread of Buddhism to the artistic and cultural exchanges between the East and West.

Highlights of the objects that will be on permanent view include:

• a remarkable Korean Bodhisattva from the mid-17th century, in whose interiors were found original Buddhist sutra manuscript pages;

• a world-class masterpiece scroll painting by Kim Hong-do from 18th century Korea;

• 19th century ceramics and paintings by Rengetsu Otagaki, a famed Buddhist nun, potter, and poet;

• late-first to early-fourth century stone sculptures from India depicting Buddhist and Hindu figures;

• selections from the largest museum collection in the West of works by the celebrated modern Indian artist Jamini Roy.

“The new wing will create immense opportunities for engagement and collaboration with students and professors across academic departments at the University of Florida,” said Jason Steuber, Cofrin Curator of Asian art. In addition, Steuber noted, “the Harn Museum will expand its leadership role as a noted center for Asian art exhibitions, symposia, research, and scholarly publications.”

Asian-themed gardens, designed by Hoichi Kurisu of Kurisu International, will be located on the wing’s western and northern sides. Coupling harmonious Asian garden design principles with contemporary sensibilities, Kurisu will create inspiring and rejuvenating landscapes for the University of Florida and Gainesville communities.

Designed by Kha Le-Huu & Partners of Orlando, Florida, the addition is on track to be awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)—certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Kha Le-Huu—an alumnus of the University of Florida School of Architecture and principal of KLHP—also designed the Harn’s main building and the museum’s Mary Ann Harn Cofrin Pavilion, which opened in 1990 and 2005, respectively. The construction management firm for the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing is PPI Construction Management.

The Harn’s expansion is funded in part by a $10 million gift from Dr. and Mrs. David A. Cofrin, made to the University of Florida’s capital campaign “Florida Tomorrow.” In addition, Dr. Cofrin bequeathed a $1 million endowment for the acquisition of Asian art, as well as 312 works valued at $4.1 million. Dr. Cofrin’s total gifts to the Harn Museum of Art total more than $30 million, including an endowment for a dedicated Asian art curator and a founding donation of $3 million that made construction of the Harn’s original building possible.-

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