Santa Ana, Calif. — From the vast holdings of the Vatican Ethnological Museum comes a presentation of indigenous spiritual pieces that will enable visitors to learn about the global significance of the objects and their journey to the Vatican. These sixty-five sets of remarkable objects have been selected for their artistic and cultural relevance spanning all of earth’s populated continents, including the Pacific region. Gods & Gifts: Vatican Ethnological Collection will be on display at the Bowers from September 29, 2013 through February 9, 2014.
Gods & Gifts brings attention to the little known Vatican Ethnological Museum collection, home to more than 80,000 rarely seen artistic cultural achievements from across the globe. The collection, begun in 1692, illuminates diverse religious beliefs and practices through works of art and includes gifts presented to the Pope from heads of state and spiritual leaders. This remarkable exhibition, highlighting aesthetically compelling and historically significant objects, is the largest selection of works to ever leave Vatican City.
The Vatican Ethnological Museum was established by Pope Pius XI in 1926 to express the appreciation and positive outlook that the Catholic Church has had, and continues to have, towards all cultures. Gods & Gifts is an exceptional grouping of works illustrating centuries of human achievement including a 2 million year old hand tool, the oldest work in the Vatican’s collections. Many objects on view were once part of a collection assembled by Cardinal Stefano Borgia in the seventeenth century, which were later used to establish a museum for the purpose of accepting gifts on behalf of the Pope. Other pieces were sent to the Vatican for the Exposition of 1925, where more than a million visitors saw in excess of 100,000 works from around the globe.
The Bowers Museum has been dedicated to the display and collection of world cultures and their artistic objects, including Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas. For this reason, Gods & Gifts: Vatican Ethnological Collection aligns directly with the vision of the Bowers to “celebrate world cultures through their arts.” It is our hope that this exhibition will leave visitors with a greater appreciation of the Bowers Museum, while enriching their understanding of the Vatican Museums and encouraging patrons to enjoy the full experience of the renovated Vatican Ethnological Museum.
Gods & Gifts: Vatican Ethnological Collection has been organized by the Bowers Museum with the assistance of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Support for the exhibition has been provided by the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, with gratitude for exceptional loans from the collection of the Vatican Ethnological Museum.