The MacLean Collection

The MacLean Collection

March 2022 | New York
March 2022 | New York

An Introduction

Richard A. Pegg, PhD
Director and Curator of Asian Art, MacLean Collection

In the early 1970s Barry L. MacLean began to collect ancient pottery from all over the world. Over time, he made more and more trips to Asia for business, often bringing his late wife Mary Ann and children. During the next decade he and Mary Ann began to narrow the focus to material from East and Southeast Asia. This in turn led to collecting ancient bronze from those regions and then to collect stone sculpture and architectural fragments. By the early 1990s, objects were sourced through a wide range of dealers and auction houses all around the world. At that time Mary Ann had begun, with the assistance of local landscape architect Craig Bergmann, to integrate architectural elements and sculpture into the grounds around the MacLean’s home. The Asian collections were also living throughout the various homes of Barry and Mary Ann, with some objects in the homes of the five MacLean children, especially in their downtown Chicago apartment decorated in entirely Asian art and furniture (fig 1).

巴里•馬克林先生於1970 年代初開始收集世界各地的高古陶瓷,後因商務關係,往來亞洲日漸頻繁,並經常攜同夫人瑪麗安和兒女同往,在往後十年間,馬克林和妻子開始專注收藏東亞及東南亞古代藝術品,隨後發展至收藏高古青銅器,再進一步擴展至收藏石雕和建築構件。時至1990 年代初,其收藏的古代藝術品多來自國際知名的古董商和拍賣行,彼時瑪麗安亦開始在景觀設計師克雷格•伯格曼的協助下,將建築構件和雕塑融入馬克林家族大宅。二人的亞洲藝術品收藏分散陳設於各地居所,亦有部份藏品陳於五位兒女家中,而其芝加哥市中心的公寓則完全以亞洲藝術為裝飾主題(圖一)。

fig.1 Interior of the MacLean Apartment

Just over five thousand objects, and some fifty years later, the MacLean Collection of Asian art consists of perhaps 55 percent Chinese objects and 40 percent Southeast Asian objects, with the remainder being from other parts of Asia. Over the decades the collection stayed primarily focused in these three media; pottery, bronze and stone. With that in mind, these seals were made in 2005 as a kind of Chinese nickname for the collection and the collector (fig2).

歷經五十餘載,馬克林亞洲藝術品收藏現有超過五千件珍品,當中大約 百分之五十五為中國藝術品、百分之四十為東南亞藝術品,其餘則來自亞洲其他地區。該收藏在過去幾十年來專注於陶瓷、青銅和石雕三個門類。以下閒章根據上述概念製於2005年,刻文既形容藏品,也是對藏家的描述(圖二)。

fig. 2 Seals carved for the MacLean Collection
圖二 馬克林收藏之閒章
They both read “crazy for bronze, stone and earth (jinshitupi)” They are a word play in Chinese on the better-known expression of “crazy for bronze and stone (jinshibi),” that became associated with the stele (bei) and rubbing (tie) schools of calligraphy collecting and calligraphy practice in the early nineteenth century, to which I added a third category of earth (tu). This along with the logo became part of the early MacLean Collection branding.   閒章刻「金石土癖」四字,靈感來自「金石癖」一詞。十九世紀初,該詞彙多指碑帖書法及收藏書法之風氣,然而加上「土」字成為「金石土癖」,用來形容馬克林收藏也是別有雅趣。

The answer to why some individuals are passionate about collecting comes down to essentially something hard-wired at birth, part of a collector’s DNA. Barry collects Asian art, maps, antique hand tools, vintage posters, tin toys and so forth. He was never formally trained in Chinese culture and cannot read Chinese characters and yet he has been driven to collect these fantastic Chinese objects. Fortunately, Barry’s passion has always been tempered by having a “good eye,” that is naturally attracted to good objects. Barry is always drawn to the myriad shapes of ancient Chinese bronzes, all of which have been given specific names. It is always wonderful to watch as Barry describes Chinese bronze vessels; his hands go up and he enthusiastically outlines vessel shapes while talking about patina, fabrication and function. The Chinese names of these shapes were all collected as were many examples by the arguably first collector and connoisseur of ancient Chinese bronzes the Huizong emperor (r. 1100-25) in the early twelfth century. Huizong had scholars search out the locus classicus of every vessel type creating the first typology of this material. Barry too has always been drawn to shape.


Barry MacLean, 2011

But there is another factor in the collecting of bronze for Barry. He is an engineer by training and had manufactured using metals as a vocation for many decades. The processes of his metals manufacturing business included fabricating molds, casting, forging, and finishing. His technical knowledge comes from first-hand experience, making nuts and bolts for ordinary fasteners, specialized lock nuts, anchors or wheel nuts for cars or alloyed fasteners made for nuclear submarines with complex requirements of heat and radiation tolerances. He understands about getting the proper chemistry and mix of an alloy and the tolerance requirements of a finished metal product that is designed to be repeatedly heated, as in ritual practice, or to be struck repeatedly to make a pure sound, for an instrument. Weapons for example require ductility and tensile strength to hold a hard edge but must also be soft enough to absorb a blow. His experience provides a precise understanding of technical systems. Barry has always been amazed by the sophisticated processes and advanced skills in bronze making, casting and gilding that were found in ancient China. He also appreciates the chemistry involved with oxidization under particular conditions of moisture and soil exposure that encourages the beautiful rich patina created over time found on these bronzes.


In 2003 a dedicated museum was constructed on Barry’s property on the north shore of Chicago to house the Asian art collections. The MacLean Collection of Asian art is primarily housed in a building completed in January 2004 and designed by Larry Booth of Chicago. A purpose-built set of structures that were meant to hint at traditional Chinese architecture in proportions and exposed roof support systems the building contains five galleries, a two-floor open storage and a small apartment for visitors (fig 3).

2003 年,巴里先生開始為其亞洲藝術品收藏興建博物館。該博物館位於芝加哥北岸,建築設計由芝加哥建築師拉里•布斯操刀,於2004 年 1 月竣工,之後馬克林亞洲藝術品收藏便長駐於此。博物館設計獨特,巧用中國傳統建築比例和外露的斗拱結構,建築包含五個展廳、一個兩層高的開放式庫房以及一個供訪客休息的閒居(圖三)。

fig. 3 MacLean Collection Asian Art Museum, 2009, exterior view
圖三 馬克林收藏亞洲藝術博物館,2009年,外觀

I began working with the MacLean family in early 2004. At the time, I was provided with this new empty museum building and a warehouse full of crates. It took some five plus years to install the interior and exterior spaces including landscaping and these were beautifully photographed in 2009 by Michelle Litvin.

我於 2004 年初開始與馬克林家族合作。彼時他們把一座空蕩蕩、新落成的博物館大樓和一個裝滿了木箱的倉庫交了給我。此後室內佈置和室外景觀空間的修整與完善用了大約五年多的時間。至2009 年,博物館的建築景觀留影在了攝影師米歇爾•利特文精美的作品之中。

Barry has always made the collections available to visiting scholars and the museum has always been open to the public, by appointment. There have been K-12 students hunting for animal and botanical motifs throughout the building, to university students curating small exhibitions of MacLean objects at their school museums, to scholars coming to study the collections in depth. The seeking of “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” are values the MacLean family continues through this collection and part of my mission when I started at the MacLean Collection more than seventeen years ago was creating a searchable database and publishing the Asian collections. Barry understood that every object had a story to tell and this meant, in my mind, a series of collection catalogues written by myself and a variety of specialist colleagues. For the first collection book entitled The MacLean Collection: Chinese Ritual Bronzes (2010), I approached the Chinese archaeologist Zhang Lidong,(currently Professor, Henan University) who had gotten his doctorate in archaeology at Beijing University and was getting a second doctorate in art history at the University of Chicago under the guidance of Wu Hung. I felt the combination of approaches of the art historian (myself) and an archaeologist (Lidong) would make for a uniquely engaging and thorough presentation in the book. We then put together a dream team for book production hiring Dong Hongwei from Shaanxi province to make full scale hand-drawn line drawings and Liu Shanyi formerly of the Shandong Archaeological Institute to make rubbings of details and inscriptions. And combined with Bruce White for the photography, Giona Maiarelli for the design and Aimee Cooper of The Actualizers for the production management we made an award-winning book. This set a high standard for the five books to follow; Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers from the MacLean Collection (2012) written by Dr. Kathryn Selig Brown (Independent Curator),, Cartographic Traditions in East Asian Maps (2014), Highlights of Asian Art: MacLean Collection (2016) an E-book co-written with Dr. Yin Tongyun (former Associate Curator, MacLean Collection and current Cofrin Curator of Asian Art, Harn Museum), Mary Ann’s Garden (2017), and The MacLean Collection: Early to Medieval Chinese Pottery (2022) also with Dr. Yin Tongyun and Dr. Wei Zheng (Beijing University).

巴里先生非常歡迎學者造訪,博物館也一直對公眾開放預約參觀。這裡曾經有小學生穿梭嬉戲,尋找動植物紋飾;有大學生於高校博物館策展馬克林藝術品收藏展覽;亦有學者前來進行深度研究。「為求知而求知」是馬克林家族在收藏中始終貫徹的核心價值,我在逾十七年前開始為馬克林收藏工作時,其中一個任務便是建立一個可搜尋的數據庫,並撰寫出版其亞洲藝術品收藏。巴里先生珍視每件藏品背後的故事,於我這意味著我將和業界學者一同編寫一系列的收藏目錄。為了此收藏的首本著作《The MacLean Collection: Chinese Ritual Bronzes》(2010年),我邀請了中國考古學家張立東(現任河南大學教授)合作。張教授在北京大學取得考古學博士學位,當時正在芝加哥大學巫鴻先生指導下攻讀第二個博士學位,主修藝術史。 我的想法是將藝術史學家(我本人)和考古學家(立東)的觀點相結合,則可以更獨特、引人入勝且全面的方式展現收藏。我們的夢之隊還包括來自陝西的董紅衛,專職手繪原尺寸的線描圖,以及曾任職山東考古研究所的劉善沂,親力製作藏品細節和銘文的拓片;再加上負責攝影的布魯斯•懷特、負責設計的喬娜•邁亞雷利和來自The Actualizers 的艾米•庫珀統籌製作,攜手完成了一本獲獎著作。它為後來完成的五本書立下了非常高的標準:獨立策展人凱瑟琳•塞利格•布朗博士所著的《Protecting Wisdom: Tibetan Book Covers from the MacLean Collection》(2012年);《Cartographic Traditions in East Asian Maps 》(2014年);與尹彤云博士(曾任馬克林藝術收藏博物館副策展人,現任哈恩博物館科夫林亞洲藝術策展人)聯合撰寫的電子書《Highlights of Asian Art: MacLean Collection》(2016年);《Mary Ann’s Garden》(2017年);以及與尹彤云博士及韋正博士(北京大學)合著的《The MacLean Collection: Early to Medieval Chinese Pottery》(2022年)。

MacLean Collection Asian Art Museum, 2009, interior view

After the Chinese bronzes book project of primarily central plains bronzes was completed, another strength of the bronze collections was explored. These were the bronzes of the Chinese historical region of Nanyue, that included the Dian, Kunming and Erhai bronze cultures located in today’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, the Karen culture of the Shan States in today’s eastern Myanmar and the Dongson bronze culture of today’s northern Vietnam. Extensive scientific analysis was conducted on more than two hundred of these additional bronzes. In 2011 Tom Chase, formerly bronze conservator of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution and Mark Rassmussen, an independent scientist, spent a month examining bronzes using microscopy, black light analysis, x-ray, x-ray flourenscene (XRF), as well as chemical and thermoluminescence (TL) testing. Barry would come by every other day or so to see about progress and what new discoveries had been made. And there have been over forty Chinese specialists who have come to look closely at the bronzes.

以中原青銅器為主的中國青銅器文獻項目完成之後,我們的研究重點移至本青銅收藏的另一個強項:來自中國古代南越地區的青銅器。南越包括位於現今雲南及廣西兩省的滇、昆明和洱海青銅文化、位於現今緬甸東部的撣邦克倫文化和現今越南北部的東山青銅文化。我們對這批共超過兩百件的青銅器進行詳細的科學分析,史密森尼學會弗里爾美術館前青銅器修復師湯姆•蔡斯和獨立科學家馬克•拉斯穆森於2011 年歷時一個月對這些藏品進行了顯微鏡、紫外線、X 光及X 光熒光光譜(XRF)檢視,以及化學和熱釋光(TL)測試。 巴里先生當時每兩天左右就會過來看看研究進展及最新發現。此外還有共四十餘位中國專家先後前來進行青銅器研究。

Since 2004, the MacLean Collection has generated seven books, thirteen exhibitions and lent objects to another six, trained over fifteen interns and awarded a dozen map fellowships in an effort to train future specialists and enthusiasts. The ambition behind the collection has been to seek the best and most unique examples that can be displayed and investigated, thus ultimately contributing to the knowledge of scholars, connoisseurs and the general public. Our time to enjoy and consider these objects has ended for now and our hope is that their new caretakers will appreciate them as deeply.

自 2004 年以來,馬克林藝術收藏先後出版了 7 本著作,舉辦13個展覽,對外借展 6次,培訓逾 15名實習生並授出十餘項地圖研究相關獎學金,以培養未來的專家和學者。 收藏背後的目標,是探尋可供展示和研究的最佳以及最獨特範例,從而對增進學者、鑑賞家和公眾的知識做出貢獻。至此,我們享受和研究這些藝術品的時間即將告一段落,希望它們的繼任藏家會和我們一樣深愛這些珍品。


Past Highlights

Chinese Works of Art

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