Brings new luster to Baltimore's art scene...


January 07, 1991

THE NEW YEAR brings new luster to Baltimore's art scene. During the first week of May the Walters' Museum of Asian Art, housed in a mansion at the southwest corner of Mount Vernon Place, will have its grand opening. Treasures collected decades ago but never displayed in their full extent and glory will at last be seen in an exquisite setting.

Robert P. Bergman, the Walters Art Gallery director who oversaw the recent, stunning restoration of the original museum building, is eagerly awaiting another critical triumph. The architectural challenge was to bring together a great mid-19th Century town house and a premier collection of Asian art and then to connect them to the Italianate palace built by Henry Walters in 1904.

The daring plan seems to work splendidly. The "bridge" (an inelegant term) between the two buildings has evolved from a necessity into an asset, with a special room for Indian and Southeast Asian art and a restaurant picking up motifs from the structures it joins.

In the Thomas-Jencks-Gladding-Hackerman House (to give it the names of its successive owners), a collection of later Chinese porcelain described by Mr. Bergman as second only to that of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London will be displayed in the rich aura of a stately dining room and library with original wood paneling.

Visitors to other parts of the first floor will have the double luxury of other Chinese and Japanese works displayed in rooms restored to their majesty. That is, if they can tear themselves away from a magnificent spiral stairway domed with Tiffany glass. Upstairs, in a more traditional gallery setting, the Walters' famous Red Buddha will be on view along with many other objects.

All this for an investment of $5 million, a vigorous fund-raising campaign and the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Willard Hackerman, who bought and immediately donated their landmark mansion to the city in 1985.

WE NEED A new word. Plagiarism is when one writer's words are repeated by another, without credit. What is it when the words credited to another writer were only made up by the person crediting them?

The world over, people think "Desiderata" was found in Old St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, in 1692. It's okay, as an inspirational message ("Go placidly amid the noise and haste. . . Avoid loud and aggressive persons. . ."); but people deflate when it comes out Max Ehrmann of Indiana wrote the piece, in 1927. St. Paul's just reprinted it once, on an order-of-service leaflet.

Another example: "When the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the white men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe. . ." This environmentalist favorite was written by Chief Seattle, in 1855, right? No, by Ted Perry, a white man, about 1955, for a movie.

Shall we call it dysquotation? Attribuvasion? Suggestions welcomed.

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