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Art museum displays best of impressive South Asian collection

A little-known jewel of San Diego: One of the largest and most important collections of South Asian painting outside of India is housed at the San Diego Museum of Art.

The extensive Edwin Binney 3rd Collection contains more than 1,450 works ranging from 12th-century manuscripts to 20th-century paintings, from nearly every royal court and region in the subcontinent.

[IMAGE=sultan.jpg CAPTION= "Portrait of Sultan Abul Hasan of Golconda, Standing," is one of 126 works on display at the San Diego Museum of Art's exhibition, "Domains of Wonder: Selected Masterworks of Indian Painting."

One hundred and twenty-six of the best works in the collection are now on display at the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) in a national touring exhibition called "Domains of Wonder: Selected Masterworks of Indian Painting." The exhibition continues at SDMA through Jan. 22 before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in fall 2006, the Dallas Museum of Art in winter 2007 and finishing up at the Cincinnati Art Museum in summer 2008.

The late Edwin Binney, heir to the Crayola fortune, devoted nearly 30 years of his life to amassing this encyclopedic collection. It became a part of the museum's permanent collection in 1990 as a bequest from Binney, who served on SDMA's board in the late 1970s and the mid-'80s.

The nationally touring exhibition is the first to represent a complete overview of the richness and depth of this collection, featuring 124 paintings and two bound manuscripts ranging in date from the 14th through late 19th century. The subjects cover life at court, from the playful to the political, to animals, lovers, demons and gods. All the paintings are rendered in exquisite detail, sometimes in miniature sizes using fine brushes consisting of just two hairs.

The exhibition is broken up into eight sections by style and subject matter. It is also accompanied by a 304-page catalogue, which reproduces every work in the exhibition in full-page, full-color illustrations. B.N. Goswamy, a noted Indian scholar and co-curator, wrote the catalogue entries. The book includes information on the history of Indian painting, translations of inscriptions and excerpts from primary sources. Other exhibition curators include Caron Smith, former curator of Asian art at SDMA, and current Asian art curator Sonya Rhie Quintanilla.

In conjunction with "Domains of Wonder," SDMA is presenting a number of related programs, including a lecture Nov. 11 by Catherine Glynn Benkaim, a collector of Asian art. In "Edwin Binney 3rd and His Collection," Benkaim will discuss Binney as a person and as a collector of Indian art. The lecture takes place at the museum's James S. Copley Auditorium at 10 a.m. and costs $10.

SDMA also will present a free family festival on Nov. 20, from noon to 4 p.m., featuring hands-on art-making projects, artist demonstrations, live entertainment and free tours of "Domains of Wonder" in English and Spanish.

PROGRAM: "Domains of Wonder: Selected Masterworks of Indian Painting"

Organization: San Diego Museum of Art

Tickets: $10 general; $8 seniors and military; $7 students; $4 youths 6-17

Dates: Through Jan. 22

Museum hours: Tuesdays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Location: San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park

More information: www.sdmart.org,(619) 232-7931

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