The Albert Bender Collection

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The Albert Bender Collection of Asian Art in the National Museum of Ireland. Between 1931 and 1936 Albert Bender donated approximately 260 artefacts of East Asian origin to the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) to be displayed in honour of his mother in the Augusta Bender Memorial Room of Far Eastern Art. The works, mostly of Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan Buddhist art, are one of the most significant gifts ever received by an Irish cultural institution and are of the highest importance within the NMI’s overall holdings of Asian material. The Bender collection is particularly renowned for its Tibetan Buddhist Thangkas (painted textiles depicting Buddhist scenes) and Japanese ukiyo-e (wood-block prints). The arrival of the collection in the NMI was a conspicuous and highly unusual episode in the history of collecting non-western material by Irish institutions. The purpose of this publication is to bring the collection, which was re-exhibited at the National Museum of Ireland branch at Collins Barracks, Dublin, in 2008, to the widest possible audience. It documents the process of donation and catalogues and discusses the objects Bender gave; it explores the cultural and collecting backdrop in both Ireland and California against which Bender’s activities may be seen and assesses the cultural significance of his generosity in the context of Ireland in the post-Independence period. The author and curator of the exhibition is Dr Audrey Whitty, Head of Collections and Learning at the National Museum of Ireland.