Friday, January 9, 2009

Golden treasures at SF's Asian Art Museum

Who says diamonds are a girl’s best friend? I say, go for the gold. That’s why I’m at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, the only West Coast stop for Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul (through Jan. 25).

Graphics help tell the story of how these amazing 238 artifacts—long thought stolen or destroyed—were rediscovered and saved, along with brief sketches of the history of Afghanistan (which has Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, Chinese, and Siberian influences). Maps, drawings, and a neat digital display of one of the early cities weave the country’s history into the archeological digs which saved these priceless treasures.

The carved ivory, delicate painted glassware, and mysterious bronze discs are magnificent. And the opening National Geographic video, narrated by the author of The Kite Runner, (Khaled Hosseini), sets up the show nicely.

But, at the risk of sounding shallow, let’s face it—I am dazzled by all the bling. Gold necklaces, gold earrings, gold bracelets, a massive golden belt, and an awesome crown—all shine in spotlit cases. And it seems my friends also have a touch of gold fever.

“You can tell its pure gold,” says my friend Francoise, “its so yellow and soft looking.”

“The jewelry looks so contemporary,” notes JoAnn. “I feel like I’m window shopping.”

“It’s a treasure trove,” says Linda.

We spend most of the day at the show (and, okay, at the Asian Art Museum's amazing gift shop), before walking up Larkin Street to a little Vitenamese restaurant, oddly named Bodega Bistro. Over steamy, hot bowls of pho, we can't stop talking about the golden treasures of Afghanistan.

Details: The show is free with museum admission ($12/$8 seniors/$7 ages 13-17). Hurry—the show closes in a little over two weeks. Call 415/ 581-3500 or click on

PHOTO: One of a pair of pendants depicting the "Dragon Master" (Tillya Tepe, Tomb II) 1st century BCE. Photo by National Museum of Afghanistan,©Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet

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COPYRIGHT Lora Finnegan 2008-2009

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