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World leading art historian launches inaugural event of Alphawood Foundation funded Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme at SOAS

South East Asia Art Exhibition

Rubbing of Apsaras (Celestial Dancers). Cambodia, early 1960s. Ink rubbing on paper, H46 x W35 cm. SOAS Library Acc. 14111. Gift of Professor Frank Daniels, 1980

27 May 2014

The world leading art historian Hiram W. Woodward will launch the inaugural event of the £15 million Alphawood Foundation funded Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme at SOAS, University of London.

Hiram W. Woodward, also the honorary name of the Chair in Southeast Asian Art fully endowed academic post, is Emeritus curator of the renowned Griswold art collection in the Walter’s Art Museum in Baltimore, which houses the important Griswold collection of Thai art.

Taking place on Tuesday 27 May at 6pm in the Brunei Building at SOAS, Hiram W. Woodward’s lecture will be on ‘Looking Back at Britain's Pioneering Analyst of Early Southeast Asia: the Work of H.G. Quaritch Wales’. H.G. Quaritch Wales joined SOAS in 1936 having embarked on a career in Southeast Asia where he served the Siamese Government.

The third of the acclaimed Treasures of SOAS exhibitions ‘Arts of Southeast Asia in the SOAS Collection’ has been especially curated to coincide with this event. Curated by Professor Anna Contadini, the in-coming Head of the School of Arts, the exhibition highlights the breadth of the region’s cultures as represented in the SOAS collections.

‘Arts of Southeast Asia in the SOAS Collection’ also demonstrates the long-term engagement of SOAS staff and alumni, whose research and travels have brought this variety of objects to the School, some of which are on show for the first time in SOAS’ history.

The inaugural event is the first public opening to mark the start of the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme, which is funded by the £20m gift from Alphawood Foundation. Announced by SOAS in November 2013, the gift was the largest ever in the history of the Chicago-based philanthropic foundation and one of the largest recorded gifts to UK higher education, especially in the field of arts and humanities.

£15m of the gift will support the academic programme, which includes three endowed academics posts all named after scholars who have had a significant impact in the field of Southeast Asian art. The posts consist of Pratapaditya Pal Senior Lecturer in Curating and Museology, the Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art and David L. Snellgrove Senior Lecturer in Tibetan and Buddhist Art.
Professor Singh said: “We are delighted to be marking the start of this ambitious and inspiring academic programme with Hiram W. Woodward’s opening lecture and the ‘Arts of Southeast Asia in the SOAS Collection’. It will be the first of many such public and academic events both at SOAS and in the Southeast Asian region over the next five years. SOAS has long been an acclaimed centre for the study of South and Southeast Asian art and culture and we would like to thank Alphawood Foundation for its vision and generosity in enabling us to develop and extend our expertise and help raise the world-wide profile and understanding of Southeast Asian art. We look forward to welcoming the first cohort of scholarship students and our three new academic colleagues in September.”