East meets West in Mingei’s Romanian exhibit

A recent gift to Mingei International Museum of a personal archive and folk art collection from Lucia Ionescu Kanchenian of San Diego inspired the new exhibit “Between East and West — Folk Art Treasures of Romania,” opening Aug. 1.

The exhibition’s guest curator is Joyce Corbett.

The richness of Romania’s related arts — costumes, textiles, architecture, works in wood, pottery and other objects of daily and ceremonial use — derives energy from the confluence of East and West.

Although its present-day borders were drawn during the 20th century, the region has been inhabited by many great civilizations, among them the Roman, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Romanians, Hungarians, Saxon Germans, Armenians, Jews and Roma are all part of the cultural heritage of this land, adding variety and dimension to the art found there.

In addition to the Lucia Ionescu Kanchenian collection, several other collections are represented in the exhibition. Lenders have shared the works of folk art and craft they’ve brought back from their travels to enrich the Mingei’s display.

Visitors will see wooden chests and benches embellished with paint; pottery in fanciful forms for various uses; magnificent hand-embroidered costumes and textiles (each one specific to its own linguistic and geographical zone); New Year’s festival masks intended to frighten; and colorful icons painted on glass.

The exhibition will also include a number of full costumes representing a variety of regions, and a village room furnished in the style of Transylvania’s Maramures County. The Maryhill Museum of Art has loaned several unique, folkloric items that are part of their collection from Queen Marie of Romania.

In addition to the Maryhill Museum of Art, lenders to the exhibition include Peggy Geyer, Dr. Katalin Kádár Lynn, Kathleen McLaughlin, Dr. Kiki Skagen Munshi, Sharon Sharpe, Ferenc Tobak and Dr. Ronald Wixman, with photographs by McLaughlin, Russell Young and Scott Eastman.

Director Rob Sidner, in his 17th year at the Mingei, said the museum loves to get input from the community as it continues to build its collection and audience.

“The way to do this is to keep doing good exhibitions,” Sidner said at the museum’s recent Fusion gala. “If you haven’t visited us before, don’t wait any longer!”

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication made possible by a donation from Kádár Lynn. Mingei International Museum exhibits folk art, craft and design from all eras and cultures of the world. Its museum in Balboa Park features Southern California’s largest and richest collection of mingei — art of the people.


‘Between East and West — Folk Art Treasures of Romania’

  • Where:Mingei International Museum, 1439 El Prado, Balboa Park
  • When:10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, through Feb. 13
  • Admission:$4-$7
  • Contact:(619) 239-0003,
  • Related:6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 4, ‘Beyond Dracula – Romanian History, Art and Lore,’ lecture by Dr. Kiki Skagen Munshi, former director of the American Library in Bucharest; TBD: Concert of Romanian music
  • Also on exhibit:‘Sonabai: Another Way of Seeing,’ through Sept. 5.