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Revisiting the Past: How the Bing Archives Came to Light in Montevideo

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Siegfried Bing (Hamburg 1838-Paris 1905) and August Bing (Hamburg 1852-Kassel 1918) led the West’s exposure to and interpretation of Japanese arts and crafts at the turn of the nineteenth century. Their collecting, curating and sharing gave rise to an epoch of new artistic feeling in Western visual arts (figs 1 and 2). With August managing the family’s enterprises in Japan and China (1879-1889), Siegfried overseeing the Parisian gallery of Asian art which was to become the Maison de l’Art Nouveau in 1895, and Siegfried’s brother-in-law Michael Baer, Germany’s Honorary Consul in Tokyo, also active, the Bing family exhibited a connoisseurship and taste for adventure that redefined the collecting and making of art. The family’s travels, artistic discoveries and collecting of Asian objects became widely known through Siegfried Bing’s writings, the efforts of researchers to retrace the gallery’s inventory, and recent scholarship and exhibitions devoted to Siegfried Bing. My family worked from 2004 to 2009 to continue to preserve the Bing legacy by re-securing the hitherto undiscovered photographic, cartographic, business and personal correspondence archives of Siegfried and August Bing and Michael Baer. The efforts of my son Ira, his wife Genevieve, my wife Maru and me, which between us involved five journeys to Montevideo, Uruguay, are recounted here.

Affiliations: 1: Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand


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