The Art of Oil

Welcome to the "Jewelled Arts of India," made possible by your SUV

History, of course, is always the history of the elite. There is something universally cyclical about watching today's elite collect the art objects of the elite of yore. History's manual laborers and even the artisans who created these fabulous objects are generally left out of the equation. People toiling in the fields and living in mud huts don't leave a lot behind in the way of written records, objects and architecture. The voices of those who produce are usually lost, but this exhibition provides scant information even about those who consume. Instead the focus is on the connoisseurship of the objects themselves.

The MFA provides its own opportunities for consumption. The exhibition-specific gift shop, as always strategically placed at the show's exit, features a fairly standard array of Indian tchotchkes but is dramatically contrasted by a display of jewelry specially made by the heirs to a Jaipur jewelry-maker's dynasty. They make for some pretty cool souvenirs, but with price tags soaring to $48,500, it would help if you were Kuwaiti.

The show is jaw-dropping for its sheer quantity of precious metals and stones.
The show is jaw-dropping for its sheer quantity of precious metals and stones.


Through October 27; 713-639-7300
Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet

Leaving the exhibition, you have to hope that Kuwait's oil reserves hold out and Sheikh Nasser keeps hitting Sotheby's. Oil wealth and art aren't a bad combination -- just look at the spectacular holdings of the abundantly endowed Getty Museum.

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