June 16, 2013 to September 8, 2013
"The Wari civilization formed in the wake of a late-sixth-century drought that ravaged the central Andean region of what is today Peru and parts of adjacent countries. It was a new cultural experiment that, over the next four centuries, produced a society of such unprecedented complexity that many today regard it as South America’s first empire. As predecessors of the Inca Empire, which fell to Spanish forces after 1532, the Wari had no previous examples of expansionist states to draw upon and thus represent a major development in Andean civilization.
Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, arriving at the Kimbell in June 2013, explores the Wari accomplishment through some 140 artworks in all major media in which they worked—polychrome ceramics, ornaments made of precious metals or colorful mosaics, sculptured wood and stone objects, and textiles of striking complexity. Together, these works paint a picture of the Wari state and offer insights into their expansion strategies.
The Wari Realm demonstrates the spread of Wari imagery—most importantly, a staff bearing deity that was the focus of Wari state religion—to many areas of the Andes. This frontally posed supernatural being—seen, for example, on the Urn with Staff Deities—is probably a nature deity, perhaps the sun or thunder. It carries staffs of authority and is sometimes flanked by profile attendants in a formal expression of hierarchy that may have paralleled the Wari earthly political structure. Though the role of religion in the Wari’s expansion is not well understood, images such as this make it seem likely that religion and politics were part of a single process. Indeed, the art suggests that Wari lords drew their authority to some degree from affiliation with the divine and that they may have owed their success in part to the belief that they could mediate human and cosmic matters, thus shaping the lives of women and men.
Offerings and Ancestors considers offerings that the Wari made in varied contexts. One of the most common was the tombs of the honored dead, where many of the exhibition’s objects likely were found. The characteristics of highland tombs suggest that Wari elites venerated important ancestors, who probably endowed descendants with legitimacy and spiritual protection. The Wari also buried fine objects in offerings unassociated with human remains; these likely had varied votive or dedicatory purposes that are still under study. The most elaborate of such offerings included human figurines or well-decorated ceramics that were deliberately shattered in rites that must have impressed all who witnessed them.
This exhibition is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. It has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. It is supported in part by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities." Kimbell Museum