January 5, 2014

Armor as Art: A Review of the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Samurai Armor Collection

Craftsmen as talented and skilled as any of the warriors that adorned their ware are the feature at Portland Art Museums "Samurai!" exhibit running through January 12th.  Truly an amazing representation of the culmination of skill in fabricating the various armor, tacks, quivers, helmets, and other various accouterments that joined Samurai on the field of battle.  From an artistically functional standpoint this is most likely the best exhibit I have ever seen, and viewing it with a martial artists eyes showcased a rare view of the armor (not the arms) of the samurai.  

Portland's museum is easily accessible in the southwest part of downtown, within walking distance of most major hotels.  A $20 entry fee grants you unlimited access to Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller's unique collection of human and equine armor, a collection normally housed in Texas.  I loved the exhibits and design as they allowed you to view 360 degrees around many of the pieces, housed in cases that were tight enough to allow extremely close viewing.   The detail involved with many of the designs was nothing short of amazing, absolutely stunning.

Not only were these various pieces eye catching, but they were functional as well with adaptations derived directly from combat.  For instance doe skin tabs on the chest of archers ensured that the bow string would not catch on the armor.  That kind of shit absolutely fascinates me.  Born of experience, these inventions meant the difference between life and death... literally!!  In the 21st century we can cling onto the idea of being true "warriors" but the fact is there is no such equivalent to the samurai in the modern world.  No one specializes in the warfare of blades and arrows as in the past.  This exhibit offers a peek into a world that no longer exists, and offers us a most beautiful portrayal of a level of functional craftsmanship that is all but forgotten in modern society. 


I understand this review comes merely a week prior to the end of the exhibit, but trust me when I tell you that you will not regret dropping your silly plans for next week and making this a destination for you and your family.



Click here to be re-directed to a most amazing exhibit on the Samurai! 

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