Packing the Pensive Bodhisattva

December 9, 2009

It’s been an honor for LACMA to have the Pensive Bodhisattva, a Korean national treasure, on view here for the last three months, but after this weekend, it will be packed to return to its homeland.

Installation view featuring Pensive Bodhisattva, late 6th century

It’s not going back to Asia in just any old shipping crate, however. It will return in a box made especially for it based on scans of the object.

As you can see in the image above, cuts in the wood precisely mimic the contours of the Pensive Bodhisattva. The crate is so perfectly made for the statue that it needs very little wrapping to protect it once it is safely ensconced inside.

The assembly of the box reminds me a lot of Lincoln Logs. In fact, it’s not such a bad analogy in that nails aren’t used to keep the box together; rather, an interlocking construction holds all the parts in place. The wood itself comes from Paulownia trees, which are renowned for their light weight and strength. Paulownia wood is also a good insulator, resistant to bugs, and remains stable in spite of humidity variations. Your last chance to see this sacred Buddhist object before it’s stowed away in its fittingly special crate is this Sunday.

Allison Agsten