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Museums all over the world take pride in masterpieces; they are the best objects they have.
But what is it that makes an object a masterpiece?
Ask any two curators, and you will have two different answers. Prof. Masatoshi Kubo of the Research Center for Cultural Resources at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka says "any invention that has drastically changed the life of ordinary people", and he designates the Sony-walkman a masterpiece. But a curator at the National Museum in Jakarta will point to the beautiful 13th Century sculpture of Buddhist goddess Prajnaparamita.
Certain objects may be considered masterpieces not just for their beauty or sophistication but because of some special association to a person, place, or time, because they are very rare, or they might be a splendid manifestation of the artist's techniques, world-view, philosophy, intentions or background.
Masterpieces can also be determined by an authority saying so. In Korea and Japan, for example there are lists of National Masterpieces designated by a committee of experts. Works can also be designated masterpieces by curators through the authority of their position in the museum.
In this virtual collection all curators carefully justify why they consider their choice a masterpiece. You are cordially invited to send your comments as well.