Asian Art


The collection of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum—more than 35,000 objects, ranging in date from the fourth millennium B.C. to the early twentieth century—is one of the largest and is the most comprehensive in the West. Each of the many civilizations of Asia is represented by outstanding works, providing an unrivaled experience of the artistic traditions of nearly half the world.

What's On View

The Florence and Herbert Irving Asian Wing, occupying 64,500 square feet, is devoted to Asian art, featuring paintings, prints, calligraphy, sculptures, metalwork, ceramics, lacquers, works of decorative art, and textiles from East Asia, South Asia, the Himalayan kingdoms, and Southeast Asia. As distinctive as the cultures of Asia are from one another, many pieces in the collection reveal similarities in form and iconography occasioned by the sharing of religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, or themes and techniques, such as those found in blue-and-white ceramics or ink painting. Thus, even though the galleries are arranged geographically and chronologically, an exploration of the works on view yields both an appreciation of the art of Asia's many cultures and an understanding of the ties between these traditions. Certain gallery installations, such as those of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and Tibetan paintings, rotate every six months, and displays of more fragile textiles, lacquers, and woodblock prints change approximately every four months.

Arts of China

The Museum boasts one of the greatest collections of Chinese painting outside China with masterpieces dating from the eighth to twentieth centuries. Another notable feature is the collection of Chinese Buddhist sculptures from the fifth through the eighteenth century. The collections of antiquities and works of art range from the third millennium B.C. to the eighteenth century, including jades, bronzes, lacquer, textiles, ceramics and works in other media. An often visited area of the Museum is the Astor Court, modeled after a courtyard in a seventeenth-century domestic residence in Suzhou, a city famous for its gardens. Opening onto the courtyard is a room displaying hardwood furniture of the same period.

Arts of Japan

The full range of Japanese art—from Neolithic ceramics (ca. 1500–300 B.C.) to Edo-period (1615–1868) woodblock prints and textiles—is presented chronologically in eleven rooms. Traditional details, such as an altar platform (based on a twelfth-century example) for the display of Buddhist sculptures and a small shoin-style reception room typical of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, are at the heart of the Arts of Japan galleries. Highlights include thirteenth- and fourteenth-century narrative paintings (handscrolls) known as emaki, a collection of folding screens dating from the fifteenth through the eighteenth century, and Edo-period porcelains for domestic use and export.

Arts of South and Southeast Asia

The visual traditions of India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, from the earliest civilizations to the sixteenth century, are represented in the collection. Areas of particular strength include Buddhist stone and bronze sculptures from the Kushan dynasty (first to third century, approximately); Kashmiri- and Pala-period sculptures (sixth to thirteenth century); Hindu bronzes from the Chola period (ninth to thirteenth century); an unparalleled collection of early Southeast Asian metalwork; and monumental sculptures from the Khmer empire in Cambodia and Thailand (about ninth to fourteenth century). On the third floor are galleries for the arts of Nepal and Tibet, including religious images in painting and sculpture, mainly from the eleventh to the eighteenth century, and ritual implements. Also on the third floor is a gallery for temporary exhibitions on special topics relating to Himalayan or later Indian Art.

Arts of Korea

Buddhist paintings and ceramics of the Goryeo (918–1392) and Joseon (1392–1910) dynasties, together with thematic exhibitions featuring loans from collections in the United States and abroad, provide a comprehensive overview of Korea's artistic and cultural heritage.

East Asian Conservation Studio

For the conservation of its collections, the Department includes an East Asian Conservation Studio, with a highly trained staff that specializes in the restoration and remounting of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean works on paper and silk including handscrolls, hanging scrolls, albums, and folding screens.

History of the Department

The Metropolitan Museum has been collecting Asian art since the late nineteenth century. Many of its earliest benefactors—Benjamin Altman, the Havemeyers, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and others—included objects from Asia in their large bequests to the Museum in the first half of the twentieth century, and in 1915, the Department of Far Eastern Art was established. The real impetus for creating a comprehensive collection of Asian art came from Douglas Dillon, who was elected president of the Museum's Board of Trustees in 1970. In 1986 the department's name was changed to the Department of Asian Art.

View highlights

Sketching Intimate Objects
June 22, 2012
Free with Museum admission
Clay and Metal in Korean Art
June 26, 2012
Free with Museum admission
Exhibition Tour—Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art
June 27, 2012
Free with Museum admission

Last updated: Saturday, June 9