Author:Florencia Rodriguez Giavarini (Universidad del Salvador)
Paper short abstract:
The Museo Nacional de Arte Oriental in Buenos Aires was founded in 1965. It became the first museum in South America devoted to Eastern art. Many operative aspects were absorbed by the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, causing collections on display to be perceived as a subset of the decorative.
Paper long abstract:
The Museo Nacional de Arte Oriental (MNAO) in Buenos Aires was founded in 1965 by the then Secretary of Culture of the Argentine State. It became the first museum in South America devoted to Eastern art. Unlike other museums of Asian Art in the Western World it was not the result of a private initiative. Its mission is to preserve and promote knowledge of the material productions of Asia, Africa and Oceania and encourage international understanding. Such broad geographic scope of interest certainly imposed a challenge on its management right from the start.
Today Tibetan-Chinese and Japanese pieces compose seventy percent of the museums collection, but Thailand, Persia, Korea, Egypt, Turkey, Malasia, Indonesia, Armenia and Birmania are also represented by pieces ranging from 500 B.C. to the twentieth century.
Economic constraints among other factors resulted in many operative aspects of the MNAO to be absorbed by the Decorative Arts Museum. At times -as it is the case today- it operated inside its premises and was managed by its directors. The Decorative Arts Museum also holds an interesting collections of Eastern art pieces of its´own, especially Chinese, which were acquired by collectors whose interest in Eastern art derived from an emulation of European taste for Decorative Arts. Such closeness between both institutions becomes increasingly dangerous as the MNAO´s collections on display tend to be perceived by the public as a subset of the decorative arts, moving further and further away from the original goal of promoting knowledge of the "other" in order to encourage mutual understanding.
Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities