Author:Nathalie Vandeperre (Royal Museums of Art and History)
Paper short abstract:
The Royal Museums of Art and History's Asian collections, historically displayed in 2 completely different sites ¬¬ the Cinquantenaire Museum and the Museums of the Far East offer a challenging choice of where and how to spread and show very different objects in even more different settings
Paper long abstract:
The Museums of the Far East (MFE) on the northern outskirts of Brussels are an exotic site composed of the Japanese Tower and the Chinese Pavilion with its annexes. They are part of the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH) and, until they closed for renovation in 2013, housed part of its East Asian collections. The buildings have an interesting history, starting in the context of World exhibitions: they were commissioned by King Leopold II in 1900, opened to the public as a commercial museum in 1911, then entrusted to the Royal Museums of Art and History in 1921. In the next decades, they achieved their own identity as art museums, focussing on Chinese export porcelain (Chinese Pavilion), Japanese export art (Japanese Tower) and Japanese art (Museum of Japanese art). The site is charming and popular with tourists, but the overwhelming decoration of the luxurious, sometimes hybrid chinoiserie interiors is only one of many challenges to exhibit collections on these premises. On the other hand, the main building of the RMAH in the centre of Brussels also houses Asian galleries, displaying the Chinese, Korean, Indian and Southeast Asian collections. Along with the collections of Oceania and the Americas, they form the department of non-western civilisations. With the MFE closed and the RMAH facing major renovations, the museum will have to decide how and where to spread and display the diversity of the Asian collections, going from archaeology to fine arts and ethnography, in such different contexts.
Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities