Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities
Location British Museum - Anthropology Library
Date and Start Time 02 Jun, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 4


  • Iside Carbone (Royal Anthropological Institute) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

This panel aims at defining museums of Asian arts outside Asia as cultural expressions of representations of the Other. Mapping the collections and tracing their histories and development, it will be possible to unravel the identity of these institutions and the notions of 'Asia' emerging from them.

Long abstract

Museums of Asian arts located outside Asia have so far attracted little scholarly attention as a specific group within the category of specialist museums. Hovering at the intersection between art museums, archaeological museums, ethnographic museums and museums of world cultures, their identity and that of their collections has not been clarified in museological and anthropological terms. Hence, this panel aims at engaging participants in a discussion on issues that can finally cast light on what these institutions are precisely. We encourage the proposal of papers that help to recognise common features and distinctive traits among these museums. The questions at the heart of this debate are: why, how and when museums of Asian arts came into existence? How have their policies, practices and objectives developed? What are their prospects in ever-changing museal, socioeconomic, cultural and political scenarios?

As we look at the history and process of musealisation of Asian arts, we will focus on the cultural practices linked to collecting and exhibiting. We also seek to highlight how display and acquisition choices ultimately produce representations of the artefacts' cultural identities. Through the investigation of the typology, geography, historical and cultural context of the objects in the collections, we intend to outline a conceptual map of ideas of 'Asia', an entity the boundaries of which often appear peculiarly blurred, far from unequivocal. Consequently, the contributions to this panel will offer, from a transnational and crosscultural perspective, the jigsaw pieces that, put together, will compose the rationale connecting museal narratives about 'Asia'.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Imagining the 'Orient' in early 20th century Canada- The Asian Arts Collections of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Author: Laura Vigo (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) email

Short abstract

The MMFA's collections provide an ideal time-capsule to appreciate an idea of China that got formed and 'consumed' by early Canadian collectors in Montreal. Their colonialist gaze and faith in the supremacy of the Empire informed their choices thus shaping the core of the museum's collection.

Long abstract

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts owns one of the richest and oldest collections of Asian art in Canada, strangely little known abroad. Over 6000 artefacts ranging from Neolithic pots to modern works were collected by a closely-knit group of Montreal wealthy industrialists connected to the railway boom, who were exposed to the first Asian (both Japanese and Chinese material diaspora on the North American market in the late 19th-early 20th century. Even if the collectors' intentional choices and the way in which they appreciated their newly acquired possessions were based on arbitrary aesthetic criteria, their inclinations well reflect the shared perception of otherness and the construction of a taste for the 'exotic' that pervaded North America in the late 19th century. Sir William van Horne, Lord Strathcona, Mabel Molson and Frederick Cleveland Morgan became informed collectors and then donors, shaping our museum for the decades to come. They unsurprisingly followed the western connoisseur's terms to define the Far East, manipulating its material cultures to favour continuity over change and unity at the expenses of diversity. Artefacts were interpreted as crystallised in time and function. As it turned out most objects were continuously used for various purposes -sacred or profane-, and cherished in a large variety of contexts by different people, as in the case of a 9th century BCE ritual bronze gui container, later absorbed into an imperial collection and finally diaspored in the West to end in our museum's holdings. This is the story of its wondrous journey.

Acheter un petit chinois: The Jesuit Museum of Chinese Art in Québec

Author: Karen Tam email

Short abstract

Incorporating visual research and an artistic approach, this paper will examine and question constructions and interpretations of Chineseness through the use of artworks and cultural artefacts in collections such as the Jesuit Museum of Chinese Art in Québec.

Long abstract

Opened in 1931, the Jesuits' Museum of Chinese Art in Québec was established for the introduction and understanding of Chinese culture and art, as well as to raise funds for their missionary work in China. Its collection featured works of art and decorative artefacts organized in large cabinets of curiosities. Some objects were sent by colleagues in Shanghai for forthcoming exhibitions or in order to be sold at profit for the mission. Objects were not chosen necessarily for their aesthetic value, authenticity, nor antiquity. For more than 50 years, the museum disseminated these works of Chinese art, and through their collection (now housed by the Musée de la civilisation à Québec), missionary exhibitions, and newsletter, the Jesuits wanted to show China to the Québec public, or at least their interpretation of China. While the museum was founded as a way to counter negative prejudice that most Canadians had towards China based on past missionary accounts and their limited experiences with Chinese immigrants, this paper will discuss how, through their exhibitions and collection, the Jesuits themselves shaped the interpretation, understanding, and perhaps even perpetuated stereotypes of Chinese culture and the Chinese community in Québec. Collaborating with museum and communities, I have created several art installations that are contemporary imagined exhibition displays of this museum with artefacts from the original Jesuit collection. In doing so, I suggest how revisiting the history and contexts of this collection can contest and allow new readings and narratives in the discourse of race and cultural representation.

Collecting karamono kodō 唐物古銅in Meiji Japan: the image of China through the archaistic Chinese bronzes of the Chiossone Museum, Genoa, Italy

Author: Donatella Failla ('Edoardo Chiossone' Museum of Japanese Art) email

Short abstract

In comprehending the Chinese models of Japanese civilisation, the 'things Chinese' attracted the discerning attitude and far-sightedness of Edoardo Chiossone (1833-1898), artist and collector, who was always especially interested in archaistic bronze vessels.

Long abstract

Diverse ideas and levels of knowledge about China and Chinese art had co-existed in Japan for several centuries. The philosophical position of the Japanese thinkers oscillated between enthusiastic adhesion to Confucianism - which in the early and mid-Edo period was an instrument of socio-political stabilisation and institutional radicalization of ethical models - and forms of open competition and ideological expropriation. Chinese poetry (kanshi 漢詩), diffused as means of expression of civil and national sentiments amongst officials and Confucian thinkers, continued to maintain its fortune also with the Meiji political class. Furthermore, the figurative and decorative arts transmitted from China to Japan constituted a profoundly assimilated cultural wealth, which over the centuries was 'Japanized', i.e., transformed. Representing a privileged category of art collecting in Japan, the 'things Chinese' or karamono 唐物 were regarded as everlasting artistic examples and witnesses to the moral and spiritual excellence of ancient China. For this reason, their aesthetics took deep root in the circles of the highest interpreters of taste from the times of the Ashikaga Shogunate up to the end of the Edo period, becoming a not negligible part of classic instruction and artistic education of the elevated ranks of military aristocracy. In comprehending Antiquity and the Chinese models of Japanese civilisation, the theme of karamono attracted the discerning attitudes and far-sightedness of Edoardo Chiossone (1833-1898), artist and collector, who was always especially interested in archaistic bronze vessels.

Korean Gardens outside of Korea: The (Re)Construction of National Cultural Identity?

Author: Maria Sobotka (Free University of Berlin/Peking University) email

Short abstract

My topic is the representation of Korean art and culture in the West. Based on a contemporary Korean garden in Berlin I will show the garden concept as a derivation from South Korea's cultural policy objectives and place it in the larger context of cultural identity and nation-building.

Long abstract

This paper explores the reconstruction and representation of Neo-Confucian literati gardens of the Korean Joseon dynasty in the West by taking as its focus the 16th century Korean scholar garden Dongnakdang in Gyeongju and a contemporary Korean in Berlin, the so-called Seouler Garten. To a large extent, the Dongnakdang served as a model for the Seouler Garten, located in the Gardens of the World, a public park in Berlin. Built in 2005 it was handed over by the Seoul municipal government to Berlin in 2006 as part of their city partnership. As one of only two Korean gardens in Germany it is one of the few places where South Korea officially presents its country and culture.

I will explore the literati garden concept of the Dongnakdang and set out how this traditional concept has been transferred into a modern Western context. Based on the concept of othering I will elucidate how imagination and representation of Korean culture shape the picture of Korean gardens in the West. My findings will highlight how notions of cultural identity emerge and place the garden within South Korea's foreign cultural policy. Moreover, based on an extensive visitor survey and a detailed analysis of the Seouler Garten I will tackle the predominant image of South Korea in Germany today to investigate whether this garden in Berlin can be seen as a successful 'translation' of a Neo-Confucian literati garden into a western country, and the realisation of South Korea's cultural policy objectives.

Defining Asia’s cultural matrix?

Author: Chiara Formichi (Cornell University) email

Short abstract

I investigate the relation between art collection practices and academic constructions of Asia with a focus on Islamic and Asian Studies. With research in Europe, US and Asia I argue that these approaches fostered an image of Asia’s original cultures as solely rooted in the Hindu-Buddhist traditions.

Long abstract

In 2011 the Metropolitan Museum opened its renovated Islamic Art wing. In 2012 the Louvre opened its own new galleries on Islamic Art. Yet, neither New York nor Paris give any space to Asia beyond Moghul India. The Met’s Southeast Asia collection focuses on the Hindu-Buddhist “classical” period, while the Louvre simply does not have any objects from Asia, as these are exhibited at the Musée Guimet. Currently, the British Museum is setting up a Gallery of the Islamic World with support from a Malaysian foundation, yet the search for a curator has focused on the Perso-Arab tradition.

Although 60% of the world Muslims live in Asia, and almost a quarter of the total find their home in Southeast Asia, Western museums do not represent Islam as contributing to Asia’s cultural matrix.

In this presentation I investigate the relationship between art collection practices and the ways in which “Asia” has been constructed in the academic field, with a dedicated focus to the shaping of two disciplinary fields of study, Islamic Studies and Asian Studies (with a focus on Southeast Asia). Based on research conducted in Europe, America and Asia, I argue that academic and curatorial approaches have fostered an image of Asia’s “original” cultures as solely rooted in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Challenging the framing of 'Asia' and the role of the VVAK (Dutch Asian Art Society). The Asian Pavilion at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Author: Annette Loeseke (New York University Berlin) email

Short abstract

Exploring the Asian Pavillion of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the paper examines the museum's colonial past and the role of private collectors in producing the Asian collection, and discusses how the curatorial framing of 'Asia' relates to the presentation of Dutch (art) history at the Rijksmuseum.

Long abstract

Drawing on the case study of the Asian Pavilion at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the paper explores acquisition practices, exhibition strategies, and perceptions of 'Asian' art in the Netherlands. The acquisition of the collection during colonial times and the museum's non-challenging narrative of the Dutch colonial past have been critically debated since the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum in 2013 (Bloembergen et al, Colonial Nostalgia in the Rijksmuseum, NRC Handelsblad, 2013). Examining the role of the VVAK (Dutch Asian Art Society) and other private collectors from the former Dutch colonies in shaping the collection, the paper focuses on how the profile of the collection and the curatorial framing of 'Asia' relate to the presentation of Dutch (art) history in the main museum building. Drawing on findings from a visitor study, carried out in collaboration with professors Anna Grasskamp and Mariana Francozo and students from Leiden University, the paper further discusses how the museum's (colonial) acquisition practices, issues of contested heritage, and questions of provenance and historical as well as current ownership are interpreted by visitors. Exploring how visitors respond to the presentation of 'Asian' artefacts in the curatorial context of the Rijksmuseum (as opposed to the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, for example), I shall discuss how the profile of the collection has produced narratives of 'Asia', and ask whether the presentation in a separate pavilion challenges or rather reinforces existing stereotypes about 'Asian' art. How might museums challenge their historical and current narratives of 'Asia', and transparently address their colonial past?

Museo Nacional de Arte Oriental in Buenos Aires: a derivation of European taste for anything Oriental or genuine interest in the East?

Author: Florencia Rodriguez Giavarini (Universidad del Salvador) email

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.

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.

Saving Asia: The Past and Present of Asian Art Objects in Western Museums

Author: Harnoor Bhangu (University of Winnipeg) email

Short abstract

This paper takes up the case study of Musée Guimet to analyze histories of colonial travel, appropriation, and dissemination. Moving from the museum's history of accumulation to its present curatorial practices, it argues for a decolonial turn to Asian art objects circulating in Western museums.

Long abstract

This paper examines the collection of Asian art in colonial and post-colonial contexts. Taking Musée Guimet in Paris as a case study for this analysis, it unpacks histories of colonial travel, appropriation, and dissemination. It begins with an introduction to the collection of industrialist-cum-connoisseur, Émile Étienne Guimet (1836-1918) through studying his affiliations with Société de Asiatique and Société de Géographie, both of which were implicated in enforced modernizations across colonial Asia under the umbrella of "knowledge production." Then, follows a detour into Guimet's "scientific mission" into the heart of Asia - Japan, China, and India - for the purposes of building his self-funded museum of world religions. In introducing hegemonic and specialized understandings of self/other that fuelled Guimet's travel into and out of the Asian "Orient," the discussion advances emergent discourse on the problematics of continuing to hold such collections in European public museums. Finally, this paper encounters contemporary curatorial practices, in particular the juxtaposition of historical objects from the Asian collection alongside objects of contemporary art inspired by the collection and produced by non-Asian makers, to explore the ways in which art from post-colonial cultures continues to be divorced of its context for the purposes of Western aesthetic fulfillment. This paper attempts to complicate the neutralized histories of collection and dissemination of Asian art in decidedly post-colonial nations, such as France, to argue for a reconsideration and decolonization of Asian art objects circulating in Western museums.

Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum: a platform for the conservation, exchange, performance and promotion of living Asian puppet theatre traditions

Author: Robin Ruizendaal (Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum) email

Short abstract

The museum has a complete collection of Asian theatre puppets, focusing on China and Taiwan. In my role as western director, curating this heritage offers insights in ideas of Taiwanese and Chinese cultural identities and presents a traditional performing art to young Asians and worldwide audiences.

Long abstract

The Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum (formerly the Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum) has a collection of over 10.000 puppets from all major Asian traditions. The museum has a small 80-seat theatre and a puppet theatre company: the Taiyuan Puppet Theatre Company. The latter performing both traditional Taiwanese and modern productions in over 50 countries around the world. A catalogue of the museum collection "Asian Theatre Puppets" was published by Thames and Hudson in 2009. This paper will chart the process of creating a museum platform for the inter-Asian exchange of knowledge.

The aim of the museum is to create links with both the living traditions in Asia, i.e. the local puppet theatre companies and related institutions that are concerned with the preservation of the Asian theatrical heritage. The museum aims to conserve the material puppet culture and has a specialized conservation department that develops specific ways of conserving theatre puppets. Working closely with international experts and other museums, such as the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Bangkok. Interns from SOAS and around the world spent time at the museum to learn basic conservation skills.

The museum regularly exhibits parts of its collections and works with other Asian countries in planning and exchanging exhibitions and related knowledge. The museum attempt to regularly produce bi-lingual (Chinese/English) publications related to exhibitions and performances. In 2016, the book "Potehi: Glove Puppet Theatre in Southeast Asia and Taiwan" was published as part of an exhibition and conference, with participants from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan.

Chinese Money Matters – so why does it have such a low profile?

Author: Helen Wang (British Museum) email

Short abstract

There are tens of thousands of Chinese coins, banknotes, coin-shaped amulets, hell money and other money-related objects in East Asian collections outside of Asia. Why are they so neglected? In this paper, I will open up the subject, and highlight the potential of these collections.

Long abstract

There are tens of thousands of pieces of Chinese money (coins, banknotes, coin-shaped amulets, hell money and other money-related objects) in East Asian collections outside of Asia. Why are they so neglected?

In the first part of my presentation, I will consider the locations and provenances of the collections, the status of the collectors, and the level of expertise currently available to study them. When East Asian money is part of a collection of world money, the East Asian money tends to be overshadowed by its European, American and Middle Eastern counterparts. Similarly, when East Asian money is part of a collection of East Asian material culture, the collection is usually noted as an “art” collection or an “ethnographic” collection, with the result that the East Asian money is overshadowed again. In other words, collections of East Asian money are largely neglected by the communities of experts who are responsible for looking after them. Too often, the East Asian money remains untouched, uncatalogued, unknown, and unconsidered.

And yet, their potential is enormous! In the second part of my paper, I will give examples of recent detailed studies and projects concerning East Asian money. I will also show how a very simple knowledge of Chinese coins can empower museum-visitors who have no prior knowledge of East Asia or East Asian languages.

'Seek knowledge even as far as China': The founding of the Oriental Museum, Durham University

Author: Gillian Ramsay (Durham University) email

Short abstract

Founded in 1960 primarily as a resource to support Durham University's teaching and research agenda, the Oriental Museum has developed into a world-class institution which combines its traditional academic role with a commitment to making its collections accessible to all.

Long abstract

After the Second World War the Scarborough Commission recommended that Durham University be selected as one of five universities in which special facilities should be developed for the teaching of the Near and Far Eastern languages. As a result, a new School of Oriental Studies was established in Durham in 1951, with Professor Thomas W Thacker as its director.

From the outset Professor Thacker was adamant that a language could not be learnt in isolation but must be supported by an understanding of material culture, arguing that 'An Oriental School which aims to teach the cultural background of the oriental peoples must have a museum at its disposal'. Not only was there no such museum in Durham, in Thacker's opinion there was no adequate collections anywhere in the North East. He therefore determined to create his own museum.

This paper aims to provide an overview of some of the most important donors to the Oriental Museum who shared Thacker's ethos to promote better understanding of people through their material culture. Most notably Dr and Mrs H.N Spalding who founded the Spalding Trust for the study of world religions; the noted collector Henry De Laszlo who was so appalled by the destruction of WWII that he set about collecting art from all over the world in order to preserve it for future generations; and the diplomat and politician Malcolm McDonald who believed that an appreciation of art was one of the most important tools for international diplomacy.

Orient Museum Collections. Polysemy reduction and metonymic overuse

Author: Sofia Campos Lopes (Fundação Oriente) email

Short abstract

The Orient Museum collections, Portuguese Presence in Asia and Kwok On, have different modes of incorporation and display. The museum promotes transdisciplinary historical and anthropological views and identity diversity but individual and collective expectations lead to objects's transfiguration.

Long abstract

The Orient Museum, in Lisbon, was created in 2008 by the Orient Foundation (FO), a private organisation born in 1988. In its manifesto we read that both the museum's collections, Portuguese Presence in Asia (PPA) and Kwok On (KO), were gathered with the ultimate intention to build peaceful links between West and East civilizations, by disclosing art testimonies of ancient and prolific contacts in colonial contexts, from the 16th century until today (PPA), and by promoting the richness of contemporary asian cultural diversity both in portuguese and in larger european contexts, through the exhibition of traditional performing arts and narratives' testimonies (from KO). The PPA collection was acquired by FO in national and international markets and it's part of the permanent exhibition. The KO collection was donated to FO, in 1999, by the Association des Arts et Traditions Populaires de l'Asie and it is presented in the form of temporary exhibitions. The museum promotes a transdisciplinary profile, intercrossing historical and anthropological points of view that define its programming. Yet, under this positivism lies a complex reality, a myriad of questions pumping out on a daily basis to the museum staff, raised by individual and collective outside expectations and the inner needs for pratical solutions, aiming to produce legitimate data on the other. This presentation addresses two main ideas. The objects' transfiguration through the reduction of their polysemy and metonymic overuse. And the idea of embodying this complex reality by bringing it and its canons into exhibitions, playing and performing it.

Rethinking Asian Museums in Italy

Author: Marco Biscione email

Short abstract

Asian Museums in Italy were founded following XIX°/XX° centuries cultural paradigms. Rethinking the missions of museums will help to cope changing socioeconomic, cultural and political patterns

Long abstract

Museums reflect a vision of the world, how societies and cultures think themselves and the 'Other'. The Museums of oriental art, proposing a vision of different cultures, fully reflect this approach.

Few museums in Italy are fully devoted to oriental arts. Two of them (Museo Chiossone in Genoa and the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice) were established on the collections of XIX° century travellers and collectors. The Museum of Oriental Art in Trieste was founded on collections created by trade contacts between the city and Asia. The former Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale in Rome (a state museum, the main one in Italy on oriental art) was founded following a project of scientific researches and archaeological investigations. The Museum of Oriental Art in Turin (opened in 2008), was created with a clear aesthetic approach.

Most of the Museums of oriental art in Italy now goes through a period of crisis: little public, very few activities. The situation is in part created by problems of budget, anyway affecting the whole museums' system. The former Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale in Rome has been recently closed and moved to become part of a wider Museum of Civilization. The real reason for this situation is the crisis of a cultural model of representation of Asia, no longer responsive to changing socioeconomic, cultural and political patterns.

In order to cope this changes the Museum of Oriental Art in Turin rethought its mission and activities, offering to the public different approaches to Asian cultures and arts.

Japan in Venice: The Collection of the Oriental Art Museum in Venice

Author: Marta Boscolo Marchi (Ministry for cultural heritage and activities and tourism) email

Short abstract

Born as the private collection of Prince Henry of Bourbon in 1889, the Oriental Art Museum in Venice became a public institution in 1928. Changes in the reception of the artifacts as well as in the museum over time show shifts in the perception of oriental art and its place in the cultural context.

Long abstract

In 1889, thirty thousands Chinese, Indonesian and above all Japanese objects were collected in Vendramin Calergi palace in Venice. Their owner was Prince Henry of Bourbon, who was just come back from a long journey in Asia. The desire to own and capture the spirit of the local culture through its products and artworks became a sort of obsession for Henry. When he died in 1905, his wife passed the collection to the Austrian firm Trau, who sold nearly 10.000 objects from 1907 to 1914. The purchasers were not only the international high society but also many European Museums.

After the First World War Trau's heritage was confiscated and the collection became a State Museum. It was open to the public in 1928 in Ca' Pesaro in Venice: the first director was Eugenio Barbantini who chose a very suggestive setting in order to astound the public.

In 1937 and 1942 some objects with a predominant anthropological interest were delivered to Padua university while the museum adapted the rooms to the new conservation criteria, creating a storage to recover the most delicate artworks and transforming the structure.

Since 2016 a new historical building in Venice has been chosen by the government to house the museum. The architectural project and the new setting up of the collection will respond to the modern needs of enhancement and conservation, helping the Western public to approach a world that, despite mass media and low cost flights, still sounds like exotic and mysterious.

The Museum of Asian Art in Berlin: From Prussian Heritage to World Museum

Author: Regina Hoefer (Bonn University) email

Short abstract

This lecture investigates the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin. It will show how the museum's history influenced its collection policies and examines the changing approaches over the time to col-lecting East Asian and South Asian artefacts.

Long abstract

This lecture investigates the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin, which belongs to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. With objects dating back to the Brandenburgische Kunstkammer, the museum was founded as The Museum of East Asian Art in 1906 as the first of its kind in Germany. In 1963 it was joint by The Museum of Indian Art which form today the two departments of the museum. It emerged out of the Indian department of the Ethnological Museum, which was founded in 1873. A significant caesura will take place in 2019 when the museum will be integrated into the Humboldt-Forum in the heart of Berlin, where together with the collections of occidental cultural artefacts on the Museum Island, a global landscape of Western and non-Western artefacts will arise.

The lecture shows how this founding history is reflected in the museum's policies and objectives. It examines the changing approaches over the time to collecting Asiatica. Starting with Kunstkammer-exotica and the altered notions and evaluations of "high arts" and "decorative arts", the different approaches towards East Asian- and South Asian artefacts and their appraisal have shaped the Berlin museum. For example, the relatively early appreciation of the "non-religious" and "high arts" of East Asia by the academic discipline of art history and collectors in contrast to the "grotesque and monstrous" South Asian arts led to different museum policies. The future plan of the upcoming Humboldt-Forum transforms the cultures and arts of the world eventually into the 21st century.

The Museums of the Far East and the Asian Collections of the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels

Author: Nathalie Vandeperre (Royal Museums of Art and History) email

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

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.

Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw - The New Beginning and Challenges

Author: Maria Szymanska-Ilnata (The Asia and Pacific Museum) email

Short abstract

In the country with no colonial history Asia and Pacific Museum plays an important role in popularizing knowledge about Asian cultures, although since over 40 years it was existing without a permanent exhibition. Now the situation is changing as new possibilities and challenges appeared.

Long abstract

Asia and Pacific Museum was founded on a private collection of Indonesian arts and crafts created by Andrzej Wawrzyniak. It was officially established in 1973 as a Museum of Nusantara Archipelago, when the collection was donated to the country. In 1976 the name was changed to the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, which, accordingly, began to gather artefacts from other countries of Asia and Oceania.

Poland never had a colony, nor did it maintain in close relations with any of Asian countries. After the II World War, until 1989 it was difficult for people to travel abroad. The exhibitions and lectures organized in different towns by Andrzej Wawrzyniak with the Ethnographic Museum from Cracow and later by the Asia and Pacific Museum were almost the only ways (except books) to get any knowledge about Asian cultures. Without the proper building the museum was unable to organize a permanent exhibition, and could only display its object on temporary exhibitions in different localizations.

The situation changed few years ago when it received a new building, although the financial resources for the exhibition have been granted this year. It is a new beginning and a big challenge for the Museum. We have to reconsider the concept and scenario of the exhibition and reply to the needs and expectation of our visitors. The second challenge is to present Asian cultures in the most proper and multi-faceted way. The question is what does it mean in globalized, modern world and in recent Polish reality?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.