The Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ collection of Asian art is impressively extensive. It’s also artistically representative of parts in Asia many Westerners are not often exposed to. One of the hallmarks of the collection is a set of figurines, idols, and statues from South East Asia, particularly Pakistan, Nepal, and Indonesia. Primarily, the exhibit, housed in Gallery 176, features depictions of the Buddha, and as guests move through chronologically the exhibit they can witness the evolution of South and Southeast Asian art over the course of two millennia. The gallery is arranged so that the first piece of art a patron sees is the oldest and the last is the most recent.
The end of this exhibit leaves museum-goers at the threshold of the rarely displayed art of Korea. Galleries that feature the art of Asia almost exclusively include works from China, Japan, and India. However, the majority of this gallery presents jars, jugs, vases, bowls, and teapots from the 11th to 13th century Korea. However, a few silk scroll paintings adorn the walls. These scrolls came from Joseon dynasty Korea, which lasted from the late 14th century to the 19th century. These household decorations, commonly attributed to 16th century Korean ink painter Yi Am, represent a later era in Asian art when many styles in the region began mold and influence each other.
This is evident in the Edo period scroll paintings displayed in the Arts of Japan in Gallery 179. The scrolls are largely done in ink with depictions of Japan’s native flora and fauna. However, notably absent is the work of famed Japanese woodblock painter Kasushika Hokusai. The paintings are just a handful of over 130 works of art in the collection including paraphernalia of traditional tea ceremonies and a complete set of samurai armor.
Though the Arts of Asia exhibition largely dates before the 19th century, it is very comprehensive and representative of Asia as a whole, as opposed to more common and traditional East Asian art exhibits.