Prospect Heights

Revamped Asian galleries at Brooklyn Museum set to reopen after 6 years

August 19, 2019 Alex Williamson
You can get a day pass to get into the Brooklyn Museum for free with a library card, thanks to the new Culture Pass program. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

The Brooklyn Museum’s Arts of China and Arts of Japan exhibits are scheduled to reopen in October after a major six-year renovation and reinstallation.

The announcement comes two years after the Arts of Korea section of the museum reopened in 2017, and ahead of the museum’s as-yet-unannounced date for unveiling its South Asian, Buddhist, Southeast Asian and Himalayan galleries.

Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760-1849). Rainstorm beneath the Summit, from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, circa 1823. Color woodblock print on paper, 9 7/8 x 14 5/8 in. (25.1 x 37.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Frederic B. Pratt, 42.76. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

The updated exhibits will pair classic masterworks with contemporary pieces from Chinese and Japanese artists to highlight the techniques and themes connecting each country’s artistic practices over many centuries.

Brooklyn Museum is home to one of the world’s foremost collections of Chinese cloisonné enamels (ancient metalwork objects decorated with porcelain coatings and gemstone inlays) — many from the Chinese imperial collection. The updated Arts of China gallery holds more than 130 cloisonné enamels, many of which have not been on display for decades.

Traveling Coffer. China, Southern Song or Yuan dynasty, circa 1250– 90. Lacquer over leather, bamboo, wood, with metal mounts, 17 1/4 x 29 x 16 1/4 in. (43.8 x 73.7 x 41.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Asian Art Council, 1996.68. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

More than 50 recently acquired works from contemporary artists will be added to the Arts of China gallery, including experimental ink paintings from Peng Wei, Tai Xiangzhou, Sun Xun and others. Many of the new pieces are influenced by life in modern China, and deal with issues like urbanization, pollution and the country’s rapid move toward a modern economy.

In addition to artwork spanning 5,000 years of Chinese history, the gallery will display contemporary Chinese works in a special exhibition. The modern pieces will rotate into the primary exhibit on a regular basis.

Wine Vessel (Zun) in the Form of a Goose. China, Han dynasty, 206 B.C.E.–220 C.E. Bronze, 11 1/2 x 6 3/16 x 17 1/2 in. (29.2 x 15.7 x 44.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, the Guennol Collection, 54.145a–b. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Some of the ancient classics on view in the Arts of China gallery will be “Wine Jar with Fish and Aquatic Plants,” one of the most highly regarded pieces of 14th-century porcelain ware in the Western hemisphere, and a Shang Dynasty bronze vessel depicting the spiritual transformation that Chinese tradition attributes to communion with one’s ancestors.

The Arts of Japan gallery is the largest subsection of the museum’s Asian art holdings, with roughly 7,000 pieces in its inventory.

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The gallery is renowned for its extensive collection of art from the Ainu people, an indigenous group from northern Japan with a distinct culture, language and artistic tradition from the rest of Japan. Ainu artifacts including wood carvings, ceramic objects and delicate textiles will on display.

Haniwa Figure of a Woman. Japan, Kofun period, 5th-6th century. Earthenware with traces of pigment, 18 x 8 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (45.7 x 22.2 x 19.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus, 79.278.1. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

The reinstallation will place contemporary ceramics alongside ancient pieces to highlight points of continuity through Japan’s long and rich history of ceramic art. To provide variety for visitors and to better preserve sensitive pieces, objects throughout the gallery will be swapped out on a regular basis, and visitors are encouraged to return for new displays.

The Arts of China and Arts of Japan galleries will reopen October 25. To stay on top of Brooklyn Museum’s upcoming events and special exhibitions, see here

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