Asian Export Art Gallery
On view September 28, 2019 to January 1, 2022
Beginning in the 16th century, many luxuries made in Asia such as translucent Chinese porcelain, fine Indian textiles, and glittering Japanese lacquer were superior to anything the rest of the world could produce. Merchants across the globe went to great lengths to acquire these spectacular commodities. Now known as Asian export art, these objects connected societies and created a complex global economy that continues to shape our world to this day.
PEM’s Asian Export Art collection, foremost in the world, explores cross-cultural exchange as a catalyst for creativity and celebrates the interplay of commerce and creative expression. The gallery features more than 200 works of art made in diverse media by artists in China, Japan, and South Asia. These transcultural objects demonstrate the beauty and ingenuity that can be created through blending artistic traditions, materials, and technologies. Porcelain, textiles, tea, ivory, and silver were the focus of intensive trade activity between Asia and the rest of the world. The new installation also addresses the uncomfortable truth that many of these works of art were originally purchased with profits derived from the illegal opium trade. During the 1800s, millions of Indian and Chinese lives were devastated by opium, a foreshadowing of today’s opioid crisis.
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...touches on truths at once particular and universal, inspiring and sobering." - Wall Street Journal
The transcultural objects in this galley demonstrate the beauty and ingenuity that can be created through blending artistic traditions, materials and technologies. The new installation includes a centrally located video that addresses a darker side of the story, the uncomfortable truth that many of these works of art were originally purchased with profits derived from the illegal opium trade. During the 1800s, millions of Indian and Chinese lives were devastated by opium, a foreshadowing of today’s opioid crisis.
The ridiculous story of Augustus the Strong story ties to one of the overall themes of this installation, that desire, obsession, and greed have fueled our complex global economy for centuries. Watch this video that uses tongue-in-cheek dark humor to tell the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of Augustus the Strong’s obsession for Chinese porcelain, his imprisonment of the alchemist Johann Böttger, and the eventual founding of the Meissen manufactory in Germany.