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Asian Export Art
PEM holds the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of cross-cultural art from Asia.
How far would you go to get what you want? Beginning in the late 16th century, European merchants raced to the thriving port cities of Guangzhou, China; Calcutta (Kolkata), India; and Nagasaki, Japan, to seek their fortunes in tea, textiles, and other commodities. Asian artists, catering to diverse markets around the globe, adapted and combined design motifs, materials, and techniques to create unique expressions of artistic creativity that were among the finest produced in the world. Now known as Asian export art, these transcultural objects — from translucent porcelains and glittering lacquers to sumptuous fabrics — defy easy categorization. PEM holds the largest and most comprehensive collection in the world of these fascinating works of hybridity. The historic collections of the East India Marine Society and the Essex Institute include important works from China, Japan, and South Asia, a vestige of Salem’s intensive trade with Asian ports in the early 19th century.
Explore some highlights from the collection