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Influence, trade and innovation


This display draws connections between the material and visual cultures of Asia as they are represented in the Gallery’s collection. Focusing on ideas of exchange and interaction, the display also engages with the effects of European trade and colonialism on the region.

Ongoing inter-regional cultural influences can be seen in several displayed works, particularly those that adopt and adapt ancient mediums such as ceramics, lacquerware and calligraphy. From early Chinese and Japanese Neolithic ceramic cultures to the refinement of Japanese kilns and Korean earthenwares, it is possible to trace in these works not only innovations in production but also the convergence of philosophy and art. 

The significance of Chinese calligraphy in the development of Japanese painting is introduced here by juxtaposing works from the Gallery’s historical and contemporary Asian art collections, ranging from nineteenth-century Japanese scrolls to the contemporary art of Lee Ufan.

From the sixteenth century on, strong trade between Asian and European centres exerted new economic and cultural influences. Here we present nineteenth-century porcelain ware, produced for European export, alongside a new collection focus that considers Japan’s aesthetic transitions as it opened to the West during the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912).

Meiji-era ukiyo-e woodblock prints, which documented the monumental shifts that took place in Japan, are augmented by moving image and studio photography. Photography was introduced to Japan during this period by pioneering European photographers and the aesthetic influence of this new way of ‘picturing’ Japan can be traced in the later works of Japanese exponents.

In bringing these works together, we aim to further develop our understanding and appreciation of the richness and diversity of Asia’s aesthetic heritage.