San Francisco is truly a paradise of museums. There are so many museums and galleries in the city — fine arts, modern arts, history, science, cable car, even an ice cream museum. One of my favorites is the Asian Art Museum.
The Asian Art Museum is located in a very stately building that was formerly the City’s Main Public Library in the Civic Center of San Francisco. Behind the doors of this impressive building is a collection of over 6,000 years of beautiful art from all over Asia, spanning cultures from Turkey to India and China to the Philippines. The collection provides a panorama of Asian art and culture. Included are over 18,000 objects ranging from tiny jades to monumental sculptures. Superb paintings, porcelains, arms and armor, furniture, textiles, and bronzes are all featured. The Asian Art Museum is filled with stunning masterpieces, and I think it is a rich collection of Asian art.
On the top (third) floor, the galleries feature South Asia, the Persian World and West Asia, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas and the Tibetian Buddhist World, and early China. The second floor continues with later China, Korea, and Japan. The first floor contains Special Exhibitions Gallery, a cafe, and the Museum Store. The various collections are very comprehensive and contain some very precious exhibits. This one of the best museums of Asian Art in the U.S. and the best on the West Coast.
I felt the most impressive to me is more than one third of the exhibitions are Buddhism related, such as Buddha status, Boddhisattva status, huge piece of stone that had Buddhism sutra carving that I’d never seen before, etc. I tried to recognize some old Chinese words. I could feel the profound impact of Buddhism to the Asian culture and civilizations. These are some really magnificent pieces of art, dating from overt 2000 years old to fairly contemporary. The displays were lovely, well lit, and pieces were arranged to be able to see them from many angles. Everything is clearly labeled and explained.
An amazing interactive activity for kids of all ages was a digital aquarium where you are given paper with an outline of an aquatic animal to color and then your art piece is scanned and appears swimming on the wall. I tried that too, to feel like a kid one more time.
My only one little complaint, is there are only a few Chinese ink paintings. Chinese ink painting is one of the oldest art traditions still practiced today. One important form of ink painting is Chinese calligraphy, which can be traced back to 4000 B.C. So it is a very important part of Asian art history. However I found a smaller sized museum located on market street, just a couple of blocks away from the Asian Art Museum, that showcased this type of artwork. The International Art Museum of America has Chinese painting art including landscapes, flowers and birds, fish and insects, and figures. The techniques, whether it is fine brushwork, freehand brushwork, or splashing ink, are all ingenious, with authentic traditional techniques and innovations. Every piece is world class level. It truly gave me an uplifting aesthetic enjoyment.
Title: Asian Art Museum at a Glance