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Current Exhibitions

Fashioning an Empire: Safavid Textiles from the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

December 18, 2021–May 15, 2022
Luxury textiles played a critical role in the social, cultural, religious, and economic life of Safavid Iran (1501–1722). Used for clothing, furnishing, and movable architecture, fabrics also functioned as important symbols of power and as ubiquitous forms of artistic expression.

To celebrate the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is collaborating with the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, part of Qatar Museums, on an exhibition focusing on a selection of extraordinary seventeenth-century textiles and full-length portraits from Safavid Iran.

Falcons: Art of the Hunt

January 15–July 17, 2022
Swift, fierce, and loyal, falcons have been celebrated for millennia. In ancient Egypt, they were closely associated with Horus, the god of the heavens. By the early eighth century in Syria, falcons were being trained to become skillful hunters at the royal courts. The art of falconry soon spread across the rest of the Islamic world, to the Byzantine empire in the west, and to the east as far as China. It is still practiced in many societies today, especially in the Arab world.

Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand

Ongoing
Red painted spirals swirl across the surfaces of these vessels, testifying to the sophisticated material and aesthetic cultures of northeastern Thailand more than two thousand years ago. Their makers belonged to a loose network of settlements specializing in bronze and ceramic production. Recent research into their materials, techniques, and designs opens new lines of inquiry into the region’s heritage and its profound cultural and material legacy.

Mind Over Matter: Zen in Medieval Japan

March 5–July 24, 2022
This exhibition showcases the breadth of the museum’s medieval Zen collections, highlighting rare and striking works from Japan and China to illustrate the visual, spiritual, and philosophical power of Zen. Rooted in the culture of medieval Japan, the lessons of Zen have become an important part of contemporary American life, as applicable today as they were in premodern times.

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room

Ongoing through 2025
The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room includes more than two hundred bronzes, paintings, silk hangings, and carpets that were created in Tibet, China, and Mongolia between the thirteenth and early twentieth centuries. Arranged to reflect Tibetan Buddhist concepts and customs rather than museum conventions, the glittering room evokes the Himalayan portals that bridge the mundane and the sacred worlds.

The objects, assembled by collector Alice S. Kandell over many years, are placed on painted furniture, arranged among paintings and textiles, and presented without labels. With an aural dimension of chanting monks, this dynamic and densely layered display restores the relationships between Buddhist figures and viewers that are typically dissolved within museums.

Underdogs and Antiheroes: Japanese Prints from the Moskowitz Collection

March 19, 2022–January 29, 2023
Expect the unexpected. The exhibition Underdogs and Antiheroes: Japanese Prints from the Moskowitz Collection focuses on the captivating stories and urban legends of individuals living on the fringes of society in early modern Japan. Key subjects in theater, literature, and visual arts reveal antiheroes and underdogs whose virtues are often embodied by their rejection of societal norms, making them misfits and moral exemplars at the same time. The exhibition will follow virtuous bandits, tattooed firemen who love to fight, rogues from the kabuki theater, and others.

Highlighting the transformative gift of the Pearl and Seymour Moskowitz Collection to the National Museum of Asian Art, Underdogs and Antiheroes features subjects that are not commonly associated with traditional Japanese print culture but were nevertheless central to the interests of an early modern public. The exhibition will explore new visual and thematic ground, further strengthening the museum’s trailblazing role in reconsidering presentations of Asian cultures.

Revealing Krishna: Journey to Cambodia’s Sacred Mountain

April 30, 2022 - September 18, 2022
Revealing Krishna transports visitors to a sacred mountain in the floodplains of southern Cambodia. The exhibition showcases a monumental sculpture of the Hindu god Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan to protect his people from a torrential storm sent by an angry god. For the first time, the sculpture is explored in the context of its original environment, as part of a multi-religious landscape and quite literally built into a mountain. This larger than life-size sculpture is one of eight monumental deity figures recovered from cave temples on the two-peaked mountain of Phnom Da near the ancient metropolis of Angkor Borei. The exhibition tells the life story of this sculptural masterpiece—spanning 1,500 years and three continents—and unveils the newly restored Krishna in an exhibition that integrates art, immersive video installations, and interactive design.

The exhibition includes an original short film directed by renowned Cambodian American film maker praCh Ly. Titled Satook, a word of blessing spoken at the end of Cambodian prayers, the film examines the role of ancient sacred sites in present-day religious landscapes, and the transformation of religious traditions in Cambodian American diaspora communities.

 

Upcoming Events

Lectures and Programs

Join the Curator: Artist Talk with Michael Joo

Online program, May 18, 6pm
Artist Michael Joo employs myriad materials and rigorous engagement with technological processes throughout his practice. As a recipient of the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2012, he studied the annual flight of the iconic red-crowned crane to the Korean Demilitarized Zone and used advanced digital reproduction tools to create stunning, large-scale works that were exhibited in Perspectives: Michael Joo. Since then, he has exhibited major installations that continue to reflect on the intersection between technology, perception, and the natural environment. Join curator Carol Huh in conversation with the artist about how the marriage of art and science continues to evolve in his work and learn more about his exciting upcoming projects.

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