Asian art at Yale art museums expanding, morphing with time
The YUAG and the YCBA have taken steps in recent years to enlarge their collections of Asian art.
Courtesy of YUAG
Yale’s art museums, the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art, continue to display their collections of Asian and Asian American art and are looking to expand them.
Since 1998, the collection has grown from 6,000 to almost 9,000 objects, according to Sadako Ohki, the Japan Foundation associate curator of Japanese Art at the YUAG. The parts of the collection on display rotate on a six-month basis, allowing visitors to see different types of art on each trip to the museum. Across Chapel Street, the YCBA has recently acquired a work by Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê ART ’93 to add to its collection.
“The Asian Art Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery is half the world in all of time,” said Denise Patry Leidy— the Ruth and Bryce Dayton curator of Asian Art — in an interview with the News.
The YUAG’s extensive collection of Asian art comprises objects from Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Thailand and Tibet on a six-month rotating basis. Since these exhibitions change frequently, students are encouraged to visit often. Leidy and Ohki hope to “tell students different stories” upon each exploration at the museum.
The curators encouraged students to visit the gallery when it reopens to the public and view the display of 34 out of almost 300 promised gifts of Japanese “surimono” woodblock prints, curated by Ohki. These prints explore the richness of Japanese culture between 1800 and 1840, and celebrate “poetry circles, Kabuki enthusiasts and leading connoisseurs” through an interplay of poetry and imagery.
According to Leidy, the gallery’s collections were not always this extensive. Beginning with a donation from Ada Small Moore in 1937, the collection has been expanded mostly through gifts to the museum, but includes some purchases. Leidy said that YUAG is committed to highlighting and expanding its Asian Art Collection. Madison Mahre ’22, a Taiwanese American studying Chinese art, told the News she hopes the YUAG’s increasing representation of Asian art captures her own lived experiences.
In considering expansions to the gallery’s collections, the curators hope to focus on inclusivity and diversity and also “pay due respect to all Asian traditions.” In particular, curators hope to build on their, now small, collection of Southeast Asian ceramics. Already, a Vietnamese jar is expected to arrive through the gift of a Yale alumni. The jar will be retrieved from New York as soon as pandemic regulations allow, according to Leidy.
At the YCBA, curators have recently expanded their collections to include an important piece of Asian American art. The museum recently acquired Vietnamese American photographer Lê’s “Fragment II: Restoration of J.M.W.’s Turner Port Ruysdael”. The piece is set to be exhibited among works by the British artist J.M.W. Turner.
“The Asian diaspora is part of the aesthetic and tradition of Asian art,” Yale junior Mahre said. She expressed her wish for the Asian American identity, as well as its different forms and lived experiences, to be shared and explored through art.
The YUAG’s Asian Art Collection includes over 80 Persian and Indian miniature paintings.
Correction, May 3: An earlier version of this story said the YUAG’s Asian Art Collection had “doubled in size” since 1998. In fact, it has grown by 3,000 pieces. The story has been updated.
Correction, May 3: An earlier version of this story misattributed a Leidy quote about the breadth of the Collection to Ohki. The story has been updated to correct that error.
Correction, May 3: An earlier version of this story said that the exhibit featuring surimono woodblock prints would feature over 200 such prints. In fact, the exhibit will feature 34 of 300 promised prints set to be gifted to YUAG. The story has been updated.