Current weather

San Diego, CA
Few clouds
48.2 °F

The San Diego Museum of Art Brings East Asia to San Diego

On Friday, The San Diego Museum of Art’s Executive Director Roxana Velasquez wielded giant scissors to cut the ceremonial ribbon to the new permanent gallery “Art of East Asia.” The Museum has been aquiring pieces for this collection for almost 90 years and it is now open to the public. The gallery contains more than 280 works of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art, making up nearly half the total number of pieces in the Museum.

Not only are the unique items exquisite, but the design of the showroom by Staples & Charles also proved to be a true work of art. I could see and feel the amount of passion that was put into this project as Velasquez, the institution’s former Curator of Asian Art Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, and designers Robert Staples and Barbara Fahs Charles led us through the gallery.

Each of the five main spaces took on a life of its own. The colors, items and flow created distinct atmospheres that transported me from country to country. In the beginning, I felt like I was in an underground crypt, fitting for an area that contains pieces collected from ancient tombs. Then, I turned the corner and stepped into another world with beautiful crimson walls decorated with forms Buddha and bodhisattvas from Japan and China. The aspect that stayed constant throughout the gallery was the emphasis put on each piece of art in the gallery. It was designed so that no item, no matter how small, would go unnoticed.

I also noticed that this gallery screamed innovation. For example, there are pieces of imitation art work stationed adjacent to the real thing. Visitors are encouraged to literally feel the difference of craftsmanship by handling the fake item while looking at the authentic piece. This educational experience could come in handy at your next antique road show. 

Toward the end of the gallery is another hands-on element, a calligraphy station. Educational videos and booklets are set up to teach you how to write in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Visitors can use the supplied stationary and writing instruments to craft a message in one of these East Asian languages.

Entry to the gallery is included with museum entry. For more information please visit The San Diego Museum of Art website.

-- Lyn Canilao