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... of The San Diego Museum of Art

Galleries & Exhibitions

New Audio Tour

There is an audio tour of 12 objects in our Asian galleries, created by Dr. Marika Sardar. There are several ways to use a cell phone to listen to the audio tour while one is in the Museum. iPods are available from the main desk, so everyone can try it. On a smart phone, or on a computer, there is a high resolution photo of each object to see while listening so each detail can be studied, like the Spirit House shown. One must scroll to below the left corner of the picture where there is a place to click to hear a short explanation of the work of art. Click to start audio tour.

Asian Court lasted 5 decades
Spirit House, Japan, Wood with silk and metal inlay, ca. 1830, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Cramer, 1994.254.a


Current: a show of recent work by photographer Lalla Essaydi.

May 2016: an Islamic art exhibition from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

2017: Dr. Sardar is planning for an exhibition on storytelling in Indian art, drawing from our Edwin Binney 3rd collection of South Asian painting.

Past exhibitions of East Asian interest -

February 18 - May 27, 2012: Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan (pronounced "shahng-tahng-shahn") filled the Asian Court before the reinstallation as the Art of East Asia Galleries.

February 18, 2012: Dyeing Elegance: Asian Modernism and the Art of KÅ«boku and Hisako Takaku. An exhibition of kimono using the ancient wax resist dyeing technique, called roketsuzome. Four short videos show the seasons represented:
               Spring        Summer       Autumn      Winter

November 06, 2010 - June 05, 2011: Dreams & Diversions: 250 Years of Japanese Woodblock Prints, had two rotations showing woodblock prints from the Museum vaults. The Asian Arts Council created the Adopt-a-Print fund raising effort to conserve many of the exhibited prints.


Asian art makes up more than 40% of The San Diego Museum of Art's collection. Gallery 10, now called the Southeast Asian gallery, has a selection of objects from the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings (from the founder of Crayola) which are always on view. The South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Persian Art galleries were originally created in 2010 as the Temple, Palace, Mosque galleries. They were reinstalled in July, 2014 with a geographic rather than a functional theme. See Rotations for more information on the reinstallation.

The beautiful Art of East Asia galleries opened on February 9, 2013. They show the culmination of years of research by then Curator of Asian Art, Sonya Quintanilla. The Museum's Exhibition Department staff worked with the consulting firm Staples & Charles (Washington DC) to develop five interactive galleries to last for decades to come.

Budget-saving changes were a part of the design choices, like using LED lighting technology to save energy. LED lighting is brand new with softer lighting and much less cost to run. There were big challenges to selecting the right lights to spot some works and gently glow around others. Two-color LEDs allow lighting to adjust from harsh to soft.

Before the Art of East Asia galleries there

was the Asian Court gallery which lasted 50 years. It was opened by the wife of President of the United States, Betty Ford, who cut the ribbon in 1964. The Asian Court was a wide open space set with indirect lighting, many concrete walls and a concrete floor. Asian Arts Council members remember coming to the Asian Court to meditate and to sit and contemplate the artworks.

China Gallery was  part of the Asian Court
The new galleries feature more than 280 art objects, with over 100 items being shown for the first time. Changes included replacing the asbestos ceiling and covering the cement floor with recycled teak. It feels more like Asia now!

Asian Court lasted 5 decades
The Asian Court had space to sit, reflect, meditate and absorb the Asian art flavors. The Asian Court was often called 'The Taste of Asia'.

Exhibits rotated from the Museum's vaults every few months, keeping the gallery fresh. Over the past 50 years, many of the Museum's Asian artworks have been showcased.Times have changed to a faster pace, with Museum patrons of all ages wanting to be entertained while they learn. Out went the passive learning space and in came the interactive adventure in the Art of East Asia galleries.

There was a choice to return most of the paper and fabric items to the vaults because they require rotation every 4-6 months due to light damage. The Asian Court was always changing, but the Art of East Asia will stay the same for now, with hand scrolls being rolled, Japanese door panels being flipped and three new wall hangings rotating every six months.

Courtyard was the Asian Court
The original Asian Court began as a courtyard open to the sky, rain and sun. The rams now guard the Korean gallery. Notice the courtyard canopy is now part of the ceiling.