The Museum’s collections of Asian art span nearly five millennia and encompass the cultures of China, the Himalayas, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia.

In 2007, the Museum launched an initiative to create dedicated galleries for the collection, beginning with a gallery for the arts of Korea. Galleries for the arts of India, China, and Japan followed in 2009, 2010, and 2012 respectively. Houston’s Asian communities, as well as international museum and foundation partners, generously supported the construction of the galleries and purchased of works of art.

Since 2007, the novel installation of ancient, modern, and contemporary objects in the same room has engaged visitors in a dialogue that conveys transnational and global narratives within the ancient and modern worlds. The display of fragile textiles, lacquers, and works on paper changes approximately every three months, allowing the Asian art department to create focused installations and to showcase more works from the collection.

Arts of Asia also includes contemporary art, collected by the museum across many collecting areas. ► Browse all of the Museum's contemporary artworks.

This collecting department illuminates the specificity and diversity of form, iconography, and techniques in the Asian continent that result from local and global transmission of ideas, religion, and philosophies such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism. Learn more about this collection below.


Collecting Areas

Arts of China

The Ting Tsung Wei Fong Chao Arts of China gallery connects China’s ancient artistic and technical achievements with contemporary society and current art practice. Objects ranging from the Neolithic period to the present day are exhibited within the monumental, site-specific installation Odyssey by contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Highlights include bronze inlaid with silver dating from the 13th to 5th century BC; jade carvings; a limestone sculpture of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara from the late 6th to early 7th century; an exceptional selection of Ming and Qing dynasty imperial ceramics; and Xu Bing’s late-20th-century masterpiece, A Book from the Sky.

Arts of India

The Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India Gallery, dedicated to the growing collection of Indian and Southeast Asian art, includes outstanding examples of painting, sculpture, and photography: Gandharan Buddhist sculpture from the 1st to 4th centuries; 6th-century Gupta sculpture; 13th-century Chola bronze sculptures; 16th- to 17th-century miniature Indian paintings depicting varied scenes, from the daily life of the Mughal court to tales from the ancient, epic books of the Ramayana and Mahabharata; an ornate mid-18th-century ivory flywhisk; large-scale stainless steel sculpture by contemporary artist Subodh Gupta; and photographs by Dayanita Singh.

Arts of Japan

The collection comprises Buddhist sculptures, contemporary ceramics, and works on paper that include 17th- to 19th-century hanging scroll paintings, illustrated books, woodblock prints, and lacquer. Contemporary installations and video are also on view. As the result of a long-term loan agreement established in 2012, the collection is complemented by important works from the Tokyo National Museum, including early Neolithic and Buddhist sculptures and elegant ceramics from the 13th to 17th century. The MFAH is the only American museum that enjoys a long-term loan with the Tokyo institution.

Arts of Korea

The Arts of Korea Gallery opened with a spectacular, long-term loan from the National Museum of Korea and AmorePacific Museum of Art in Seoul. Showcasing Korea’s 5,000 years of art and culture are works such as Neolithic vessels; 7th-century gold jewelry and bronze Buddhist sculptures of the Silla dynasty; 12th-century celadon ceramics of the Goryeo dynasty; 17th-century Buddhist sculpture of the Joseon dynasty; and 16th- to 17th-century stoneware and porcelain ceramics. Contemporary sculpture, works on paper, and videos are also exhibited.

Special Collections

The Portal Project

Providing a unique context for the Asian art collections, the Portal Project launched in 2005. The project invites renowned contemporary artists to create site-specific installations for the galleries to activate an architectural experience and generate a dialogue with the objects on display.

Do Ho Suh was commissioned to create a portal for the Arts of Korea Gallery. He proposed a 1:1-scale Korean gate modeled after an 18th-century-style Korean courtyard gate designed by his father, Modernist painter Suh Se-ok. In contrast, Do Ho Suh’s gate is made of translucent high-grade acrylic in negative space, an ambitious project fabricated using advanced technology.

For the Arts of China Gallery, Cai Guo-Qiang proposed Odyssey. The monumental, 42-panel gunpowder drawing was created in a Houston warehouse with the help of more than 100 volunteers. The rendering of a Chinese landscape and garden magnifies the visitor experience in the gallery and resonates with the works of art on view.

Exhibitions

For information about past MFAH exhibitions, search the exhibitions archive database.

Publications

  • Cai Guo-Qiang: Odyssey
  • Elegant Perfection: Masterpieces of Courtly and Religious Art from the Tokyo National Museum
  • RED HOT – Asian Art Today from the Chaney Family Collection
  • Tradition and Innovation in Korean Art
  • Treasures from the National Museum of Korea
  • Unrivalled Splendor: The Kimiko and John Powers Collection of Japanese Art
  • Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Korean Artists

Patron Group

Friends of Asian Art
Friends of Asian Art is dedicated to the acquisition of major works of art, ancient to modern, from China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Members of this group also attend important lectures by collectors, artists, and scholars in the field of Asian art.
Join Friends of Asian Art

Special Programs

E-book: Tradition and Innovation in Korean Art
In 2013, the Museum received a grant from the National Museum of Korea to invite three senior scholars of Korean art to give lectures and docent training related to the works of art on loan from the NMK. The grant included the development of an e-book, and Tradition and Innovation in Korean Art is now available, free of charge, as a PDF, ePub, .mobi file, and via iTunes. The Museum also offers this e-book to the Houston Independent School District.

Korea Day
In 2014, the Museum received a grant from the Korea Foundation to support Korea Day in November of that year. Three senior scholars of Korean art gave lectures in conjunction with the exhibition Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty 1392–1910. Korea Day also included an array of family programming and a performance of music and dance by artists from the National Gugak Center in Seoul.

The MFAH Collections

To explore all of the Museum’s works of art, search the collection.