Art of Asia

The MFA’s Asian art collection reflects the creative achievements of artists on the continent of Asia from 4000 BCE to the present. The collection of more than 115,000 objects includes works from Japan, China, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, and the Islamic world. Founded in the 1890s and shaped by the vision of Asian scholars including Okakura Kakuzō and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, the collection is a unique product of 150 years of dynamic exchange and interaction between Asia and America.

The MFA houses the finest and largest collection of Japanese art outside Japan, with superlative holdings of early Buddhist paintings and sculpture. The Kano- and Kyoto-school paintings, ukiyo-e paintings and prints, swords and Nō masks are unmatched in the West, and recent acquisitions have established the Museum as a center for Meiji-era art and visual culture.

Among the internationally celebrated masterpieces in the Chinese collection are monumental Buddhist stone sculptures, early Tang and Song ceramics, blue-and-white porcelain, and imperial Qing wares. The already strong collection of Song and Yuan dynasty paintings was in 2018 expanded dramatically by the gift of the unparalleled Wan-go H. C. Weng Collection of Ming and Qing paintings and calligraphy.

The Korean collection includes decorative art of the highest level, particularly ceramics and metalwork, as well as Buddhist paintings from the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.

The South Asian art holdings feature an extensive collection of Indus Valley material, the renowned Ross-Coomaraswamy Collection of Rajput paintings, paintings and ritual objects from the Himalayan regions and important Hindu and Buddhist sculptures.

In addition to one of the most significant collections of Vietnamese ceramics in the United States, the Southeast Asian art collection includes works of stone and bronze sculpture and ritual objects from Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam.

Finally, as one of the pre-eminent collections of Islamic art in the United States, the MFA holds materials ranging from ancient to modern day Islamic material culture from Iran, Egypt, Turkey, and other countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

The Art of Asia department is dedicated to making these collections as accessible as possible to audiences around the world interested in the diverse artistic traditions of Asia, both past and present. Whether in the Museum, abroad, or online, these objects illuminate both Asian histories and cultures and topics of global relevance and enduring meaning.

Curators Circles

A unique opportunity for upper level members to take a deep dive into the collections. Join today for a year of collection-focused programming with curators and experts.

Members of Curators Circle: Art of South Asia and the Middle East explore the arts of South Asia and the Islamic Middle East through conversation and close looking in the company of good food and music.

Members of Curators Circle: Gingko Society enjoy privileged access to the finest collections of East Asian art under one roof.