Winterthur lecture to tell how Asian art was introduced to the Americas

Gauvin Alexander Bailey will give a lecture Tuesday on the introduction of Asian arts to the Americas. Image courtesy of Winterthur

Gauvin Alexander Bailey will give a lecture Tuesday on the introduction of Asian arts to the Americas. Image courtesy of Winterthur


WINTERTHUR, Del. – Arts and culture in the Americas developed historically important influences from Asia via Catholic religious orders, concludes Gauvin Alexander Bailey, an art professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Bailey will share his insights in “The Role of Religious Orders in the Introduction of Asian Arts to the Americas,” a lecture to be given Tuesday, June 21, in Winterthur, Museum, Garden & Library’s Copeland Hall.

It is part of the programming enhancing Winterthur’s major exhibition “Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia.” The lecture begins at 6 p.m. Eastern and is $5 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Reservations are encouraged online at or by calling 800-448-3883.

“The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries offer a precursor to the globalization that we have today,” Bailey said. One example: the largest Asian object sent to the Americas is the bronze choir screen in Mexico City’s cathedral. It was designed in Mexico, produced in Macao by Chinese workers and assembled in Mexico, “like a shipment from Ikea.”

The cross-cultural movement goes back to the 1560s, he said, when priests and architects went from Mexico to build Manila, in the Philippines. Another important early example was the Japanese embassy in Mexico, which dates to 1612.

Missionaries – notably the Jesuits, Franciscans and other so-called mendicant (begging) orders –made contacts throughout Asia and the New World well before European colonies were established in the Americas. Bailey’s lecture will examine how these orders connected visual cultures of profoundly different peoples across vast oceans. Such interactions were among the earliest and most long-lasting interactions between Asia and the Americas, as contrasted to the mercantile and geopolitical efforts of Spanish, Portuguese, and French colonial powers.

“The Catholic religious orders went further than any other European entity into non-European cultures—even beyond conquered areas and into borderlands,” he said.

Bailey has taught Renaissance, Baroque and Latin American art in three nations – including the University of Aberdeen, Boston College, and Clark University – and has held guest professorships at Boston University and the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. He has done research and made presentations on six continents, enabled by his fluency in multiple languages.

He has published seven books, co-authored or edited seven more, and written more than 70 articles. He is working on a book titled Architecture and Urbanism in the French Atlantic World, 1604-1830: Ideology and Reality in the Other Latin America.

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