Walters announces new Asian art installation for spring 2023

Islamic earthenware plate with birds and inscriptions, made in Kashan, Iran, in 1218. Image courtesy of the Walters Art Museum. Photo credit: Susan Tobin

Islamic earthenware plate with birds and inscriptions, made in Kashan, Iran, in 1218. Image courtesy of the Walters Art Museum. Photo credit: Susan Tobin

BALTIMORE — The Walters Art Museum will present a landmark installation of its Asian and Islamic collections that will offer new ways to examine and experience Asian art. As of Spring 2023, for the first time at the Walters, visitors can view approximately 500 artworks from across the Asian continent together in a contiguous space, including art from Islamic cultures spanning West to South Asia. This installation is the culmination of years of work by Walters curators to expand the connectivity of the Asian and Islamic art collections and will feature visitor favorites as well as works which have previously never been on view.

Visitors will encounter historical examples of architecture, calligraphy, ceramics, cloisonne, lacquerware, manuscripts, metalwork, painting, sculpture and textiles. The installation also includes a 19th-century Buddhist pulpit (thammat) from Thailand, one of the only known Thai pulpits in a U.S. museum, on view for the first time. The Walters collection of Asian art comprises about 9,000 objects and encompasses works spanning 2,000 years of artistic traditions from diverse cultures and regions, most notably Japan, Korea, China, India, Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. The collection of Islamic art, comprising some 1,200 objects, is one of the richest in the United States, with particular strengths in Persian, Turkish, and Mediterranean cultures as well as Islamic South Asia.

Chinese porcelain covered bowl, decorated with enamels and gold and dating to the 19th century. Image courtesy of the Walters Art Museum. Photo credit: Ariel Tabritha

Chinese porcelain covered bowl, decorated with enamels and gold and dating to the 19th century. Image courtesy of the Walters Art Museum. Photo credit: Ariel Tabritha

The installation is led by Adriana Proser, the Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Quincy Scott curator of Asian Art; Associate Curator of Asian Art Dany Chan; and Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in Islamic Art Ashley Dimmig. The book Across Borders: Movement and Mobility in the Arts of East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and the Islamic World, edited by Proser, with essays by Chan, Dimmig and Proser, will be published in conjunction with the opening as the first in an innovative new series of Walters collection-focused publications.

“The new galleries will focus on the artistic and cultural interactions across time and place that make these collections so rich,” Proser said. “The reinstallation explores themes that are both culturally-specific and universal to the human experience, including devotional practice, consumable goods, the natural world and innovation. We are presenting a fuller and more complex view of these collections to engage our audiences.”

The new installation will take over the entirety of the fourth floor in the Walters’ Centre Street building. To prepare for this extensive renovation of the galleries and the installation, the fourth floor closed as of March 2. Works from the 19th-century collection, displayed on the fourth floor for the last 20 years, will be temporarily relocated to the first floor of the Centre Street building and other locations around the museum starting in summer 2022, ahead of a major reinstallation of European painting, sculpture and decorative arts. The Walters’s expanded history, which addresses and examines William and Henry Walters’s support of the Confederacy and their Eurocentric collecting, will be present in the Sculpture Court of the Palazzo Building, as well as accessible for all online.

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