USC Pacific Asia Museum
Pasadena, California 91101
Open Wednesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm
The Art of Pacific Asia
In the Orientation Gallery
USC Pacific Asia Museum is pleased to present a new permanent gallery featuring The Art of Pacific Asia. The Museum’s collection features Asian and Pacific Islander artworks spanning 5,000 years, which range from fine and decorative art to popular and folk arts. These objects reflect centuries of trade, creative endeavors, and cultural practices. Visitors to Pacific Asia Museum are invited to explore the collections, recognizing that societies develop as part of an interrelated world culture, and that each object in the collection has a story to tell. The Art of Pacific Asia introduces the geography, materials and meaning behind the art which visitors will enjoy throughout all the galleries at Pacific Asia Museum.
The Art of Pacific Asia has four distinct sections: Geography; Materials and Techniques; Religious Art; and Ceremony and Celebration. The objects presented in these sections are intended as tools for understanding USC Pacific Asia Museum collection.
The objects of USC Pacific Asia Museum’s collection come to Pasadena from across Asia and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The map within the Geography Section uses national borders of today, but throughout history these artificial divisions have changed dramatically.
Materials and Techniques
Throughout the museum, you will see objects created over 5,000 years of human history, from across half the planet. When confronted with such a range of objects it can be easy to overlook a most basic similarity, that is, material. Whether made of raw natural products like ivory, stone and wood or materials requiring processing like paper, lacquer, or textile, all the objects of USC Pacific Asia Museum reflect the universality of human creativity. Over time, the items on display will be changed in order to showcase the wide range of materials housed in the museum’s collection, as well as to minimize damage to light-sensitive objects.
Religion in Asia and the Pacific Islands is extremely diverse and closely linked to the arts. The continent of Asia is the birthplace of many religions and all of the world’s major religious traditions are practiced there. Indigenous religious practices have co-existed with these other religions for millennia. Much of the art in USC Pacific Asia Museum was produced to support religious practices, whether to decorate places of worship, function as ritual implements, or provide worshippers with images to revere in home settings or as they traveled. Each object has a unique history, and is a window into a set of cultural understandings, interpretations, and beliefs. Over time, objects on display will rotate to focus on the different religious practices represented in the Pacific Asia Museum collection.
Ceremony and Celebration
In human cultures, religious and secular ceremonies are performed to mark special occasions, such as rites of passage including birth, death, or marriage. Whether for a communal or personal event, ceremonies are usually accompanied by music, dance, feasts and entertainment, and one’s dress plays an important role. Often, the finest textiles are reserved for ceremonies and celebrations, and specific style, color, or motifs function as visual cues to the nature of a ceremony, as well as the social status of a person or people involved. Music has several different functions in ceremonies: it is a way to communicate with deities; it inspires worshippers; it signals different stages of ceremonies; or it simply enhances the festivity of occasions. Accordingly, special attention has been paid to the making and adornment of musical instruments. Over time, items on display will rotate to feature other elements of ceremony and celebration.
This gallery and exhibition are made possible in part by the generous support of the Ahmanson Foundation, the Ayrshire Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.