Arts of Asia is the Walters’ installation of one of the most exceptional collections of Asian art in North America.
The dramatic display offers a rich exploration of artistic traditions from diverse cultures and regions across India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. The stunning array of 150 works spanning 2,000 years includes more than 30 objects that have never been on view. Visitors are invited to share the experience of quiet contemplation that they inspire.
Buddhist Art of East and Southeast Asia
This tranquil, inviting display of East and Southeast Asian art features works linked to Buddhism and its devotional practices from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. A majestic image of the compassionate bodhisattva Guanyin (late 14th to early 15th century, China) graces the first room. A monumental Buddha (18th to 19th century, Myanmar) sits in meditation at the center of the next room, flanked by sculptures of devotees.
Most of these sculptures and paintings have come to the Walters as a gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, and 11 are on view for the first time following extensive conservation treatment by the Walters Art Museum. The conservation work was made possible through the generous support of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Doris Duke (1913–1993) was a tobacco-fortune heiress and generous philanthropist with a passion for Southeast Asian and Islamic art. In 2002 following her death, the Walters Art Museum was one of two museums to receive a large portion of her collection.
Displayed nearby is a collection of Thai sculptures of the Buddha, drawn from a gift to the Walters Art Museum from Alexander Brown Griswold (1907–1991), a native Baltimorean who was stationed in Thailand during World War II. Today the Walters is home to the largest collection of Thai sculpture outside of Thailand.
Art of India, Nepal, and Tibet: The John and Berthe Ford Gallery
Works of art from India, Nepal and Tibet are featured in the gallery named for John and Berthe Ford, who acquired and donated to the Walters Art Museum most of the objects on view. Longtime Baltimoreans and donors to the Walters, the Fords were once recognized in The New York Times as having one of the world’s most important private holdings of Himalayan (Nepal and Tibet) and Indian art. The reinstallation of the gallery celebrates the Ford’s generosity and insight as collectors.
The new display includes South Asian Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious works; Himalayan bronzes, scroll paintings (tangkas) and ritual objects; and Indian Islamic court arts. Nearly all of these works of art were made for places of worship—from Indian stone temples honoring Hindu gods to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries where revered teachers gave lessons in secret techniques of meditation. A highlight is the Tibetan scroll painting Green Tara, which depicts the enlightened Buddha and goddess Tara sitting on a lotus in her mountain paradise. This work is among the earliest surviving examples of Tibetan scroll painting.
New to the Walters’ display of art from India, Nepal and Tibet is Islamic art from South Asia. The goal is to illustrate the religious diversity of historic India through the integration of art from South Asian Muslim courts. Especially noteworthy in this section is the 15th-century Qur’an, with exquisite calligraphy in blue, red and gold ink, acquired by founder Henry Walters.