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50th Anniversary 2016 Comprehensive Calendar

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SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 25, 2016 – In 2016, the Asian Art Museum celebrates 50 years of sharing Asia’s diverse cultures through one of the world’s finest collections of Asian art.

First opened in 1966, the museum is home to an awe-inspiring 6,000 years of art and culture. Its constantly growing collection of over 18,000 paintings, sculptures, textiles, ceramics and more tell the stories of the world’s most populous continent. In the galleries, visitors will find art from Turkey to Thailand — including intricate painted screens and colorful puppets, ancient gilded Buddhas and cutting-edge contemporary works — that inspire connections across time and place.

During its golden anniversary year, the museum will celebrate with an array of exhibitions, activities and public events. Exhibitions include a trio of intriguing spring shows with a jeweled rifle in Pearls on a String, the “impossible black tulip” of maps in China at the Center, and a California gold nugget in Hidden Gold. The summer centerpiece, presented in collaboration with the National Palace Museum, Taipei, will showcase the famed “meat-shaped stone,” among many other imperial Chinese artifacts in Emperors’ Treasures. Finally, in the autumn, the museum will present The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe, a collection of 130 artworks telling the exhilarating tale of Prince Rama’s struggle to defeat the demonic king to save his wife.

In conjunction with the exhibitions, public events and activities are highlighted as follows: Feb. 2, 2016, the museum will debut a 50th anniversary timeline installation titled Zero to 50+ that traces the history of the museum. Accompanying the installation is an online experience, inviting the public to share museum memories that build on the timeline. The public may also vote for their favorite artwork in the museum’s collection via the 50 Favorite Artworks website. Special events will include a Lunar New year celebration for the year of the monkey and a gold-themed public party in honor of the museum’s birthday.

Here’s a list of exhibitions and events throughout the year:


Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists
Oct. 30, 2015–Feb. 7, 2016

Japan’s opening to international trade in the 1850s after centuries of self-imposed isolation set off a craze for all things Japanese among European and North American collectors, artists and designers. The phenomenon, dubbed japonisme by French writers, radically altered the course of Western art in the modern era. The Asian Art Museum delves into this sweeping development in the traveling exhibition Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists. The exhibition features more than 170 works of paintings, prints, furniture and decorative arts drawn from the acclaimed collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It traces the West’s growing interest in Japan, the collecting of Japanese objects, and the exploration of Japanese subject matter and styles. The works shown represent most of the major artistic movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries with masterpieces by the great impressionist and post-impressionist painters Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet, among others. Western paintings, prints and other objects are juxtaposed throughout the exhibition with artworks by celebrated Japanese masters including Kitagawa Utamaro, Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accompanied by a catalogue.

Extracted: A Trilogy by Ranu Mukherjee
Nov. 6, 2015–Aug. 14, 2016

Where is the line between history and mythology? In Extracted, artist Ranu Mukherjee eclipses the boundaries between the two, placing them in the same universe through colorful, collage-like video, textiles and works on paper. Drawing inspiration from California’s Gold Rush, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the museum’s expansive collection, Mukherjee invites you into otherworldly landscapes inhabited by miners, a Chinese goddess with a leopard tail and tiger teeth, and other fantastical beings. Through its countless layers — image over image, fact mingled with fiction — Extracted creates tension between history and myth. Organized by the Asian Art Museum.

Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts
Feb. 26–May 8, 2016

An international loan exhibition of Islamic art organized in collaboration with the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts emphasizes the role of human relationships in inspiring and sustaining artistic creativity at imperial courts. The exhibition spans a geographic range from the Bay of Bengal to the Mediterranean Sea and dates from the 16th to the 18th century — a period marked by the global movement of ideas and technologies and increased interaction among various cultural and religious communities. Pearls on a String is organized into three vignettes, each pivoting around a main protagonist in a different century and empire of the Islamic world. Through 64 exquisite artworks, Pearls on String tells the stories of a writer in 16th-century Mughal India, a painter in 17th-century Safavid Iran, and a patron in 18th-century Ottoman Turkey. Organized by the Walters Art Museum and the Asian Art Museum. Accompanied by a catalogue.

China at the Center: Rare Ricci and Verbiest World Maps
March 4–May 8, 2016

China at the Center showcases two rare 17th-century maps, including A Complete Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the World, created by Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci and his Chinese colleagues at the Ming court in 1602. Monumental in size (roughly 5 feet by 12 feet), and called the “impossible black tulip” of maps because of its rarity, the map will be presented in China at the Center: Rare Ricci and Verbiest World Maps. On loan from the James Ford Bell Trust, the Ricci map is one of six complete copies in the world today and the oldest known Chinese map to depict the Americas. Ferdinand Verbiest, another Jesuit, made his 1674 A Complete Map of the World for the Chinese court. On loan from the Library of Congress, this copy of the Verbiest map has never been exhibited. These two maps are among the earliest, rarest and largest woodblock-printed maps to survive from the period.

Both maps tell captivating stories about the world of the 17th century and illustrate how Europe and Asia exchanged new ideas about geography, astronomy and the natural sciences. Organized by the Asian Art Museum in partnership with the University of San Francisco. Accompanied by a catalogue.

Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art
March 4–May 8, 2016

In 2016, the Asian Art Museum will celebrate its 50th anniversary, a “golden” milestone. Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art is an exhibition of 50 artworks that together reveal the unique physical and symbolic aspects of gold — qualities that make this precious metal so important in the history of both Asian art and California. Ranging from a Qur’an manuscript to a Daoist ceremonial robe to a Mongolian Buddha bronze sculpture, the artworks reveal specific aspects of gold production and usage across Asia. In addition, an innovative installation including both California gold nuggets and Asian coinage explores how gold is extracted and transformed into money. San Francisco’s position on the world stage — as well as the prominence of Asia and Asian culture in California — stems from the area’s Gold Rush legacy. It’s a history that continues to inform today’s culture in the Golden State. Organized by the Asian Art Museum.

Mother-of-Pearl Lacquerware from Korea
April 29–Oct. 23, 2016

Featuring 25 objects, most from the museum’s collection, Mother-of-Pearl Lacquerware from Korea showcases the significance of Korean mother-of-pearl lacquerwares, highlighting aspects of their aesthetics, creation, use and conservation. It will be the first in-depth exhibition in the United States to explore this remarkable subject matter. Organized by the Asian Art Museum.

Collected Letters: Liu Jianhua Installation
Opening Spring 2016

As a 50th anniversary gift to the museum, the Society for Asian Art has commissioned a major work by Liu Jianhua, one of China’s best-known contemporary ceramic sculpture artists. The work comprises approximately 2,500 pieces of white porcelain formed into letters of the English alphabet and components of Chinese characters, suspended from the ceiling of the second-floor Loggia. The artist provides only the building blocks of words, leaving it to viewers to create meaning. The artwork’s location is especially appropriate: the space offers an opportunity for dialogue with the original engraved literary quotations on the Loggia’s walls, dating to the building’s previous incarnation as San Francisco’s Main Library. Organized by the Asian Art Museum.

Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei
June 17–Sept. 18, 2016

The centerpiece exhibition of the museum’s 50th anniversary, Emperors’ Treasures is a treasure trove of the prized possessions of emperors — exquisite paintings, ceramics, jades and more from one of the world’s greatest collections of Chinese art. Highlighting artworks that span from the Song to the Qing dynasties, the exhibition will explore the identities of nine rulers who reigned from the early 12th through the early 20th centuries. By examining each ruler’s contribution to the arts and exploring the eras’ differing styles, subjects and craftsmanship, Emperors’ Treasures will outline how Chinese art came to develop and flourish under Han Chinese, Mongol and Manchu rulers. Passed from dynasty to dynasty and once sheltered in Beijing’s Forbidden City, these masterpieces of Chinese imperial art were spirited away to Taiwan amidst conflict and now reside in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. Discover more than 150 artworks from its celebrated collection, which includes paintings, calligraphy, bronze vessels, ceramics, lacquerware, jades, textiles and documents; more than half of which will be on view in the U.S. for the first time. Organized by the Asian Art Museum. Accompanied by a catalogue.

The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe
Oct. 21, 2016–Jan. 15, 2017

The Rama Epic — recounting the struggle of Prince Rama to defeat a powerful demonic king, rescue his abducted wife and reestablish virtuous order in the world — has been a prime subject for visual and performing arts, literature and religious thought in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia for many centuries. A huge number of artworks of all kinds relating to the Rama legends have been made over the course of 1,500 years in a dozen countries. The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe illustrates some of the most important episodes involving the four primary characters: the hero, Rama; the heroine, Rama’s wife Sita; the ally, Rama’s faithful monkey lieutenant Hanuman; and the foe, the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The exhibition tells the story in a new light using more than 130 artworks, many of them borrowed from museums in Europe and around the US, ranging from ancient sculptures and paintings to antique puppets to contemporary works, inviting visitors to find echoes of their own experiences in the stories of each character. Organized by the Asian Art Museum. Accompanied by a major publication.

Asian Art Museum Collection Galleries

More than 2,500 extraordinary works from the museum’s renowned collection are displayed in the second- and third- floor galleries. Together these works constitute a comprehensive introduction to the major cultures of Asia. Immense Indian stone sculptures, intricately carved Chinese jades, vibrant Korean paintings, mystical Tibetan thangkas (ritual paintings on cloth), serene Cambodian Buddhas, richly decorated Islamic manuscripts and colorful Japanese kimonos are just a few of the treasures on view. Every six months, the museum refreshes dozens of artworks from each geographic region with new selections from storage, providing visitors a unique perspective on each visit. These items are indicated with “Newly on View” tags on the labels.

Dates and exhibitions are subject to change. Please visit to confirm information.

Programs & Events

Zero to 50+ Timeline
Friday, Feb. 2–Friday, July 1, 2016
Nancy B. Hamon Arcade

Take a walk through history. A 50th anniversary timeline installation on the museum’s first floor will let you trace the history of the Asian Art Museum along with major events in San Francisco and beyond. The installation, featuring photographs and video displays, will show the linked history of the museum and its home city. An interactive feature will invite visitors to contribute their own memories. There will also be an online timeline that will include all the content featured in the physical timeline, alongside museum stories shared by visitors, fans and staff. Feel free to create a single description for the physical/digital experiences. From programming and events to celebrity sightings and first dates, the special online experience celebrates the unique place the museum has in our lives.

50 Favorite Artworks

What’s your favorite artwork in our collection? Whether you know the object of your affection or you’re new to the museum, you can chime in. This simple process is a treat for your eyes and a fantastic way to be part of the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration. To get started, head to right now. Then, tell your family and friends to vote for their favorites, too. Keep your eyes peeled for the results in February.

Golden Gala: A 50th Anniversary Benefit
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016

To honor our 50th anniversary, the Asian Art Museum will host the Golden Gala, a grand celebratory benefit. Chaired by Akiko Yamazaki and co-chaired by Helina Au, Bill Kim, Nanci Nishimura and Ken Wilcox, this gala event will celebrate the history and Pan-Asian cultures of the museum while raising funds to ensure the museum’s ability to continue to present world-class exhibitions and education programs.

Solid Gold
Thursday, March 3, 2016 7–11 PM
Tickets ($15 Students, $20 General, Members Free)

Celebrate 50 years of the Asian Art Museum with our version of Solid Gold. We are shamelessly mining the 1980s TV series, which was described by the New York Times as “the pop music show that is its own parody.” This party will be set apart, much like the show, by the dancers. Dressed in gold costumes and performing to top hits from the last half century, dance groups including Non-Stop Bhangra and Disco Energi, among others, will light up the night brighter than gold lamé or dueling disco balls. Come dressed in the golden fashion of your favorite decade (60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and even the naughts) and be ready to show off your moves, and dance, dance, dance to the music of Proof (a.k.a. Marky Enriquez).

50th Anniversary Community Weekend
Presented by Target
Saturday, March 5 & Sunday, March 6
10 AM–5 PM
Free admission

Since its founding in 1966, the Asian Art Museum has grown into one of the world’s finest museums devoted to Asian art. Join us for a celebration of our 50th anniversary as we reflect on our past and look toward the future. Be among the first to see our latest exhibitions Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art, Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts, and China at the Center: Rare Ricci and Verbiest Maps. Watch engaging live performances by Red Panda Acrobats, Southeast Asian Cultural Coalition, Gamelan X, Non-Stop Bhangra and the “Twelve Pianos” project, meet local calligraphers Kristian Kabuay, Aoi Yamaguchi and artist Youngmin Lee, create dynamic artworks, participate in a creative community project with Crochet Jam, and explore the collection galleries. All for free!

BIG Thank You Party
Saturday, June 11, 2016
10 AM–5 PM
Samsung Hall
Members only

Members make museum magic possible — and the museum is saying thank you with one big party! Join the museum on the 50th anniversary of its grand opening in Golden Gate Park as the museum applauds all members, past and present. The day-long festivities include: live music, special gallery tours, craft and activities, and a Rhino Club kids parade.

Cultural & Community Events

Lunar New Year Celebration: The Year of the Monkey
Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016
10:30 AM–4 PM
Free with museum admission

10:30–11 AM stART tour (storytelling for kids ages 3–7)
12–12:45 PM China Dance School and Theatre
1–1:45 PM Chinese American International School performance & Lunar New Year stories
11 AM–4 PM Hands-on activities
2–4 PM Chinese calligraphy
3–3:45 PM animals of the Chinese Zodiac with Oliver Chin

Roll in the Year of the Monkey with talented dancers, musicians and storytellers at the Asian Art Museum’s annual Lunar New Year Celebration. Students from the Chinese American International School and China Dance School and Theatre present traditional and modern music, as well as dances from China to kick off the Lunar New Year. Join in with a playful student-arranged version of the lion dance, which is believed to scare away evil spirits and ensure a bright beginning to the year. After the performances, enjoy author Oliver Chin’s story about Chinese zodiac animals’ characteristics and discover something new about yourself. To round out the day’s activities, have your name written in Chinese calligraphy and make a Lunar New Year inspired art project developed and led by the museum’s Art Speak teen interns.

SFUSD Arts Festival
Thursday, April 28–Friday, May 6, 2016
Free with museum admission

The San Francisco Unified School District proudly presents the SFUSD Arts Festival, a celebration of student creativity in visual, literary, media and performing arts hosted by the Asian Art Museum.

May Asian Pacific American Heritage Celebration
Sunday, May 1 & 15, 2016
Free with museum admission

Celebrate Asian American Pacific Heritage Month at the Asian Art Museum with yoga classes, art making, tours and storytelling.

Korea Day
Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016

Enjoy the breadth of Korean and Korean American arts and culture at the Asian Art Museum’s eighth annual Korea Day. Korea Day offers a variety of performances, gallery tours, arts and crafts activities, and food tastings inspired by traditional and contemporary Korean culture.

Filipino American History Month
Celebration Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016
Free with museum admission

This annual celebration of Filipino American heritage explores the past, present and future of Filipino art and culture in the Bay Area. Enjoy performances, talks, arts and food tastings at this annual festival.

Programs are subject to change. For updates, please visit or call 415.581.3500.

About Cafe Asia

Cafe Asia delivers authentic Asian food experiences, allowing visitors to continue their journey of discovery in an inviting and relaxed setting. The cafe is the perfect complement to a museum visit as well as a destination in its own right, popular among locals.

Cafe Asia is open from 10 AM to 4:30 PM Tuesday to Sunday. Admission to the cafe is free. During the spring and summer, the cafe is open for dinner on Thursdays until 7:30 PM, after which they serve beverages, desserts and grab-and-go items until 8 PM. Like the rest of the museum, the cafe is closed on Mondays.

About the Asian Art Museum

The Asian Art Museum–Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture is one of San Francisco’s premier arts institutions and home to a world-renowned collection of more than 18,000 Asian art treasures spanning 6,000 years of history. Through rich art experiences centered on historic and contemporary artworks, the Asian Art Museum unlocks the past for visitors, bringing it to life while serving as a catalyst for new art, new creativity and new thinking.

Information: 415.581.3500 or

Location: 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Hours: The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 AM to 5 PM, with extended hours during spring and summer until 9 PM. Closed Mondays, as well as New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

General Admission: FREE for museum members, $15 for adults, $10 for seniors (65+), college students with ID, and youths (13–17). FREE for children under 12 and SFUSD students with ID. General admission on Thursdays after 5 PM is $5for all visitors (except those under 12, SFUSD students, and museum members, who are always admitted FREE). General admission is FREE to all on Target First Free Sundays (the first Sunday of every month). A surcharge may apply for admission to special exhibitions.

Access: The Asian Art Museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information regarding access: 415.581.3598; TDD: 415.861.2035.


Press Release Types: Exhibitions, Museum News, Programs & Events