Samurais and Maharajas: It’s an Asian Art Summer

Travel Blog  •  Julia Ross  •  06.08.09 | 3:34 PM ET

I’m fortunate to live in a city that’s home to one of the best Asian art museums in the world—the Smithsonian’s Freer-Sackler Gallery—but I’m not averse to traveling to see a really great museum or exhibit elsewhere. In fact, on a trip to Dublin last fall, I spent an entire afternoon immersed in the wonderful Chester Beatty Library, gazing at Persian paintings and Islamic manuscripts. I know, I know—I was supposed to be out drinking Guinness, but I couldn’t help myself.

For others so inclined, here’s a round-up of this summer’s must-see Asian art shows, from Houston to London:

The Tsars and the East: Gifts from Turkey and Iran in the Moscow Kremlin, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., May 9-September 13: Direct from the vaults of the Kremlin, this exhibit offers a dazzling look at the gifts offered by 16th- and 17th-century Ottoman and Iranian diplomats to Russia’s tsars. My favorites: the ceremonial masks and shields, some jewel-encrusted, others laced with gold.

Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, May 22-October 18: I saw the warriors in 2007 while I was living in Taiwan and they were well worth it; what surprised me most was how expressive each face was. Following its run in Houston, the largest exhibition of Xian’s terra cotta figures and tomb artifacts ever to travel to the U.S. (about 100 pieces in all) is headed to National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Can’t wait to get another look.

Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur, The British Museum, London, May 28-August 23: I saw this exhibit twice when it began its run in Washington, and I was completely transfixed. Sensual, whimsical, chaotic, colorful: These 56 paintings bring to life an 18th-century Maharaja’s court in splendid detail. You’ll walk out wishing you’d been invited to one of their parties.

Lords of the Samurai, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, June 12-September 20: Samurai culture—at its most militant and refined—gets the full treatment in the city by the bay. Artifacts on loan from Japanese museums include suits of armor, swords, formal attire, calligraphy, paintings, tea ware, masks and musical instruments. As a bonus, the museum offers a handy primer on Samurai movies here.

Julia Ross is a Washington, DC-based writer and frequent contributor to World Hum. She has lived in China and Taiwan, where she was a Fulbright scholar and Mandarin student. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, Christian Science Monitor, Plenty and other publications. Her essay, Six Degrees of Vietnam, was shortlisted for "The Best American Travel Writing 2009."

2 Comments for Samurais and Maharajas: It’s an Asian Art Summer

travel affiliate 06.08.09 | 4:47 PM ET

I am potentially going to Dublin for two days/nights of boozing it up and whatever else there is to do.After that I’ll definitely go to that museum.

Theodore Scott 06.08.09 | 5:21 PM ET

I moved to Houston a year ago. One of my best purchases was a membership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

I plan on seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors soon. They also have a Genghis Khan exhibition right now.

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