Asian Art Museum plans big 50th season

“Meat-shaped Stone,” a popular art work in Taiwan, will be on view at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco next year. (Courtesy National Palace Museum, Tapei)

A precious piece of meat is among the attractions coming to the Asian Art Museum for its upcoming 50th season.

“Meat-shaped Stone,” which looks remarkably like a chunk of braised pork, is just one of the art works in “Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Tapei,” which opens in June 2016 in the San Francisco museum.

Asian Art Museum Director Jay Xu, co-curator of the exhibition, described the agate stone as “mouth-watering” and said people flock to see it in Taiwan. It’s one of more than 150 imperial art works in the show, which includes many objects that will be coming to the U.S. for the first time.

Last week, Xu and museum curators offered a sneak preview of the institution’s impressive offerings for its 2015-16 golden anniversary season.

On Oct. 30, the highly anticipated comparative show, “Looking East: How Japan Inspired Monet, Van Gogh, and Other Western Artists,” opens. It includes works by masters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas next to Japanese prints, curios and other objects that provided a source of influence.

In November, a show by Ranu Mukherjee of textiles, works on paper, films and objects from the museum called “Extracted,” which examines the impacts of the California Gold Rush, opens.

Gold also is the theme of “Hidden Gold: Mining Its Meaning in Asian Art,” opening March 4. Some 50 objects from the museum’s collection (a ceremonial robe, a Qur’an manuscript among them) reveal the importance of the precious metal to history and culture.

Also opening in March is “China at the Center: Rare Ricci and Verbiest World Maps, “ which includes two rarely exhibited 17th century woodblock printed maps that illustrate changing ideas about science and astronomy and connections between Asia and Europe.

Other glittering works will be on view in February in “Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts.” The expansive show tells stories of a writer in 16th-century Mughal India, a painter in 17th-century Safavid Iran and a patron in 18th-century Ottoman Turkey. Perhaps its most eye-catching object is a bejeweled gun made for a sultan.

New public programs complement the golden anniversary exhibits: “Zero to 50+,” beginning in January, is a timeline installation to which visitors may contribute; patrons also are invited to vote for their favorite artwork in the museum’s collection in “50 Favorite Artworks” by visiting

The museum, which opened in 1966 in Golden Gate Park, was established by industrialist Avery Brundage, whose donation comprises about 45 percent of the 18,000-piece collection. In 2003, it moved to its Civic Center location.


Asian Art Museum 50th Anniversary
Where: 200 Larkin St., S.F.
When: October 2015 through December 2016
Tickets: $5 (after 5 p.m. Thursdays) to $15
Contact: (415) 581-3500,

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