At the heart of the Asia Society's permanent collection is a superb group of masterworks donated by John D. Rockefeller III, who founded the society in 1956. Unlike organizations that limit their activities to a particular country or region, the society looks at all of Asia, excluding no country.
The holdings, reflecting this pan-Asian approach, include Indian sculptures and miniatures, Japanese Buddhist paintings, Korean ceramics, Indonesian textiles, Cambodian and Thai sculptures, remarkable bronzes and celadons, sumptuous silks and carpets, and rare photographs. Exhibits have included Inside Out: New Chinese Art; Fire Over Earth, a presentation of Southeast Asian ceramics; and Great Cities, Small Treasures: The Ancient World of the Indus Valley. Complementary gallery offerings are lectures by leading scholars and collectors in the field, musical and theatrical events ranging from Kathakali (dance-drama of southern India) to Aak (Korean court music and dance), and the screening of films from many Asian countries.
There are also public programs addressing political, cultural and economic issues. Since 1981 the society has been housed in a handsome structure designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. Its facade, made of red sandstone from Rajasthan, India and polished red granite from Oklahoma, symbolizes the benefits of harmonious cooperation between Asians and Americans.
In 2001, the Asia Society commissioned New York architect Bartholomew Voorsanger to renovate and enhance its public spaces. Expanded gallery spaces enable the society to display pieces from the permanent collection on an ongoing basis, while at the same time offering exhibitions that explore ancient aesthetic traditions as well as contemporary expressions.
Programs for Seniors
Senior citizens who are members of the Asia Society and Museum are invited to an annual Senior Tea event.
Families with children are invited to explore the rich traditions of Asia through looking, discussing, and art-making. Family-friendly museum tours are followed by art-making workshops that are inspired by the gallery experience.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Space for ExploreAsia programs is limited, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended.
Guided Tours: The Asia Society conducts guided tours for school groups Tuesday through Friday, beginning at 10 am. Tours are led by trained docents and are tailored to the needs of the group.
Curriculum Materials: The society also provides multimedia curriculum materials for teachers. These include videos, such as Discover Korea, and the teachers' journal Focus on Asian Studies, which covers topics ranging from a sampling of Asian food traditions to a perspective on women's roles in Asia.
Outreach Services: The Asia Society provides outreach services for teachers. These include workshops and seminars; conferences; and textbook and literature evaluations. Teachers should make reservations for these programs two or three months in advance.