Masterworks, manuscripts, mosaics, royal jewels, devotional sculpture, and blinged-out arms and armor feature in exhibitions devoted to the arts of Byzantium, Buddhism, Islam, West Africa, the Samurai, the Andes, and more
If you want to learn the history of the world through the artistry of its diverse civilizations, you’re in luck. This season’s slate of museum shows includes spectacular blockbusters with treasures lent from national collections around the globe. Some of these chronicle cultural transformations, like the rise of an international Buddhist art style in Southeast Asia, or the development of a visual language to express Christian beliefs in the Byzantine Empire. Others showcase cultures unfamiliar to most U.S. audiences: The Joseon Dynasty of Korea, for example, and the arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone. And others bring a renewed focus to longtime crowd-pleasers, like the British country house and the rigorous esthetic of the Samurai.Here’s where to find the top international arts shows this spring:What: “Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century”
Where: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (April 14–July 27, 2014)Using recent excavations, new research, national treasures from Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar, and loans from around the world, “Lost Kingdoms” traces the evolution of Southeast Asian sculpture from the era of nature-cults through the arrival of Buddhism and Hinduism to the emergence of Buddhist art as an expression of state identity. The show tracks the ways that religious ideas, rituals, and imagery circulated among the kingdoms through international trade routes, resulting in the emergence of a shared visual language in the service of Mahayana Buddhism.
Left: Ganesha, Quang Nam province, Vietnam, late 7th-8th century, sandstone. Right: Avalokitesvara, Tra Vinch province, Vietnam, 7th century, sandstone. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections”
Where: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (through March 2, 2014); J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (April 9-August 25, 2014)
Left: Mosaic with Alkibiades, Greek, late 3rd-early 4th century, stone and glass tesserae on plaster. Right: Two-sided icon with Virgin Hodegetria and Man of Sorrows, Greek, 4th quarter of 12th century, egg tempera on wood, gold leaf. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910”
Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art (March 2–May 26, 2014); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (June 29–September 28, 2014); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (November 2, 2014–January 11, 2015)
Left: Karma Mirror and Stand, Korea, Joseon Dynasty, 19th century, wood with painted decoration. Right: Śākyamuni Assembly, Korea, Joseon Dynasty, 1653, hanging scroll, colors on hemp. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World”
Where: Dallas Museum of Art (March 30-June 29, 2014)
Left: Window, Egypt, 15th century, plaster, glass, and wood. Right: Bowl with bird, Iraq, 9th-10th century, luster-painted. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone”
Where: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (April 9–August 17, 2014); Minneapolis Institute of Arts (September 20, 2014-January 18, 2015)
Left: Female figure, Amara (Pa Jobo), Sierra Leone, mid-20th century, wood. Right: Soldier, Liberia, Africa, date unknown, metal. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Samurai: Beyond the Sword”
Where: Detroit Institute of Arts (March 9–June 1, 2014)
Left: Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi, Chūdayū Aiming with Deadly Precision, Japan, 1848, woodblock. Right: Complete set of armor (tōsei gusoku) with flag, Japan, mid-1700s, iron, lacquer, silk, silver, gold. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House”
Where: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (June 22-September 22, 2014); Legion of Honor, San Francisco (October 18, 2014–January 18, 2015); Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville (February 13–May 10, 2015)
Left: The Saloon, with William Kent armchairs and stools, Houghton Hall, 1725. Right: Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Vase from a Set of Three Blue Nouveau Vases, Houghton Hall, 1760s, soft- paste porcelain. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Golden Visions of Densatil: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery”
Where: Asia Society, New York (February 19-May 18, 2014)
Panel of offering goddesses, Central Tibet, 14th century, gilt copper alloy with inlays of semiprecious stones.
What: “Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes”
Where: Blanton Museum of Art, Austin (February 1-August 17, 2014)
Left: Anthropomorphic Effigy (cuchimilco), Peru, 900-1400 CE, ceramic, slip paints. Right: Bowl with profile birds, Nasca Culture, Peru, 100 BCE – 600 CE, ceramic, slip paints. Click through each image for more information.
Where: Worcester Art Museum (Opens March 29, 2014)
Left: School of Fontainebleau, Woman at Her Toilette, 1550-1570, oil on panel. Right: Frontplate of a ceremonial gorget, Flemish, 1620-1630, etched and engraved iron with gilding and silvering. Click through each image for more information.
What: “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”
Where: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (through March 9, 2014); Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri (April 25–July 6, 2014)
Left: Tombstone of ‘Abbas, Son of ‘Abdallah, Son of Muhammad, Son of Nasih, al-Ma’la Cemetery, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 9th century C.E., basalt. Middle: Funerary mask, Tell al-Zayer, Saudi Arabia, 1st century C.E., gold. Right: Anthropomorphic Stele, El-Maakir-Qaryat al-Kaafa, near Ha’il, Saudi Arabia, 4th millennium C.E., sandstone. Click through each image for more information.