The cultures of Asia, whose peoples today represent over 60% of the world’s population, are of great historical depth.
At different times and in different ways they have both influenced and been influenced by Western art and culture.
The collections include paintings in oil, watercolour and ink on canvas, paper and cloth, prints and photography, sculpture and carvings in stone, metal, wood, ivory, jade and other hardstones, metalwork and jewellery, arms and armour, dress, textiles and carpets, ceramics and glass, furniture and lacquer.
The process of drawing together the Museum’s collections from the Middle East, Islamic Central Asia, North Africa and Islamic Spain is still underway and when fully assembled the Asian Collections will encompass over 140,000 objects.
From South-East Asia, the V&A holds a significant collection of 19th-century material from Burma (Myanmar) and further strengths include a good collection of textiles and the UK’s most important collections of early sculptures from Indonesia, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia, and of metalwork from mainland South-East Asia.
The V&A’s particular strengths lie in the decorative arts and design history, complementing the archaeological focus and numismatic strengths of the British Museum, and the British Library’s focus on manuscripts and the printed book.
Gregory Irvine, Senior Curator Japanese metalwork, including cloisonné and arms and armour, masks and performing arts, arts of the Meiji period.
Anna Jackson, Keeper Japanese textiles and dress, cultural relations between Europe and East Asia.
By the 1870s they included an unrivalled assemblage of then contemporary decorative arts from all of what was then considered ‘Greater India’, i.e.
those areas of South-East Asia and the Himalayan regions that had historically been influenced by India, or which were governed by British India.