Israel, situated on the western rim of the Asian continent, sees great importance in its cultural links with other civilizations in Asia, and it was in this spirit that a department for Asian art was established at the Israel Museum.
A gift of a group of Southeast Asian sculptures and early Chinese ceramics was made to the Israel Museum in the 1960s. In 1978, with an important bequest that included more than 700 works, the foundation of the Department of Asian Art was laid. The bequest included a wide range of ceramics and sculptures from China, Thailand, Korea, and India, as well as an impressive collection of Indian paintings.
Awareness of the department spread rapidly, both in Israel and abroad, and its holdings grew apace. A large anonymous donation made it possible for the Museum to acquire a representative collection of Chinese furniture from the seventeenth century, as well as a set of eleven Chinese bronze bells from the seventh–sixth centuries BCE. A unique collection containing some five hundred Japanese prints, paintings, and sculptures was given to the Museum in 2001. Continuing to expand year by year, the department’s holdings constitute the only major comprehensive collection of Asian art in Israel.
In addition to its permanent collection, the department has mounted unique temporary exhibitions, the first of their kind, of Chinese and Japanese collections lent by museums in China and by private collectors around the world, contributing greatly to the exposure of the Israeli public to the rich cultural heritage of East Asia. Important temporary exhibitions included Whiff of Luxury: Chinese Snuff Bottles from the collection of Mary and George Bloch; 100 Treasures from China; and Splendors of Imperial Japan: Meiji Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection. The resounding success of these exhibits both in Israel and abroad has contributed greatly to the reputation of the Museum.
Senior Curator, Marcel Lorber Department of Asian Art