For more than a decade, before the pandemic, collectors and private dealers of Asian antiquities would converge in New York every spring for annual auctions at half a dozen houses including Bonham’s, Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Many out-of-town dealers would set up shows of their own in hotels or partner galleries, while hometown galleries and museums mounted special exhibitions for the occasion.
In 2020, this festival, known as Asia Week, was among the first art events disrupted by Covid-19, and it has since turned into a year-round trade group promoting lectures, events and exhibitions of art from India, China, Korea, Japan and Tibet. But the festival returns, on March 16-25, with exhibitions at eight New York museums and more than two dozen galleries. Look for objects from all epochs, including Tang dynasty vases, contemporary ink painting, intricate bamboo baskets, and at least one iron hawk. Below are a few highlights to get you started, but as always, check the website before setting out — and note that most of these shows close soon.
Shell and Resin: Korean Mother-of-Pearl and Lacquer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tucked inside the Met’s Korea gallery you’ll find a treasure house of stationery boxes, furniture and even stirrups covered with slick black lacquer and inlaid with glittering mother-of-pearl. The oldest piece, a trefoil-shaped cosmetics box covered in tiny shards of glinting orange and pink, dates back to the 12th century, more or less. But in Korea, this type of inlay remains a living tradition, and several of the show’s most striking pieces were made by the artist Sohn Daehyun, born in 1949, including his jaw-dropping “Hexagonal Vessel With Cover Decorated With Peonies.” Every square inch of its surface is filled with a complex, symmetrical design of golden, thumbnail-size peony blossoms surrounded by tiny curling tendrils, and it’s hard to say which is the more astonishing: his design or its execution. Through July 5 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-535-7710, metmuseum.org.
A flurry of colorful little squares are sewn together with pink or white thread and bordered by longer rectangles in Wonju Seo’s “Contemporary Silk Bojagi.” Inspired by the silken cloths Koreans use to wrap boxes and presents — known as “bojagi” or, when patched together from scraps like this one, “jogakbo” — the piece is only one of several subtle textile abstractions in an alluring exhibition high over Midtown. But I recommend staying with bojagi until the shock of its variety fades and you can pick out the scarlets, eggplants and other gorgeous colors of its individual squares. Through May 27 at the Korea Society, 350 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; 212-759-7525, koreasociety.org.
Shiko Munakata: A Way of Seeing at the Japan Society
Giddy Expressionism meets old-fashioned craft in the work of Japan’s most prolific 20th-century woodcut artist. (Reviewed in our Galleries section.) Through March 20 at Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, Manhattan; 212-832-1155, japansociety.org.
Court, Epic, Spirit: Indian Art 15th-19th Century at Luhring Augustine with Francesca Galloway
My favorite piece in this museum-quality exhibition — one that includes Rajasthani textiles, Mughal sandstone and centuries’ worth of luminous miniature paintings — is an image of Krishna defeating a rampaging elephant named Kuvalayapida. Framed against a grassy field and two receding walls, the elegant blue god presses his enormous gray adversary down to his knees with a single hand. Through March 24 at Luhring Augustine TriBeCa, 17 White Street, Manhattan; 212-206-9100, luhringaugustine.com.
This unusual show of decorative objects in precious alloys includes a bright yellow copper box with carved-in fern patterns by Masako Otsuki. Through March 23 at Onishi Gallery, 521 West 26th street, Manhattan; 212-695-8035, onishigallery.com.
Influencers: Japonisme and Modern Japan at Scholten Japanese Art
Stylish, graphic and modern, Japanese prints made a big impression on 19th-century Europe, and this fascinating show gathers European watercolors and woodblock prints in which the influence is impossible to miss. Through March 25 at Scholten Japanese Art, 145 West 58th Street, Manhattan; 212-585-0474, scholten-japanese-art.com.
Bullfinches, dried persimmons and a complete first-edition set of Hiroshige’s “Eight Views of the Suburbs of Edo” appear in this wide-ranging dive into the lush, often experimental form known as “surimono.” Through March 26 by appointment only at Sebastian Izzard Asian Art, 17 East 76th Street, Manhattan; 212-794-1522, izzardasianart.com.