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Shiva Nataranja, anoniem, ca. 1100- ca. 1200 - AK-MAK-187

VVAK Lustrum Symposium ‘Collecting Asian Art in the Western World – Past, Present and Future’

Save Saturday 23 June for the centenary anniversary of the Society. We will celebrate with a symposium about ‘Collecting Asian Art in the Western World – Past, Present and Future’. An interesting programme with internationally acclaimed academics and museum curators working in the field of Asian Art. Drinks accompanied by a Gamelan ensemble will follow. Information about registration, costs and more details about the program will follow in 2018.

Date and location

Date: 23 June 2018, 9:30-19:30

Location: Auditorium Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The Future of Collecting Asian Art in Europe and America

Private collections of Asian Art and their value for public museums

Private collectors and their collections are at the foundation of many European and American museums.  This also applies to the field of Asian art, in the East as well as in the West. From the late nineteenth century onwards – when most of the national museums were founded- connoisseurs have created outstanding collections or have founded collector’s societies. Most of the major museums of Asian art exist due to these societies or because of generous donations made by private collectors.

The Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst (VVAK), or Asian Art Society in the Netherlands, was founded in 1918 as an entirely private initiative. The collection of the VVAK distinguishes itself from the collections of the various Dutch ethnographical museums such as the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, by focusing on works of art that are specific to the countries of origin. The collection was located at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam before moving to the Rijksmuseum where it has been on loan since 1952.

One of the earliest examples of a similar collector’s society is the Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen (Batavia Society for Arts and Science) in Batavia, now Jakarta, that was founded as early as 1778 and that divided its collection between the National Museum in Jakarta and the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden. In England, the Oriental Ceramic Society was founded in 1921 while Germany followed in 1926 with the foundation of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ostasiatische Kunst (German society for East-Asian art). In the United States the Society for Asian Art was founded in San Francisco and the Asia Society in New York City, both in 1958. These societies all founded museums and their members collectively assembled excellent collections. They are the topic of the symposium’s morning program.

The afternoon will be designated to individuals whose collections gave rise to new museums of Asian Art: Emile Guimet and Eduard von der Heydt. These days are over: today, the import and export of Asian art are strictly regulated. Contrary to custom in colonial times, the provenance of each object is now researched, as well as the (legal) circumstances of the acquisition. Also, western museums re-examine how to exhibit their pieces and how to attract new generations of visitors.

Therefore, the symposium closes with a discussion about the future of collecting Asian art in the West: which changes do we expect, how do we feel about restituting objects to their countries of origin, does research to provenance and context help us acquire new insights?

All speakers at the symposium are academics and curators in the field of Asian art. The symposium will be held in the Rijksmuseum, the home of the society’s collection of which alternating highlights are displayed in the Asian Pavilion throughout the year.