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South Asian Art

Comprising exceptional works of art and spanning 4,000 years, the collection exemplifies South Asia’s cultural diversity and artistic sophistication.

About the Collection

Learn About the Vibrant Arts of South Asia

The museum’s South Asian Art collection is among the premier collections of its kind in the country. It boasts about 4,000 works of art in a range of mediums and encompasses a vast temporal and geographic scope. Dating from the second millennium BCE to the present day, the majority of the works come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Tibet. Related works from Central Asia, Mongolia, and Myanmar are also included.

One of earliest and most spectacular gifts of South Asian art to the museum is the group of architectural elements given in 1919 by the family of Adeline Pepper Gibson; these are installed as the South Indian Temple Hall. The personal collection of internationally renowned scholar, curator, and collector, Stella Kramrisch (1896–1993; curator from 1954) helped establish the museum’s South Asian holdings. Subsequent gifts from Natacha Rambova, Alvin O. Bellak, and of Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz further enriched the collection. The museum continues to grow the South Asian Art collection through gifts and acquisitions of historic and contemporary works of art.

We invite you to explore the beauty, power, and sophistication of the arts of South Asia through exhibitions, publications, digital content, programs, and other museum offerings.

Notable Objects

While the South Asian Art collection has many compelling works of art, some of the highlights are:

  • The sixteenth-century South Indian Temple Hall ensemble—the only one of its kind publicly displayed outside the Indian subcontinent.
  • Stone sculpture, in particular from Hindu and Jain temples (sixth to sixteenth century).
  • Painted works on paper from illustrated manuscripts and books made at royal workshops (fourteenth to nineteenth century).
  • Devotional painting on cloth and metal sculpture from Nepal and Tibet (ninth to nineteenth century).
  • Arts of village and tribal communities often made for ritual use (eighteenth to twentieth century) and contemporary painting and sculpture by artists of tribal heritage.

Interested in learning more about the museum’s collection of South Asian art? Plan your visit to the museum today.