Current Exhibitions

The Conley Collection: Chinese Art from Han and Beyond

Heritage Museum of Asian Art is pleased to announce the generous long-term loan of Chinese art from James E. Conley Jr. As a lifelong admirer of the arts, Mr. Conley has amassed a wonderful collection, most notably, a large amount of Han and Tang dynasty funerary sculptures. Archaic bronzes as well as Ming dynasty sculpture round out the collection, offering visitors a marvelous survey of Chinese art.

Ojime: Magical Jewels from Japan

Ojime (oh-gee-meh) exemplify the Japanese genius for bringing high art to functional objects. During Japan’s Edo (1600-1868) and Meiji (1868 - 1912) periods, kimonos were basic wearing apparel, but these garments lacked pockets. Women usually carried their personal accessories in their sleeves or tucked into their sashes. Men, however, tied their accessories to a toggled cord, which was suspended from the sash, with the ojime bead as part of the ensemble.

Although ojime were originally functional accessories of kimono apparel, they were beautiful, as well as useful and were superbly crafted with materials believed to possess magical and medicinal properties.

This exhibition showcases over 100 pieces of Ojime from the Kinsey International Art Foundation’s extensive collection, ranging from antique to contemporary works of art. Fans of jewelry, beads, Japan, and art in general should truly enjoy this exhibit.

Chinese Ritual Bronzes: Selections from the MacLean Collection

Ancient Chinese bronzes are not only examples of artistic excellence, but also are important historical and cultural markers. The MacLean Collection has generously loaned Heritage Museum of Asian Art a selection of exceptional bronzes for this exhibition.

Stone Sculpture of India

The Ramayana is a Hindu epic detailing the story of the hero Rama, who rushes into battle to save his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. This fragment of pink sandstone portrays the protagonists of the story, Rama and Sita. Although partially missing, Rama’s attribute, the bow, can be seen in his left hand. This piece, along with a small selection of other Buddhist and Hindu stone sculpture from India, recently gifted or loaned to the museum, are now on display.

Blanc de Chine: White Wares from the Dehua Kiln

Dehua porcelain is often referred to as Blanc de Chine, a French term meaning "White from China.” It is a clear glazed, ivory white porcelain made for export by the Dehua kilns in the Fujian province, that has been produced from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to the present day. A selection of these wares are on display, including a variety of vessel shapes and figures.

The Chinese Puzzle Ball and other Marvels from Canton (1757–1842)

In 1757, because of perceived political or commercial threats from trade with the West, the Qianlong Emperor declared all foreign trade was to be conducted out of a single port in the south China province of Guangdong (Canton). Tea and spices flowed out of the Canton port, as well as had crafted goods such as silk, porcelain, ivory, lacquerware, and silver goods, which became marvels of the West, such as the Chinese puzzle ball. Chinese puzzle balls are ornate decorative items that consist of several concentric spheres, each of which rotates freely, carved from the same piece of material. These curiosities are on exhibition, along with export porcelains, silver, and other items.

Parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni

The Death of Buddha: An Iconic Japanese Buddhist Painting

The life story of the Buddha is central to Buddhism and often illustrated. His death is particularly captivating for the religious, for it is upon his death that the Buddha is said to have achieved parinirvana or nirvana-after-death, the ultimate goal of an enlightened being. This painting’s iconic composition can be found in a painting dated to 1086, currently located in Koyasan Japan.

The Imperial Dragon Robe

Dragon robes were predominantly worn by male members of the Chinese bureaucracy, although women possessed garments which exhibited some similarities. These robes are mostly blue, but brown, turquoise, orange, yellow and red ones do exist. This robe features five-clawed dragons amidst cloud clusters, interspersed with bats and Buddhist emblems. Water and mountians adorn the hem. The high quality of the gold couching and embroidery indicate this robe must have been made for a person of important status.

On loan from the Kinsey International Art Foundation

Upcoming Exhibitions

Dogs from Han to Qing

February 17- through spring

Dogs were among the earliest animals domesticated in China. Remains of dogs have been found in the oldest neolithic settlements, and by the Shang dynasty excavations reveal hardly a tomb or building consecrated without a scarfical dog. Ultimately, human and animal sacrifice was replaced pottery figures during the Han dynasty. There was widespread passion for dogs during the Han dynasty among royal families and aristocrats, as many of these ceramic dogs have been found during tomb excavation.

Dogs are also associated with the Chinese Lunar Calendar. It was during the first century AD that a set of twelve animals, namely rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig, were used to represent a repeating twelve-year cycle. In honor of this Lunar New Year, the year of the dog, Heritage Museum of Asian Art is hosting an exhibition featuring early images of dogs from the Han to Qing dynasty.

There will be a Chinese Lunar New Year Museum Member Celebration and Exhibition Preview on February 16th from 6-9pm. Food and refreshments will be served. Email heritage@heritageasianart.org or call 312 842 8884 to RSVP, join, or renew your membership. Continuing the celebration, the museum will have a special admission of $2 from February 17th through the end of the month.

Past Exhibitions

Mapping an Empire: A "Geographical Map of the Everlasting Unified Qing Empire"

June 2017 - January 2018

The Qing dynasty court was expansive and felt their realm was wherever they had influence. On this map, the intentionally vague geopolitical lines of the frontiers and beyond clearly indicate this perception and confirmed the Qing notion of the world as they conceived of it. This is a very accurate map in that it portrays all the administrative bodies that are used for governance indicating the tax base and communication systems. Woodblock-printed in 1811 and displayed on eight hanging scrolls, this large map is generously on loan from The MacLean Collection.

Ruby Wang - Living Water in Ink

September 2016 - Fall 2016

As a lifelong artist traveling the world for inspiration, Ruby H. Wang (née Hwa Zhi-Ning, 1932) fully experienced the coexistence of Eastern and Western cultures where the "intersections and contrasts" of the two cultures can be seen in her work. While maintaining her roots in Chinese traditional ink painting, she explores and experiments with new concepts and techniques which has added new dimensions to her unique style of ink painting with watercolor.

The Poetry of Netsuke: Selections from the Book

April 2016 - Fall 2016

The distinctive art forms of poetry and netsuke from Japan can be closely linked. Both are small, intimate in form, and often subtle in meaning. Much of their beauty is implied and unspoken. The hallmarks of both netsuke and Japanese poetry are brevity, simplicity, and restraint. Many netsuke carvers and poets are especially fascinated by the beauty and mystery of nature. The netsuke in this exhibit are from the book The Poetry of Netsuke. Some of these netsuke are inscribed with, or were directly inspired by specific famous poems of Japan. This exhibit is on loan from the Kinsey International Art Foundation.

House of Serendipity: Chinese Snuff Bottles from a Private Collection

October 2015 - January 2016

Although smoking tobacco was banned in 17th century China, it was a part of social ritual to use snuff (powdered tobacco). Snuff was considered to be a remedy for common illnesses and offering a pinch of snuff was a common way to greet friends and relatives. Snuff bottles became an object of beauty and a way to represent status and wealth. Decorative bottles were, and remain, time-consuming in their production and are thus desirable for today’s collectors. House of Serendipity is an exhibition of a private collection of snuff bottles, hosted by Heritage Museum of Asian Art, to coincide with the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society Convention held in Chicago, October 2015.

Taima Mandala

June 2015 - December 2015

The Taima mandala (mandara) is the principal religious icon of the Jodo (Pure Land) sect of Buddhism founded in twelfth-century Japan. It depicts the iconic Western Paradise of Amida and is originally modeled on a supposed eighth-century Chinese tapestry preserved in the Taimadera Temple in the old city of Nara. The Taima mandala Heritage Museum of Asian Art has on display is an exceptionally large painting from 14th/15th century Japan.

Images of Netsuke

June 2015 - December 2015

Netsuke are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan. They served as a counter weight to hold a tobacco puch on a mans sash. Soon, these little pieces of art became quite collectable. Most netsuke collectors now collect netsuke out of context (detached from the inro and pipecases, and now sitting on their display case shelves). This exhibit looks at some important historic questions, such as “How were netsuke worn?” and “How did the artists of the 19th century see netsuke as part of the clothing of the period?”  Since most netsuke and sagemono ensembles were originally worn, mostly by men, and on the rear hip, they do not show up in most woodblock prints, which show people facing the viewer.  This is part of the difficulty of documenting netsuke in a correct historic perspective, which goes far beyond just collecting beautiful carvings. The pieces on display for this exhibit are from The Norman L. Sandfield Collection.

Chinese Puzzle Vessels

June 2015 - December 2015

Puzzle vessels, which go under various names, are a popular curiosity around the world. They have been found in at least 24 countries and at least five ancient cultures, including those of Canaan, Greece, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Turkey. Puzzle vessels are most often made of ceramics, although other materials, such as pewter, brass, and cloisonne have also been used. Examples of these vessels will be on display, such as “justice cups” and “reversed flowing pots.”

Imperial Rock Paintings from the Forbidden City

June 2014 - December 2015

Prof. Lin Chao, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou

Professor Lin Chao was granted rare access to paint the imperial rocks of the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, Beijing. The paintings on display here showcase various techniques and styles of painting these rocks, which are traditionally appreciated by Chinese scholars.

Asian Art from American Collections

June 2014 - December 2015

Since the turn of the twentieth century Americans have been collecting and admiring Asian art. For the Heritage Museum’s inaugural exhibition the museum hosts pieces of work including Japanese netsuke, Korean pottery, and Chinese paintings.

Chinese Folk Pottery: The Art of the Everyday

June 2014 - July 2014

This exhibition explores contemporary folk pottery produced within the diversity of Han and ethnic pottery communities across China. Throughout the 8,000 years of China's ceramic history, the vast majority of pottery produced have been utilitarian objects created for average consumers. The ceramics on display in museums and collected by connoisseurs are often represented by the sophisticated, refined imperial ceramics for the elite. Objects of daily use have often been overlooked for critical appreciation of its techniques and aesthetics. The works in this exhibition were created for village peasants by Tibetan, Dai, Bai and Han potters. The objects were collected between 1995 and 2009.