The Art of Southeast Asia gallery provides visitors with fascinating insights into the remarkable art, architecture, cultures and religions of mainland and insular Southeast Asia, through exceptional works of art dating from the 6th century through to recent decades. Textiles and sculptures from animist, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian traditions are the strengths of the national collection. Together, they demonstrate the vibrancy and complexity of the region’s art history and the great skills of Southeast Asian artists, both male and female. Also integrated into the Southeast Asian displays are illustrated manuscripts, photographs, paintings and ritual objects in silver and gold which also illuminate recurring themes of Southeast Asian art.
Important sculptures include The Bronze weaver, a rare and important bronze sculpture from ancient Indonesia; a pair of wooden rice guardians from the northern Philippines; a Burmese stone image of the Buddha’s footprint, rich in symbolism; a bronze Shiva created during Cambodia’s Baphuon period [1010–80]; a gold-leaf encrusted image of an elephant and monkey bowing before the Buddha from Thailand; and a Javanese stone panel elegantly inscribed with Arabic calligraphy.
The Gallery’s rich and spectacular collection of textiles from Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, is internationally recognised for its depth and diversity. Displaying a range of techniques and motifs, the cloths illustrate ancient symbols, political and historical imagery, evidence of maritime exchange, and the historical influence of imported religious ideas, designs and epic stories.
The national collection also includes significant groups of ceremonial textiles from Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia, alongside fine examples from Burma, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and East Timor.