Best UK Galleries & Museums Showcasing South East and East Asian Art: Exhibitions from the Mingei Movement to Zheng Bo

06 Feb 2024

by ArtRabbit

Explore the richness of South East and East Asian art through current UK exhibitions, from the traditional crafts of the Mingei Movement to Zheng Bo's ecological bamboo installations, showcasing a diverse array of mediums and themes.

A vibrant array of exhibitions, showcasing the diverse cultures, traditions, and innovations of South East and East Asian art, are taking place across the UK. From immersive installations that delve into ecological themes to historical photographic journeys and the exploration of cultural and personal identity, these exhibitions offer a unique glimpse into the artistic expression across a vast geographical and cultural landscape. Spanning various locations including London, Manchester, and beyond, read on to find the must-see exhibitions.

Zheng Bo: Bamboo As Method at Somerset House

In "Bamboo as Method", Zheng Bo transforms the courtyard at Somerset House into an interactive bamboo garden, promoting sustainability and the blending of art with ecology. Visitors engage in drawing bamboo leaves, contributing to a creative cycle that fertilises the garden, reflecting on nature's restorative power within London's urban expanse. This commission – part of the Courtyard Commission Series – highlights the synergy between human reflection and ecological sustainability, inspired by Ming Dynasty philosophies. Free admission.

Siam: Through the Lens of John Thomson at Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

A British photographer with an exceptional eye for detail, Thomson embarked on a groundbreaking journey to Siam during the late Victorian era, with a fairly new invention in those days: photography, capturing scenes that had been scarcely witnessed before in the Western world. Throughout his remarkable career, Thomson ventured into uncharted territories and documented the exotic beauty and cultural richness of Thailand and Cambodia in stunning detail. Featuring dramatic images developed from negatives preserved in London’s Wellcome Collection, this exhibition introduces the sights and people of nineteenth-century Thailand and Cambodia as witnessed by Thomson first hand. £8.50 / Concessions £4.50.

Ainu Stories at Japan House, London

"Ainu Stories" at Japan House explores the contemporary lives of the Ainu in Japan, highlighting their culture through video interviews, crafts, and art. This exhibit reveals their fight for cultural preservation and unexpected historical UK ties, focusing on language, society, textiles, and woodcarving. Free admission.

Jane Jin Kaisen: Halmang at esea contemporary

Jane Jin Kaisen's 'Halmang' at esea contemporary in Manchester presents moving-image works that delve into memory, migration, and femininity. Hosted in the historic Market Buildings, once Smithfield's Victorian fish market, the exhibition bridges Manchester with Jeju Island's sea-diving traditions. Through narratives of displacement and gendered histories, Kaisen's interdisciplinary research and personal journey foster a dialogue on identity and remembrance, linking maritime livelihoods across geographies. Free admission.

Dragons, Dragons, Dragons at Museum of East Asian Art

"Dragons, Dragons, Dragons" at the Museum of East Asian Art celebrates the Lunar New Year with over 50 dragon-themed objects. This family-friendly exhibition delves into the symbolism of dragons across China, Japan, and Korea, featuring interactive activities and a chance to learn through a Fun Facts Trail. Free admission.

Leftover Linings at San Mei Gallery

"Leftover Linings" at San Mei Gallery showcases Ruoru Mou's exploration of the Chinese diaspora's material culture in Florence, Italy, through sculpture, installation, and sound. Drawing from her upbringing, Mou uses artisanal materials to probe the dynamics of material, power, and displaced labour. Central to the exhibition is a sculptural installation influenced by Japanese cinema, doubling as a percussive instrument to embody stories and labour. Mou's work critically examines the industrialisation history and labour processes of Chinese workers in Italy, challenging the ‘Made in Italy’ prestige with migrant workers' realities. Free admission.

Art Without Heroes: Mingei at William Morris Gallery

"Art Without Heroes: Mingei" is the UK's largest exhibition on the Japanese folk-craft movement, showcasing over 80 works from the 1920s and 1930s. Featuring ceramics, textiles, and more, it highlights Mingei's influence on contemporary craft and its dialogue with industrialisation. The exhibition examines Mingei's origins, evolution, and its modern reinterpretations, including contributions from Korean, Okinawan, and Ainu cultures, underlining its global relevance and the aesthetic value of traditional crafts. Free admission.

Gayle Chong Kwan at Compton Verney

Gayle Chong Kwan's exhibition at Compton Verney merges new photographic works with ancient Chinese bronzes, exploring themes of food, soil, and the body. Incorporating 'shrines' and bronze offerings, the show reflects on Chinese, Taoist, and Buddhist cultures, while also addressing politics and provenance of collections. Each piece connects to the Chinese zodiac and Hungry Ghost festival myths, offering a modern dialogue with historical artefacts. £18 / Concessions from £9.

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