I first heard about the Pacific Asia Museum from an associate who lives in Ventura, California. He mentioned it when we visited the Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena and I immediately added it to my must photograph list. As it turned out this year I had business in Los Angeles once again so scheduled a day to visit the museum.
I rented a car when I got to LAX and drove to the museum in about 45 minutes following my iPhone's turn-by-turn directions. There is a parking lot adjacent to the museum and there were still several spaces vacant. I arrived just before lunch so asked the receptionist if there was a cafe nearby where I could grab something to eat before I began exploring the galleries. She recommended a little cafe just a block away so it didn't take long to walk there, eat and return to the museum.
The museum's collection encompasses 15,000 objects that span more than 4000 years and has representative items in galleries spaced around a central courtyard. All of the galleries are on the ground floor so there is no need to negotiate stairs.
I had three hours to explore the museum before I had to leave for a reception in Ventura so decided to focus on the sculptures, ceramics and religious art. The museum also has one of the largest collections of Otsu-e folk paintings outside of Japan but I simply didn't have time to look through them.
I began my visit in the galleries on the right side of the courtyard. These galleries contained Chinese, Korean and Japanese ceramics, jade items and decorator arts. One particularly interesting object was one of the few remaining examples of a late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) folding horseshoe-shaped chair.
In the galleries to the left of the courtyard I found a variety of objects from Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, India, southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. There was a wide assortment of very well preserved Buddhist and Hindu religious figures as well as colorfully painted carved wood Hindu deities from Bali.
In addition to the historical art on display, the museum was also exhibiting some modern work by Asian artists. I wandered through a fascinating collection of hanging metalwork by Israel-based artist Penny Hes Yassour. It was like walking through a three dimensional Chinese ink painting. I was also stunned by the dramatic portraits of Asian women who found their way to the American West painted by Chinese-born American contemporary artist Hung Liu.
With such a variety of artwork to enjoy, my time rapidly ran out so I made my way back to the museum's very well stocked gift shop. I asked the customer service person who I should ask to open the ironwork gate so I could leave the parking lot and she gave me a token to put in the coin slot of the automatic gate opener. This is important to remember as once you enter the museum's parking lot, a directional spike strip prevents you from leaving the way you entered.
Although the museum was smaller than a number of other Asian museums I have visited, I thought it had an interesting blend of historical and contemporary Asian art and was well worth the time I spent there.
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