Asia Society Collection

South Indian; Krishna Dancing on Kaliya (Kaliyahimarddaka Krishna); Chola period; Asia Society Museum

The Asia Society is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering understanding and communication between Americans and the peoples of Asia and the Pacific. Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the Asia Society is headquartered in New York, with offices in Washington, DC, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Mumbai, Manila, and Shanghai. The Asia Society regularly mounts exhibitions featuring works from private collections, as well objects from the Society's own permanent museum collection. Works from the museum collection are represented in Artstor with nearly 300 examples of drawing, painting, sculpture, and decorative objects, representing the artistic traditions of many Asian cultures.

The Asia Society Museum collection includes masterworks from South, Southeast, and East Asia, dating from 2000 B.C.E. to the 19th century. While small in size, the collection is broad in its scope, and is one of the most notable collections of Asian art in the United States. The core of the collection was donated to the Society by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, who saw art as a tool for promoting better understanding between the countries of Asia and the United States. With the help of the art historian, Sherman Lee, John and Blanchette Rockefeller focused on acquiring classical masterpieces that represented the breadth of Asian cultures, as opposed to assembling a historical survey of Asian art. Thus, the collection is characterized by the high quality and scholarly importance of a large number of its works, with particular strengths in Chinese ceramics of the Song and Ming periods, Indian bronzes of the Chola period, and sculptures from Southeast Asian cultures. 

It was Rockefeller's promised gift of the collection to the Asia Society that served as the primary impetus for building the Society's headquarters on Park Avenue in New York. First exhibited in the 1970s, the collection was given to the Society upon Mr. Rockefeller's death in 1978. It was displayed, in its entirety, when the new building opened in 1981. The current collection includes the core assembled by the Rockefellers in the 1960s and 1970s, as well acquisitions and donations made to the Society since Mr. Rockefeller's death.