If you’re interested in Asian art and culture, there’s always something new to see in New York. From film festivals and museum exhibits, to seasonal celebrations and shopping, you could spend your entire stay in NYC enjoying the city’s best Asian art and culture offerings. (But we know you’ve got a long list of things you want to do while you’re here, so we’re highlighting a few of the must-see museum exhibits and events to make it easy!).
At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the entire month of April is devoted to the Japanese tradition of “Hanami” — enjoying each moment of cherry blossom season. The garden’s dazzling Cherry Esplanade is lined with 25 varieties of double-flowering cherry trees, which flower at different times throughout the Spring — so there are always plenty of delicate pink blossoms to delight in throughout April.
At the end of the month, Hanami culminates with the two-day Sakura Matsuri, a weekend-long celebration of Japanese culture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. On April 28-29th, this colorful event features both Japanese traditions like tea ceremony, Taiko drumming, and Bonsai tree cultivation, as well as the latest in Japanese pop culture, including Manga artists, J-Pop bands, and even a Cosplay fashion show. A selection of Japanese foods will also be offered under the tent on Cherry Esplanade.
Manga fans, meanwhile, won’t want to miss the three-storey Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya, located near Bryant Park on Avenue of the Americas at 40th Street. Stocked with Japanese-language novels, fashion magazines, anime DVDs, and a trove of manga in both Japanese and English, this sprawling outpost of the Japanese bookstore chain also features a Japanese-style pastry and sandwich shop.
After whetting your appetite for anime at Kinokuniya, plan a trip to the nearby Museum of Modern Art, where the on-going film exhibition ContemporAsian showcases films that get little exposure outside their home countries, including rarely seen independent features and new works by established filmmakers. Each week MoMA’s Theater 2 screens a different film, featuring work from China, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia, among others.
The Brooklyn Museum was one of the first American institutions to collect and display Korean art, so its collection is one of the country’s finest, with early stoneware funerary vessels and distinctive ceramic vessels among its wares. Meanwhile the Brooklyn Museum’s Chinese gallery features objects that date from as far back as the Neolithic period (3000 B.C.E.), while its Japanese collection includes both traditional arts and 21st century ceramics. Impressive, large-scale sculptures from Cambodia and Thailand, in addition to early images from Kashmir and Nepal, round out the Brooklyn Museum’s comprehensive Asian collection.
Of course, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a reliable resource for Asian art, with a collection of 35,000 objects dating from the 4th century B.C. to the early 20th century and representing the many civilizations found on the world’s largest continent. With 53 different galleries devoted to Asian arts, prepare for a long afternoon enjoying everything from early Nepalese metal sculpture to Chinese painting and calligraphy. Light-sensitive works like delicate Japanese prints and textiles are rotated four times a year, so there’s always something new to see even in the Met’s permanent collections.
In addition to its extensive permanent collection of Asian art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art also hosts special exhibitions that celebrate the artistic traditions of the East. Red and Black Chinese Lacquer (13th-16th Century) explores the techniques used and themes depicted in traditional Chinese lacquerware, a uniquely Asian artistic tradition (through June 10, 2012). Meanwhile the special exhibition Storytelling in Japanese Art includes more than 60 works in a range of mediums and formats, from illustrated books and folding screens to textiles and playing cards. That exhibit will be on display through May 6, 2012.
And of course, when you get hungry, there’s always Chinatown to explore. Grab a “Bubble Tea” and wander the bustling streets of this unique neighborhood where you can shop for hard-to-find fruits like rambutans (a close relative of the lychee) and bitter melon, and delectable Chinese pastries. Stop by one of Chinatown’s great restaurants for a satisfying meal of Dim Sum (try Mott or Pell Streets; both are lined with great restaurants).
And whatever you do, don’t forget to leave a little room in your carry-on for a souvenir or two: Chinatown is a great place to shop for that special reminder of a great trip. Pearl River Mart (Broadway and Grand Street) offers enough imported gifts, toys, housewares and quirky mementoes to keep you browsing for hours.