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Inspired Design: Asian Decorative Arts and Their Adaptations


Official Opening: May 3, 2019

By the 17th century, English and European merchants purchased and traded quantities of luxury goods such as lacquerwares, porcelains, and textiles from cultures centered in Southeast Asia. Emerging New England elites also acquired these tangible examples of global sophistication and economic success to decorate their homes and adorn their bodies. These imports proved so popular that they could hardly satisfy the growing desire for new textiles, clothing forms, furniture, ceramics, and other decorative arts. To meet this increasing demand, enterprising English, European, and American manufacturers competed with these global imports by producing more affordable versions of Asian design and decorative elements. 

Inspired Design: Asian Decorative Arts and Their Adaptations highlights 18th- and 19th-century Asian decorative arts and their imitations, drawn from the museum’s rich collection. The exhibition explores how Western craftsmen adapted Asian decorative arts into a design vocabulary more familiar to them and their customers, and highlights New Englanders’ own quest for these imported goods.