Art at the DIACollections

Inside the DIA Galleries
Inside the DIA Galleries

The Arts of Asia and the Islamic World

The collections of the Department of The Arts of Asia and the Islamic World at the Detroit Institute of Arts comprise thousands of works of art produced in Asia and Middle East, from antiquity through the present, as well as from North Africa and Islamic Spain. Conceived as a both a geographical and cultural area of study, the Department fosters research into individual works of art in their historical and cultural contexts, the connections between the artistic cultures of this immense region – both geographical and temporal – as well as cultural and artistic ties between Asia, the Islamic World, Europe, and Africa. At present, the collections of the art of the Ancient Middle East and the Islamic World comprise some 1,300 objects, and the arts of Asia some 2,600 objects. Collecting in these fields began in Detroit in the 1890s, and continues today.


View a Selection of Ancient Middle East Art, Islamic Art, and Asian Art

Bodhisattva Padmapani

Bodhisattva Padmapani — Gandhara, 200 / 400

Reeds and Cranes

Reeds and Cranes — Suzuki Kiitsu, 19th Century

Ishtar Gate, Dragon of Marduk

Ishtar Gate, Dragon of Marduk — 604 / 562 B.C.


Qur’an — c. 1425-1450

Imperial Jewel Casket

Imperial Jewel Casket — 1909

Arts of the Ancient Middle East

The arts of the Ancient Middle East comprise a remarkable group of objects created between approximately 3000 B.C.E and 600 C.E., from Antiquity to the pre-Islamic Middle East. These objects, some of them works of art, chart the rise of writing, of trade and commercial transactions, of religions, of cities and of empires in the great, early civilizations of the Middle East. They includes seals and carved gemstones, cuneiform clay tablets, carved stone reliefs, metalwork, ceramics, glass, textiles and coins. The glazed brick Dragon from the Ishtar Gate at Babylon (604-562 B.C.E.) is one of the most iconic objects in the collection.

Arts of the Islamic World

The rise of Islam as a religion in the seventh century paralleled the rise of the Islamic state, which once stretched from today's Spain to Afghanistan. This vast empire incorporated varied peoples, religions, languages, social structures, gastronomic cultures and terrains and gave rise to one of the world's great artistic traditions. Much of the richness of Islamic art is due to the centuries-long place of the Islamic world as an entrepot for commerce and creativity at the junctures between East Asia, Europe and Africa.

Some of the most important works of art from the Islamic World came into the DIA's collections under the direction of Wilhelm Valentiner from the 1920s to the 40s. The collection includes splendid ceramics and metalwork from the central Islamic lands, a large collection of medieval textiles decorated with religious inscriptions from Egypt, lusterware ceramics from Iran, Egypt, Syria and Spain, woven silks from early modern Iran, and carpets from Western China among other works of art. Unusual objects include an ivory inkwell from medieval Sicily, an enameled glass bottle made in Egypt for a Yemeni Sultan in the thirteenth century, and magnificent Qur'an written on colored Chinese papers in the fifteenth century.

Arts of Asia

The DIA's collection of the arts of Asia comprises material mainly from China, Korea, Japan and South and Southeast Asia, dating from around 2500 BCE to the present. Many of Asia's myriad philosophies, movements, traditions and practices-- Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Confucian, Daoist, the Way of Tea-- are represented by masterful works of art of varying types: ritual bronzes, jades, funerary and functional ceramics, painting on scrolls and screens, lacquer ware, furniture, textiles and costume, and religious sculpture.

Arts of China

Important early Chinese Buddhist sculptures in the collection include the evocative Sakyamuni Emerging from the Mountains, dating to the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Works of art from the domain of the Confucian scholar comprise paintings and calligraphy by artists such as Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming, and Dong Qichang, as well as ceramic and lacquer objects treasured by such scholars.

Arts of Korea

Among the exquisite objects from Korean scholarly households of the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910) are a Grapevine Screen, as well as an early, seventeenth-century lacquered Stationery Box with Design of Lotus Blossoms and Scrolls. The white porcelain Full Moon Jar, a luxury object reserved for the royalty, points to Korean appreciation for subtlety, sobriety and lack of artifice.

Arts of Japan

Outstanding among Japanese textiles of the Edo period (1615-1868) in the collection is a sumptuous Noh Theater Robe featuring autumn motifs of chrysanthemums, butterflies, and grasses. The decorative Rimpa School is well represented in the collection with painted screens and scrolls by such masters as Ogata Korin, Maruyama Okyo, and Suzuki Kiitsu, whose Reeds and Cranes screens are a great favorite at the DIA.

Arts of South and Southeast Asia

The collection preserves one of only two complete sets of the illustrated Buddhist Manuscript of the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses (Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita) in the United States. An important work in the collection of Hindu devotional arts is the processional bronze sculpture of Parvati from the Chola Dynasty (ca. 860-1279), while a sublime grey schist bust of a Bodhisattva from the Gandharan region epitomizes artistic influences of the Hellenistic world.

Join the Friends of Asian Arts and Cultures today to meet other art lovers and learn more about the behind the scenes of the DIA's Asian Arts and Cultures collection.


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