The Asian Art Museum echoes the diversity of Asia in its many fascinating exhibits. According to the museum website, AAM has over 18,000 exhibits reflecting 6,000 years of history. Special exhibits over the years have highlighted the treasure of Tibet, the art of Korea, the splendors of India, and several collections of art from China.
The galleries of the permanent collection take visitors through three floors of exhibits, and one way to see it all would be to take the escalator to the top, and see each floor as you walk or take an elevator down. Free recorded guides describe the exhibits, and free guided tours describe the exhibits and answer questions. It could take three hours to see everything, perhaps allowing more time for the museum store and café.
Café Asia is a casual venue with selections from sandwiches to freshly pan-tossed foods. It also serves wine, beer, sake, coffee, and tea. The museum store has lovely handicrafts, gifts, books, and gorgeous jewelry.
The museum is housed in the old Main Library building, a lovely Beaux Arts structure facing City Hall. The make-over to a museum was designed by Italian architect Gae Aulenti, a specialist in conversions that create museums with respect for buildings’ former function. Courtyards and a loggia bring light to the center of the museum, while galleries organized by individual culture wind around the building’s walls.
The museum gathers a sizable collection of important artworks in a relatively small space. It presents its art in thoughtful settings that highlight the insights these objects bring about the societies that gave them birth.
The Asian Art Museum is at 200 Larkin Street. It’s one block from the Civic Center BART subway station, in a very urban neighborhood. Parking is available steps from the museum, under Civic Center Plaza. Adult admission is $12, seniors $8, youths and people with student ID pay $7. Military and children under 12 are free, and the first Sunday of the month is free to everyone.