About the gallery
The Christian Art Gallery explores Christian works of art used or made in Asia. Many objects on display are products of cross-cultural artistic exchanges between Asia and Europe. They tell stories of cultural diversity and religious tolerance, and show how encounters with other religions can precipitate exquisite creations.
Traders brought their Christian faith from the Middle East through Central Asia, China, and India as early as the 7th century. In the 16th century, Europeans – first the Portuguese and soon after, the Spanish too – brought Catholic missionaries with them on trading voyages. Trade and the spread of the Catholic faith shared a symbiotic relationship. Goa, Malacca, Manila, Macau, Nagasaki, and other trading port cities became bases for Christian missions. In the 17th century, the Dutch Protestants, centred in Batavia (Jakarta), also began to seek converts in Southeast Asia.
As Christianity spread across Asia, new works of art were required to convey Christian stories, embellish churches, and motivate new converts. Asian Christian art combines well-established European imagery with Asian artistic traditions. The materials and techniques used to make these artworks were mostly Asian; the subjects and imagery traditionally Western.
The art on display here is a product of cross-cultural artistic exchanges between Asia and Europe. The objects tell stories of diversity and tolerance, and show that religious interactions can give birth to marvellous works of art.