About the gallery
The Martime Trade Gallery presents Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian Ceramics, much of it made for export. Asian furniture and decorative arts for the export market are also on display. Maps and views of Canton, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Batavia, Nagasaki, and Manila explore the history of the cosmopolitan Asian port cities that came before Singapore.
For thousands of years, the cultures of Asia have traded, interacted, and exchanged ideas. Many works of art in these galleries show global demand and evidence of shifting tastes as traders moved from region to region. It also tells us how special objects were eagerly sought in lands far away, and how new works of art were created through the blending of different sources.
Many of these objects were made primarily for the European markets, but royal courts in China, India, and Southeast Asia were also important patrons and consumers of artworks. Some of these courts formed collections that included works from different cultures. The arrival of Europeans, who set up trading “companies” in many Asian port cities, also spurred production and trades in artworks.
In many cases, objects were produced for trade and export. Other examples document the desire for beauty, or the fascination with exotic materials and techniques. It is useful to be reminded that global networks of trade were already active in Asia two thousand years ago. These encounters between cultures have shaped our world, and affect the way objects look.