The Unique Corfu Museum of Asian Art
Unique because The Corfu Museum of Asian Art is the only museum in Greece dedicated exclusively to the arts and culture of Asian countries.
Magnificent because it is housed in the Palace of Archangel Michael and St. George, a building of great historical importance and excellent architecture.
View of the palace
The building is a landmark for the city of Corfu. It was erected in 1825 to function as the administrative center of the British Embassy and seat of the knightly order of Archangel Michael and St. George. With the unification of the Ionian Islands with Greece, it was used as a palace of the Greek kingdom. In modern era, it changed many roles until it was consolidated as a museum. Its great historical significance in relation to its aesthetic value, as a great example of Regency Style architecture, places it as a charming monument in continuous exchange with the city.
The palace, surrounded by gardens directly close to the sea, dominates the northern part of Spianada Square. It attracts the visitor, who can easily envision Corfu in the 19th century. Passing through its door, one is impressed by the imposing inner peristyle and the monumental halls of the Ionian Senate Meetings Hall, the Throne Room, the Banquet Hall and the Reception Hall (rotunda), which have preserved their splendor despite the destruction they experienced at the beginning of the turbulent 20th century.
By entering the space, the visitor will get to know Gregorios Manos, the historical founder of the Museum, who donated 9500 objects of Japanese, Chinese and Korean art to the Greek state that formed the first nucleus for the creation of the Sino-Japanese Museum of Corfu in 1928. Later, many important donations were followed that significantly expanded the Museum, renaming it as Museum of Asian Art and contributing to its worldwide recognition.
Crossing the Chinese wing, the long history of China from prehistory to the 20th century is unfolded. Burial finds of high historical value, statuettes of officials and precious porcelains indicate the aesthetics of each period in the long course of this ancient civilization.
In the Japanese wing, the “byobu”, traditional Japanese screens with elaborate paintings on a golden background stand out. The large collection of prints by great Japanese artists and brilliant ceramic works are distinguished for their various subjects, detailed and production techniques. The room of tea ceremony with all its aesthetic and ritual rules followed by Samurai, geishas, No and Kabuki theater actors complete the immersion to history by completing the journey to the Edo Period (1600-1868).
The brass sculptures from India, impressions of the philosophical research for human well-being, surround the visitor with images of tranquility which usually governs the East Asian cultures. Next the collection of sculptures from ancient Gandhara presents the fusion of Hellenistic and Buddhist art as evident. Stone and brass Buddha heads from Cambodia and Thailand shows the spread of Buddhism and its artistic depiction according to the particular cultural elements of each region. From Nepalese and Tibetan brass, gilded sculptures to intricate clusters and thangkas, the painted banners with religious content, create a multi-dimensional journey through Asia, which ends with the section of rugs from Central Asia that symbolically depicts nomadic life in a colorful route of thread.
Apart from its permanent collection, the Museum hosts periodic exhibitions that expand its content and focus on special aspects of Asian art. Visitors to the MATK until October 2023, will have the opportunity to enjoy the periodic exhibition “Wandering Nomads in Central Asia”, which presents woven bags functioning as object carriers of the Baluch nomads.
All this constitutes an unforgettable experience where space and time, art and history are creatively interwoven.