Harmony, peace and quiet are qualities you might expect from a gallery devoted to Asian art. But the new Robert and Katherine Jacobs Asian Wing at the Detroit Institute of Arts is surprisingly lively and fun, which is sure to endear it to generations of visitors.

“Some Asian cultural traditions are calm and subdued, but we want to bring forth the vitality as well,” says Katherine Kasdorf, the DIA’s assistant curator of Arts of Asia and the Islamic World.

Opened in November 2018, the Asian wing features Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean and Southeast Asian art, plus Buddhist art. Some art is historic, such as a wood and lacquer sculpture from around 1300 AD depicting the seeker Shakyamuni before he became Buddha. Other art brings a grin, like the big red concave disc at the entrance to the Indian Gallery. The disc was created in 2011 by artist Anish Kapoor, best known for his Chicago “Bean” sculpture.

The Asian Wing has 140 objects on display across five intimate galleries. Most pieces are from the DIA’s long-held collection, but some were acquired in the last five years or are on loan. Particularly pleasing is the Korean gallery, with its colorful “Bojagi” patchwork quilt, Celadon pots and a 2014 mixed-media piece, “Happy World – Scattered Crumbs.” Galleries also have digital, interactive elements.

Lit dimly to respect the fragile art, the new wing takes about 45 minutes to see. It also is a place to visit more than once. The DIA has 7,000 Asian objects, so they will be swapped out often. Fragile textiles and paper will rotate twice a year on a 3 ½-year cycle.

Happily, this is not a static collection, but a sophisticated and joyful addition to art in Detroit.

“We want to remind people that Asian art and culture continue to change,” says Kasdorf. “They are very much part of today’s world.”  

The Asian Wing is free with entrance to the Detroit Institute of Art, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Open daily except Monday. Admission is $14 for adults; free for residents of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties (www.dia.org, 313-833-7900).


Ellen Creager lives in metro Detroit and writes about Michigan travel destinations and other cultural topics. She is author of a new four-book series, “One Nation For All: Immigrants in the United States.”