Review: “Made in the Americas” at the Museum of Fine Arts

Made in the Americas Nazmiya

Diving into Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia

During Christopher Columbus’s famous expedition westward through the Atlantic Ocean to Asia, he never imagined that he would uncover the body of islands we now know as the Americas, or the West Indies. Decades after his tremendous discovery, the land developed into one of the most sought out locations for Asian imported goods.

As Native Americans and European settlers eagerly utilized this highly requested resource, they soon began to integrate their own  traditions. This combination of cultural influences inspired a fusion that grew into a new identity of its own.

Southern Barbarians Come to Trade Nazmiyal
Southern Barbarians Come to Trade, Museum of Fine Arts

The exhibit, Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia examines Asia’s cultural influence through one hundred of the most extraordinary objects produced in the colonies from the 17th to the 19th century. The first large-scale exhibition of its kind, it explores the rich and complex story of how colonial and indigenous craftsmen from all over the New World adapted Asian styles into a variety of materials, ranging from paintings and furniture to ceramics and silverwork.

The exhibition pays special attention to the importance of early trade routes across the Pacific Ocean, starting with the Manila Galleons in the 16th century. Very few people are aware of the profound impact that Asia has had on the arts in colonial America and the exhibit did a great job of enlightening us by displaying several impressive Asian-inspired items.

There were blue and white Talavera ceramics that were an imitation of imported Chinese porcelain, luxuriously woven textiles and rugs that mimicked the fine silks and cotton imported from India and China, elaborately decorated furniture inspired by imported Japanese  lacquer and sacred statues that adapted British deities into Christian saints. A majority of these items were from Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Canada and even the United States.

Mater Dolorosa Nazmiyal
Mater Dolorosa deity figure, Met Museum of Art
Talavera-Nazmiyal
Talavera jar with iron collar, Met Museum of Art
Mahogany and silver Coin cabinet, Met Museum of Art by Nazmiyal
Mahogany and silver Coin cabinet, Met Museum of Art

Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia is an extraordinarily fascinating exhibit that presents an abundance of information to those interested in the cultural and artistic connection between Asia and the Americas.

It’s exciting, engaging and it is also an eye-opener for casual visitors who have little to no knowledge of the impact Asian imports have had historically on the art and culture in this region.

Just in time for the 450th anniversary that marks the beginning of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade between Mexico and the Philippines, the Museum of Fine Arts appropriately sheds lights on these historical ships that once transported and traded porcelain, ivory, silk, spices and many other exotic goods from China to the Americas in exchange for silver from the New World. While the goods were destined for Spain, much of its porcelain and ivory remained in the Americas.

Visit this incredible exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, through February 15, 2016, to learn more about how trade between Asia and the Americas has shaped the fine art and rich culture of this land that we know today!