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Harn Museum of Art’s newest Asian exhibition tells a colorful history for all audiences to enjoy

Titled “Kaleidoscope of Colors in Asian Art,” this new Asian art exhibition opens Tuesday.

Overhead moveable lights shine on wood paneling, which open up onto a space where evocations from throughout history intermingle, as giant windows open out into a garden. Works of art from across history and geography merge in a single space.

This space is the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art’s David A. Cofrin Asian Wing, which is hosting a new exhibition. Titled “Kaleidoscope of Colors in Asian Art,” this new Asian art exhibition opens Tuesday.

This newest exhibition at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art is made up of works from the museum’s collection of over 3,560 works of art from Asia.

Cofrin Curator of Asian Art for the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art Tongyun Yin has been working on the exhibition’s concept for the past year.

“I hope to use color as a lens, to encourage our visitors to look at the artworks across Asia throughout history from different perspectives,” Yin said. “I also want visitors to view the much broader stories, including the cultural exchanges across Asia, the changing meanings, the religious or political meanings of colors and also some material aspects of artworks.”

Yin has chosen four colors that were the most applicable to help tell different stories about material culture and history of Asian art, which are red, blue, green and gold. Within the physical exhibition space, the works will be split up by their respective colors.

“So normally, when we talk about art, we talk about artistic styles and activities of artists, or maybe even talking about the much broader historical or cultural context,” Yin said. “We know color is natural, universal and it relates to everybody. But color is also a very subjective experience because people experience color differently, and people from different cultural traditions have different specific meanings and understanding about colors.”

Yin hopes that through this exhibition’s more visually apparent theme, rather than a conceptual or geographic theme like its previous exhibition, “She/Her/Hers: Women in the Arts of China,” that viewers will be more receptive and not feel so separated, geographically and temporally, from the art on display.

Yin also hopes to facilitate this connection through showing the cross-cultural exchanges that Asian cultures were a part of. She gives the example of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the 19th century beginning to use imported materials from the West such as Prussian blue from the Netherlands.

“So we talk not only about the materials, but also the technologies and the science part of the art creation,” Yin said. “So I hope this will give the audiences who are more interested in some interdisciplinary explorations of art a new angle to look at Asian art.”

While the exhibition has not faced any major issues yet, Yin has found some problems with the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art’s gaps in Asian cultural history.

In the exhibition, Yin wanted to depict the involvement of red in Asian political movements of the 20th century, for example in the Chinese socialist revolution, but the current collection lacks work depicting this. Yin says that she identifies these gaps, which then informs her future acquisition proposals for the museum.

Outside of the curation process, the preparation and installation process has had multiple aspects to focus on while creating the exhibition.

Registrar of Exhibitions and Loans for the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art Natasha Alexander said, “Each piece has its own challenges with being put on display and we usually figure it out … There's always the challenge of how can we give the visitor access to imagining how this work was used.”

Alexander particularly pointed out a painted wooden box from India that shows depictions of figures on its exterior, but also on its interior flaps, which open out like a brochure.

It was the work of the Harn’s Installation Coordinator Timothy Dygert to build a mount that allows the interior of the box to be seen. Dygert also had to add a small mirror where the reflection of the overhead lights would bounce so that the figures inside can be seen.

The exhibition also has a small tablet display with a 3D model of a bronze vessel created by the Florida Museum of Natural History, which is next door to the Harn. The virtual model allows viewers to see the vessel from all angles and to zoom in on details such as carved Chinese characters.

Tomas is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing