Discover Asian Art and Asian American History at L.A. Museums

L.A. museums exhibit world-class Asian art collections and Asian American cultural artifacts.

Photo: Chinese American Museum, Facebook
Photo: Chinese American Museum, Facebook

From ancient art to contemporary works, Los Angeles museums showcase world-class collections of Asian art and Asian American cultural history.

Japanese American National Museum
Japanese American National Museum 

Japanese American National Museum

Located in the historic Little Tokyo district, the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to telling the story of Americans of Japanese ancestry through historical and art exhibitions. Experience 130 years of Japanese American history through the permanent exhibit, Common Ground: The Heart of Community. Travel through time beginning with the first generation, or Issei, pioneers through the World War II incarceration in internment camps, to the present.

Wu Chi-Tsung Crystal City 007
Wu Chi-Tsung, 水晶城市系列 007, Crystal City 007, dimensions variable, 2015 | Photo: Wu Chi-Tsung

The Chinese American Museum

The Chinese American Museum (CAM) is the first museum in Southern California dedicated to examining the United States of America’s cultural and ethnic diversity by sharing the Chinese American experience and history. Symbolically located in the last surviving structure of Los Angeles’ original Chinatown, CAM seeks to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the rich cultural legacy and continuing contributions of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles. The permanent exhibit, Origins: The Birth and Rise of Chinese American Communities in Los Angeles, provides insight into the growth and development of Chinese American enclaves from Downtown L.A. to the San Gabriel Valley. Over the years CAM has proven to be an excellent cultural resource for visitors and locals alike.

Rendering courtesy of Korean American National Museum

Korean American National Museum

Located in the heart of the largest community of ethnic Koreans in the world outside of Asia, the Korean American National Museum was established to interpret and preserve Korean American history, culture and achievements. This museum is modest in size but large in its devotion to all things Korean. Exhibitions range from Korean American small businesses to spiritual practices, as well as art and history. With a focus on how Koreans have impacted Los Angeles and vice versa, the museum offers an in-depth perspective of Koreatown’s history and community.

Located at the intersection of 6th Street and Vermont Avenue, the future home of the Korean American National Museum is part of a seven-story mixed use project. The two-story, 30,000 square-foot museum is scheduled to open in 2022.

Fowler Museum at UCLA
Photo courtesy of Fowler Museum at UCLA

Fowler Museum at UCLA

The Fowler Museum at UCLA explores global arts and cultures with an emphasis on works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas—past and present. The Fowler enhances understanding and appreciation of the diverse peoples, cultures, and religions of the world through dynamic exhibitions, publications, and public programs, informed by interdisciplinary approaches and the perspectives of the cultures represented. Also featured is the work of international contemporary artists presented within the complex frameworks of politics, culture and social action.

Grace Nicholson Building at the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena
Photo: USC Pacific Asia Museum

USC Pacific Asia Museum

One of only four U.S. institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands, the USC Pacific Asia Museum has a collection of more than 15,000 objects, spanning more than 4,000 years from the region of Persia to the Pacific Islands. Since 1971, the museum seeks to further intercultural understanding through its focus on classic and contemporary arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Housed in the Grace Nicholson building in Pasadena, the Chinese-inspired architecture is a registered California State Historic Landmark. The museum’s courtyard is inspired by the classic gardens of China, where architecture is in harmony with nature. Dragons, the most important of the mythical beasts, can be seen perched on the ends of the roof. Lotus and peony flowers are strewn throughout, providing a visual feast for the eyes to all visitors.

Chess Set from India at the Norton Simon Museum
Chess Set from India (c. 1850), The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon, © The Norton Simon Foundation

Norton Simon Museum

Named for the billionaire industrialist and philanthropist, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena houses a collection of about 12,000 objects that includes the only painting by Raphael on the west coast, three portraits by Rembrandt, six superb paintings by Van Gogh, over one hundred works by Degas, and an important collection of Indian and Southeast Asian sculpture that spans over 2,500 years of the world’s finest cultural creations.

Huntington Library Chinese Garden Pavilion Bridge
Pavilion of the Three Friends and the Jade Ribbon Bridge at Garden of Flowing Fragrance | Photo: The Huntington Library

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

One of the world’s greatest cultural, research and educational centers, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens feature must-see gardens themed from around the world. With sights that engage all of the senses, the Huntington is an ever-changing exhibition of color and breathtaking scenery. Among the most popular attractions are the Chinese and Japanese gardens. The Chinese garden, known in Chinese as Liu Fang Yuan (Garden of Flowing Fragrance), offers a glimpse into the traditional style of scholar gardens from Suzhou, China. The garden complex is complete with pavilions, a teahouse and tea shop, stone bridges and waterfalls that together comprise a scenery evoking tranquility.

The Japanese Garden celebrated its centennial in April 2012 and includes a drum bridge, Japanese house, traditional Zen garden, expansive bonsai court, and a ceremonial teahouse and tea garden.