From 21 April 2023 till 14 April 2024, the Southeast Asian Art Collection is on display at the Asian Art Gallery on the 3rd floor of the Art Museum RIGA BOURSE in Riga (Doma laukums 6) offering a small insight into the rich cultural heritage of Southeast Asia, full of colours, patterns, materials, techniques, symbols, and traditions.
Southeast Asia is one of the most diverse parts of the world, where over the centuries local traditions have merged with the neighboring cultures of India, China, Australia, and Oceania. The cultural heritage of the region has been influenced by both historical maritime trade routes and European colonial powers.
Objects from these distant lands are rarely found in the Baltic States. The collection of the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA) had only a few items until the second half of the 20th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, the museum acquired 28 handicrafts from Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, and Thailand. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 21st century, significant gifts were received from Indonesian and Thai embassies, various institutions and individuals.
Now the LNMA collection of Southeast Asian art, with 114 artworks, represents six of the eleven countries – Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Myanmar. The Indonesian collection is the largest – 76 items, located in two halls. It shows the skills of craftsmen, unique techniques, materials and traditions cultivated over centuries. Wax batik covered with intricate patterns, the ritual dagger keris and the most ancient type of puppet theatre wayang are inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
For the first time, Lao textiles, made in matmii and supplementary weft or chok techniques, as well as ritual vessels are displayed. Together with artworks from Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Viet Nam they reflect the interactions of Southeast Asian cultures.