The “Parti” (or organizational structure) of the relocated Asian Art Museum inhibits a proper viewing of the diverse artistic languages of the permanent collection. For those who remember, the previous museum building in Golden Gate Park had galleries arranged around a central void, like satellites orbiting around the mother ship, facilitating cross-cultural comparisons between Asian cultures from multiple countries, both ancient and modern.
The corridor circulation, upstairs in the new building forces the viewer to follow the paradigm of a “Buddhist river,” constrained to a linear direction from one end of the floor to the other, without the freedom to steer an artistic discourse. (The loss of artistic-viewing-whimsy is hardly mitigated by the cost savings of fewer security guards.)
There’s an obvious solution. Subvert the current circulation system: Start at the elegant entry cloister, proceed up the grand staircase, and transform the towering, former reading room into a new magnetic collector and dispersal zone, connecting the galleries, each refocused to a specific country and genre, both ancient and modern. This will transform the viewing experience from a 2-d linear path, into a 3-d myriad of cultural curatorial explorations.
How appropriate to bespeak of cultural confluence: A world class Asian collection in a grand Beaux Arts edifice, like the liminal transition from warm brown curved stone arches in the original building to the dramatically inverted cool green glass and steel modern skylights.