AP Art History classes visit Asian Art Museum in San Francisco


Michelle Liu

Gloria Zhu (12) observes “Collected Letters” by Chinese artist Liu Jianhua. The piece is made of over 1,600 porcelain letters and fragments of Chinese characters.

by Michelle Liu, Winged Post Co-Editor-in-Chief

More than 30 upper school students from the Advanced Placement (AP) Art History class took a field trip to San Francisco to explore the vast collection of the Asian Art Museum on March 21.

Located in the heart of San Francisco, the Asian Art Museum houses more than 18,000 artworks from every region of Asia ranging from the Persian world and West Asia to the Himalayas and the Tibetan Buddhist world. The AP Art History class has been visiting the museum for a firsthand learning experience since 2012. This year, the students’ annual trip returned after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

The students browsed the museum’s three expansive floors of galleries in self-guided groups for three hours, exploring both ancient and contemporary artwork exhibitions. Korean moon jars, Indian buddhas, Japanese woodblock prints and Chinese silk paintings were among the many gems displayed in the collection.

“My favorite part was the Chinese ink art,” AP Art History student Rohan Thakur (12) said. “Specifically there was one painting, ‘Cloudy Peaks at Dawn in Spring.’ I found it very interesting because it was slightly abstracted and slightly naturalistic. It was a landscape that I could stare at for a very long time and just get lost in.”

Upper school history and social science teacher Donna Gilbert, who teaches AP Art History and has always led the trip, hopes that viewing the artworks in-person will help students connect to classroom topics. The museum also holds a special place in her heart, with her favorite pieces including the Japanese woven baskets and the Buddha exhibition.

“It syncs nicely with this particular point in our curriculum,” Gilbert said. “It’s an absolute treasure that is often overlooked. Lots of people go to the De Young or the MoMA when they’re in San Francisco, and they miss out on this incredible collection.”

Although the museum’s labyrinthine halls contained too many artworks to explore in a single day’s trip, students were able to experience a taste of its stunning galleries. The expertly curated displays helped bring the artworks to life, allowing students to discover new details and perspectives.

“We visited the India, China and Korea galleries,” AP Art History student Claire Chen (11) said. “I really liked how a lot of the art in different areas of Asia are connected. You can really see how they were influenced by each other.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Tian.