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Tour Options

Special Exhibition Tours

Divine Bodies
March 9 – July 29, 2018 
How can we see the human in the divine and the divine in the human?

Historical sculptures and paintings from mainly Hindu and Buddhist traditions in conversation with contemporary photo-based work spark questions about the links between physical and metaphysical, earthly and ethereal, body and cosmos. Images of gods, buddhas, and humans invite you to ponder the power of transformation, the possibility of transcendence and how to find meaning in an impermanent world. 

Traces of the Past and Future: A Retrospective of Fu Shen’s Painting and Calligraphy
December 5, 2017-September 2, 2018
Celebrated for bringing out the painterly quality of calligraphy and weaving his own narrative into ethereal landscapes, scholar-artist Fu Shen draws on his decades of study to both honor and extend the tradition of Chinese ink art. 

The exhibition, Fu's first retrospective in the United States, honors the scholar-artist on his 80th birthday. His faithful yet fresh interpretations of Chinese ink art will give you a new understanding of that venerated tradition.

A Guided Tour of Hell: Seeing Beyond the Horizon of Death
April 20 – September 2, 2018 
Take a guided tour of the underworld with the Buddha of Hell as guide. Drawing on both Tibetan tradition and the art of graphic novels, Pema Namdol Thaye's vivid paintings portray a harrowing descent into the realms of hell. Scenes of suffering encourage us to contemplate the karmic consequences of negative actions.

Collection Tours

Please note: Tours marked with * are temporarily unavailable while the galleries that they cover are closed for renovation. Mark your calendars and be the first to tour these newly renovated galleries in September, 2018! 

Great Works
Take a trip across Asia with highlights of the Asian Art Museum’s rich collection, investigating diverse and intriguing cultures as well as sacred and secular art. This is both the perfect introduction to the Asian Art Museum’s collection for the first-time visitor and a superb way to experience the collection over and over again. 

Along the Silk & Spice Routes*
For more than 2,000 years a network of overland and maritime trade routes connected East and West, linking the powerful and culturally diverse regions of China, India, Persia, Egypt, and Rome. Delve into the artistic legacy of the silk & spice routes discovering how trade, travel, and cultural exchange transformed and remade the ancient world. 

The Art of War*
Throughout history cultures have valued their weapons both for utilitarian purposes and as objects of beauty. Artisans decorated and embellished them to emphasize the wealth and importance of their owners. Both weapons and warfare are also the subjects of paintings, sculpture, and other forms of artistic expression. Examine the Art of War across Asia through the exceptional pieces in the Asian’s collection. 

The Buddha: Art and Culture*
Follow the ancient faith of Buddhism across Asia from its beginnings in northern India more than 2,500 years ago to discover the roles geography, social, and cultural needs played in artistic representations of the Buddha. The political and economic factors that affected the art and the evolution of the Buddhist image are also explored. 

Asian Ceramics
The Asian Art Museum’s comprehensive ceramics collection showcases the decorative motifs and technologies that evolved from Neolithic times to the exquisite wares of later periods which were prized throughout the world for their beauty and importance as trade and tribute objects. Ceramics from across Asian are explored. 

Goddesses: Images of Power*
Depictions of the feminine divine encompass a wealth of art from fertility goddesses to Earth Mother to wrathful figures that help devotees achieve nirvana. Take a fascinating look at worship in Asia from a “different point of view” and learn engrossing ancient stories of devotion, lust, compassion, wisdom, and power. 

India’s Spiritual Legacy*
Home to many religious traditions which spread to other parts of Asia, art from India and South Asia is a visual feast. The Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh religions all originated here, and for many centuries South Asia was also the seat of several powerful Islamic dynasties. Discover images and artifacts related to these religions and traditions. 

Jade, Stone of Heaven*
Over time jade has come to be associated in popular belief with everything that is powerful, beautiful, and precious. Learn about the dedication, patience, and years of training jade craftsmen harnessed to produce objects of such beauty as well as the fascination that jade held for the powerful Chinese and Mughal aristocracies. With more than 1,200 jade pieces covering a span of 5,000 years, the Asian’s collection ranks among the finest ever assembled under one roof. 

The Japanese Aesthetic
Explore the aesthetically appealing range of objects in the Asian’s Japan galleries in diverse mediums from painting to ceramics. Particularly appealing are the bamboo baskets which are rotated on a regular basis so there is always something new to discover. 

The Spirit of Korean Art
Become enchanted by the Asian Art Museum’s collection of Korean art. On view are objects which show the beauty of Goryeo-dynasty celadons (pale sea-green porcelain and fine pottery) and rare unglazed stoneware from the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla periods and a selection of unique contemporary ceramics and works in other materials. The galleries also include a large group of paintings that range in style from courtly to scholarly and Buddhist to folk. 

Treasures of China*
Discover the long history and wide reach and aesthetic impact of Chinese art and culture through the wide array of artworks on view. Spanning more than 5,000 years, the Asian Art Museum’s collection is comprised of objects in a variety of materials including jade, bronze, ceramics, textiles, sculptures, and paintings.

Architecture Tours

The Asian Art Museum opened in its Civic Center location in March 2003 in San Francisco’s former Main Library building. The original building was designed by George Kelham in the Beaux-Arts style and opened as the library in 1917. With this tour, you’ll explore the historically preserved architectural features of the original building and learn how Italian architect Gae Aulenti applied adaptive reuse techniques to transform it into a museum. You’ll also discover the secrets of earthquake retrofitting and the importance of a building’s design to the art it holds.

We’re Growing! The Asian Art Museum is transforming the visitor experience of our world-renowned collection, exhibitions and cultural programs. In early 2018, construction begins on the centerpiece of this transformation: a new 13,000-square-foot exhibition Pavilion and Art Terrace designed by architect Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY and added to the east side of the museum’s Civic Center home. As a new addition to architecture tours, you will learn about these exciting plans.

Stroller Tours

Stroller Tours
Get together with other moms, dads and caregivers along with their babies (ages 0-2 years old) on the first Friday of every month for a docent-led tour of the Asian Art Museum. Tours begin at 9:30 am before the museum opens to the public. Fussy babies are always welcome! 

Get your tickets now for upcoming tours: 

Friday, March 2 
Great Works 
Buy Tickets

Friday, April 6 
Highlights of Japan and Korea
Buy Tickets

Custom Tours

Planning a trip to Asia soon? Learn more about your destination before getting on the plane! Let us know your itinerary and one of our expert docents will create a customized tour through our collection galleries that focuses on the regions you will be visiting. You’ll gain insight based on the artwork we have on view as well as your docent’s own personal experiences.

For more information on this one-of-a-kind tour, please contact Group Visits at 415.581.3620 or groupvisits@asianart.org.

Monday and After Hours

Want the museum all to yourself? Book a private tour when the museum is normally closed to the public! Choose from any of the Special Exhibition or Collection tour options above. Tours are one to one-and-a-half hours in length, and you have the option to enhance your visit with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres arranged through our Rentals department (additional fees apply). This experience is perfect for a get-together with friends or a company retreat!

Package price for up to 20 people: $450

After Hours
Package price for up to 10 people: $350
Package price for up to 20 people: $600

Community Speakers Program

Can’t make it to the museum? Let us bring the museum to you! A docent from the Asian Art Museum's Community Speakers Program can deliver an educational and entertaining multimedia talk at your location. Visit the Community Speakers Program page for more information or to request a talk.