British Museum announces major gallery renovation

The British Museum will undertake a major renovation of Room 33 in 2016/17. Currently the Joseph E Hotung Gallery of Oriental Antiquities, the new display will include a new narrative for China and South Asia which will bring the story up to the present day.

The redisplay will allow the Museum to add new types of objects to the gallery such as paintings and textiles which need regulated conditions for display .These will complement the existing types of objects on show, such as sculpture, ceramics, lacquer, jade and metal ware. Updated interpretation, new lighting and design will allow this extraordinarily rich collection to be better seen and understood by the Museum’s seven million annual visitors.

The refurbishment has been made possible by a generous donation from The Sir Joseph Hotung Charitable Settlement . The current gallery will close to the public on 1 June 2016 and will reopen in November 2017, the 25th anniversary of the original opening. The Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati Sculptures and the Selwyn and Ellie Alleyne Gallery of Chinese Jades will also be closed and refurbished as part of this major project.

Sir Richard Lambert, Chair of the Trustees of the British Museum said ‘The Museum is hugely grateful to Sir Joseph Hotung and his fellow Trustees for the opportunity to renovate this important gallery. The refurbishment will allow us to include other material from the collection and bring the story of China and South Asia up to the present day. Understanding Asia is crucial for all our futures and this gallery will help visitors to better understand the long and significant history of these regions’.

The Sir Percival David Collection in the Sir Joseph Hotung Centre for Ceramic Studies (room 95) will remain open providing access to one of the world’s foremost collections of Chinese ceramics. The gallery celebrates the rich variety of Chinese pottery and porcelain dating from the 3rd to the 20th century AD. The Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries and The Korea Foundation Gallery also remain open.

The current display Krishna in the Garden of Assam: the cultural context of an Indian textile, centred on an exceptionally rare woven silk textile from Assam figured with scenes from the life of Krishna, will be on show in Room 91 until 15th August 2016. A temporary exhibition entitled Behind the Screen: South East Asian Shadow Theatre will be on display in Room 91 from 8 September 2016 to 29 January 2017. The exhibition draws on the British Museum’s unique Southeast Asian shadow puppet collection and includes Javanese puppets of the Raffles collection from circa 1800.

China and South Asia will also continue to feature as themes in the Museum’s public programme of lectures, workshops and activities. India will be a particular focus in the programme in 2017 as part of the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture. More information will be available at as programming is confirmed.

Across the UK, the spotlight tour of a 13th century stone sculpture of Ganesha along with a select group of paintings is on-going. The exhibition is currently on display in Cartwright Hall, Bradford before travelling to the Bowes Museum, County Durham and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2016, and in 2017 the exhibition will be on display at the Horniman Museum and Brent Museum in London. The Museum will also be working with our partners across the country with South Asian objects on long term loan in 2017 and at Manchester Museum on the new South Asia partnership gallery which is due to open in 2020.

Internationally, the A History of the World exhibition will travel to Beijing and Shanghai in 2017 after a very successful run in Japan and Australia.

Please contact Hannah Boulton on 020 7323 8522 or

Notes to Editors:

Sir Joseph Hotung is a philanthropist and long-term benefactor of the British Museum. He is an acclaimed collector of Chinese art and antiquities, especially jades, porcelain and Ming furniture. He served as a Trustee of the British Museum from 1994-2004. Sir Joseph is a major benefactor to the Asia Department, and has funded capital works and curatorial posts in the Department. An extensive lender, items from his own private collection have also been shown at the Museum.