Established in 2009, the Department of Indo-Pacific Art oversees the newest collection at the Yale University Art Gallery. It has four areas of strength: ethnographic sculpture, Javanese gold from the prehistoric to late medieval periods, Indonesian textiles, and western Indonesian puppets. The core group of Indonesian textiles was collected by Robert J. Holmgren and Anita E. Spertus. The textiles and the spectacular ethnographic carvings—including ancestral sculpture, ceremonial objects, and architectural components from Indonesia, the Philippines, the aborigines of Taiwan, and mainland Southeast Asia—are a promised gift to the Gallery from Thomas Jaffe, B.A. 1971, who also endowed the department’s curator.
The earliest materials in the department’s holdings are a collection of approximately 500 gold objects—coins, jewelry, statues, and ritual objects—from Central and East Java. Donated to the Gallery by Valerie and Hunter Thompson, these date mainly from the 8th to the 13th century but also include some prehistoric material. The collection of puppets, the largest of its kind in the world, consists of more than 125 complete sets (a total of 20,000 puppets) from Java, Bali, Madura, and Lombok. The collection was amassed by Dr. Walter Angst and donated in 2017 by his brother, Sir Henry Angest. The department holds more than 1,000 textiles from Southeast Asia, mainly collected by Robert Holmgren and Anita Spertus. This group is of exceptional quality and ranks among the finest in any museum. The collection includes particularly superb textiles from South Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Borneo, as well as rare and unique weavings that reflect the history of Indonesian designs.
The permanent-collection galleries, named for Yale professors Robert Farris Thompson and the late George Kubler, display approximately 450 objects. Regional highlights include sculpture and textiles from Sumatra, Borneo, and Eastern Indonesia. A selection of Javanese gold is also on permanent display.