A taste of the Orient: explore Asian culture at London’s Brunei Gallery


No question, London’s one of the world’s leading cities in so many respects; two of which are cultural diversity and academic study. And these two facets blend together beautifully in the shape of the Brunei Gallery, the art and exhibition space open to the public and located at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the heart of the capital’s Bloomsbury university district.

A venue dedicated to showcasing the varied cultural delights of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, this gallery’s all about promoting the heritage and art of these regions not just to converted audiences in this cosmopolitan city but also to people visiting from anywhere and everywhere in the world – especially should they be staying in Central London; for instance, somewhere within very easy reach, such as the Park Grand hotel Lancaster Gate.

From its name, you may have suspected the venue enjoys a close relationship with the Southeast Asian sultanate that’s Brunei and this is certainly the case; it’s having been built thanks to a hefty donation from HM The Sultan of Brunei Darussalam and opened just over 20 years ago. As well as its three-floored exhibition space, it boasts a bookshop, a lecture theatre, conference facilities and a particularly tasteful Japanese roof garden.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest draws of the Brunei Gallery SOAS, though, are the significant Brunei-derived items permanently exhibited in its Foyle Gallery, including a handwritten copy of the book, the Salsilah Keturunan Raja-Raja Brunei (A History of the Rajas of Brunei), which dates from the 19th Century. However, you may well also be tempted by the two temporary exhibitions the venue’s currently hosting – both sound fascinating:

• The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections (Until 2nd September) – comprising diverse ceramics, sculptures, metalwork, textiles, paintings and manuscripts – on paper, copper sheets, palm leaves and bark – hailing from Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines

• Hong Ling: A Retrospective (until 25th September) – a modern Chinese painter renowned for his embracing of the natural world and the spiritual sphere, Hong Ling’s career of work has helped chart the dramatic social and political changes seen by China across the last half-century of its history.

Address: Thornhaugh Street WC1H 0XG
Open: 10.30am–5pm Tuesday-Saturday; open late on Thursdays until 8pm
Admission: free