Dr. John Johnston is a historian of Asian art with particular interest in Chinese ceramics and Buddhist art. He received his PhD in the History of Art from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, MA at the University of Hawaii, and BA at the University of Georgia.
Dr. Johnston worked in various capacities at American art museums for over 15 years, including six years as Coates-Cowden-Brown Curator of Asian Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Exhibitions of Asian art curated or co-curated by Dr. Johnston have been presented at major art museums in America, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan. Dr. Johnston is also a prolific researcher in porcelain studies and the visual and material culture of late imperial China.
Dr. Johnston is interested in how art theory and concepts of material and visual culture relate of East Asian art, particularly Chinese ceramics. In the museum context, he emphasizes object literacy and questions the emphasis on culturally contextualizing non-Western art. Further areas of interest include Chinese export porcelain, Vietnamese ceramics, contemporary blue-and-white-ceramics, Buddhist art and iconography, and the comprehensive museum experience.
Love in Three Capitals: Prints of Okumura Masanobu (1684-1764), September, 2012 – November, 2012, San Antonio Museum of Art, Curator.
The Chinese Art of Cricket-Keeping: the Ernest K.H. Lee Collection, February – June, 2012, San Antonio Museum of Art, Curator.
5,000 Years of Chinese Jade Featuring Selections from the National Museum of History, Taiwan and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, September, 2011 – February, 2012, San Antonio Museum of Art, Curator.
The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, Honolulu Academy of Arts (international touring exhibition), 2008-2010, Co-curator.
“Revealing Vietnamese Ceramics”, Ava Magazine for Visual Art and Artists, No. 6, Hong Kong Baptist University, 2017.
“Blue Willow – Cultural Authenticity and Global Visual Expression”, Essay for an exhibition catalogue on contemporary ceramics, Poem 88, Atlanta Georgia, March, 2017.
“Jiangxi Landmarks on Jingdezhen Porcelain of the 18th and 19th Centuries with Special Reference to Tengwang Ge”, PhD Dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2016.
Chinese Ceramics: Highlights of the Lenora and Walter F. Brown Collection, Co-authored with Rose Kerr, San Antonio Museum of Art, 2014.
“The Chinese Art of Cricket-Keeping: the Ernest K.H. Lee Collection”, Arts of Asia, January-February, 2013.
The San Antonio Museum of Art – A Guide to the Collections, Co-editor, San Antonio Museum of Art, 2012.
“Eighteenth Century Chinese Jade in the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum”, Orientations, September 2011.
5,000 Years of Chinese Jade Featuring Selections from the National Museum of History, Taiwan and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Co-author with Lai-Pik Chan, San Antonio Museum of Art, distributed by the University of Washington Press, 2011.
“An Introduction to Glazed Ceramics of the Liao Dynasty”, Lotus Leaves, Spring Volume, 2010.
The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, Co-editor with Terese Bartholomew and Essayist, Serindia Publications, 2008.
“Highlights of Buddhist Art in Bhutan”, Arts of Asia, June 2008.
“Portraits of Historical Buddhist Masters in Bhutan”, Orientations, January 2008.
Dr. Johnston encourages a critical examination of assumptions about art, art history, visual and material culture and museum practices through the study and application of art theory and philosophies of art. Major currents in art history and art theory provide avenues for exploring and understanding historical and contemporary art and visual culture. These themes and subjects help artists better understand their own work, the reception of their work, and provide means of contextualizing and discussing their creative practice.