In 1977, the Art Gallery of South Australia published its first Southeast Asian collection catalogue.
The book, entitled Thai Ceramics, was compiled by the Gallery’s inaugural curator of Asian Art, Dick Richards (1968-2000) and included a forward by then Chairman Earle Hackett (1921-2010), stating that: “This Art Gallery, founded by the British people who settled in South Australia, was inclined in its early years to accumulate only the art of Australia, Britain, and Europe. But Australia’s closest geographical neighbors are the peoples of Southeast Asia. Therefore, it is important that the imbalance in the collection should be redressed and increasing cultural contacts has made this possible.” The publication was a pioneering work in the field of Southeast Asian ceramics and reflected the growing interest and appreciation for ceramics created in Asia outside China. The publication featured wares from the K.J. Ratnam collection which had been acquired by the Gallery in 1969-70 as well as the monumental Temple guardian (yaksha) on the cover which was created in the early to mid-16th century at the kilns of Sawankhalok, Thailand which was acquired in 1974.
As the past fifty years have passed, the Southeast Asian ceramic collection has continued to develop in size and diversity largely because of private benefaction. The significance of the collection and rising interest in Southeast Asian ceramics fostered an interest in exhibitions and publications which featured the most up-to-date scholarship.
South-East Asian Ceramics: Thai, Khmer, and Vietnamese from The Collection of The Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide was written by Dick Richards and published by Oxford University Press in 1995. The publication presented the collection in the context of the most up to date archaeological excavations and established regional stylistic trends. The publication included a large collection of acquisitions published for the first-time including the iconic plate (see below), with naval battle created in the early 16th century at the kilns of Chu Dau in Northern Vietnam. According to James Bennett, the curator of Asian art 2003-2021, the naval battle plate, ‘is one of a very small group of surviving Southeast Asian ware that feature unusual subjects outside the potter’s standard decorative repertoire, and thus documents otherwise unrecorded aspects of the regions historical and material culture’.