Like many of its neighbouring states, Myanmar, better known as Burma by the European colonists in the 19th and 20th centuries of its existence, have a rather glorious past as compared to its near historical times. Although the key religious site in the country puts the age of the country to be more than two and a half millenniums old while other finding put the age further back by at least a thousand years, the more factual information could be found that is little more than just a millennium old. This is when King Anawrahta established a unified nation in 1057 under Pagan kingdom. This was also the golden time for the region with a lot of resources dedicated by the king towards development – social and agricultural. This period was followed by Mongol invasions and the country although saw few more glorious times, could not match the highlights of its Pagan empire period. The country was completely colonised by British India when they annexed it to India, a status that was only reversed near its independence around the mid of 20th century.
The golden period of the Burmese history also known as the Pagan Kingdom was when the art saw the most growth. Many temples were built in these times with grand pagodas. Other forms of art including murals and painting were encouraged in these times. In the later times, art saw some transformation in the country as visible from the artworks of the monasteries. Art is also found in the different forms of Buddha in Myanmar. A form of art in Myanmar which is largely underrecognized is embroidery and thread inlay design – rare examples of fabric art has been found in Myanmar which point towards a rather unknown nonetheless evolved art stream. Although colonialism didn’t do much for the country, there was some activity in the art scene beginning the last couple of decades of the 19th century. There was support for the Burmese artist with the opening of institutes such as The Burma Art Club in 1913. Independence brought some better news yet with the Myanmar School of Fine Arts opening in 1952 along with the Ministry of Culture is set up in the same year. In the later years which saw the uprising of the military rule in the country, the art saw a rather decline in Myanmar with the military rule imposing sanctions and banning some forms of art while banishing artists.
U Ba Nyan is one of the oldest artists who belong to the modern period of art in Myanmar. He was the founder of the Rangoon School. Ba Kyi and San Win were a few notable artists from these times, some of who got chance to study abroad and gave the modern art a definite route in Myanmar. Aung Soe was one of those artists who were present during the military regime in their prime. He studied art briefly in India and then is known to have travelled to Russia. U Ba Kyi is another artist who has got great recognition for his work. Nyein Chan Su, Htein Lin and Aung Ko are a few young contemporary artists who are getting popular due to the quality of their artwork.
The National Museum in Yangon is one of the most notable places that houses a large number of art pieces in Myanmar. Other than the one in the capital city, another newly constructed museum also known as National Museum can be found in Nay Pyi Taw. Golden Valley Art Centre, established in 1987 is one of the most well-known art galleries in Myanmar. It is credited with selling some of the rare and oldest paintings of the earliest Myanmar artists. Lokanat Gallery, River Gallery and Gallery 65 are a few other notable art galleries in Myanmar.