Inside the Reinstalled Asian Art Museum with SAM’s Curators


[FOONG PING] In the Seattle Asian Art Museum we used
to show Chinese art in one wing, Japanese art in another, and Indian and South Asian
art the Garden Court in the middle. We decided to go on a very different
curatorial path. We decided to organize our collection galleries according to
theme rather than geography. That is, each gallery will have a separate theme—but
not only that—each theme will be illustrated with artwork from all over
Asia. [XIAOJIN WU] In addition to a wide range of representations of different regions in
Asia, we also present works from ancient to contemporary. So for example in this
gallery we have those two large photographs
by the contemporary Korean artist, Jung Yeondoo. And he interviewed people asking
them, “What’s your dream? What’s your fantasy? Who do you want to be?” And here we’re asking, “What’s the relationship between our clothing appearance and our
identity. We have a surprisingly wonderful collection of South Asian and
Southeast Asian art. We’ve never had a curator in this area, we’ve never had
expertise. So we invited Darielle Mason from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to help us reinstall the galleries. [DARIELLE MASON] I was originally brought in to just deal with a small gallery that was going to look at the art from India. As we started to
conceive of the project and work with a really fantastic group of advisers, we
decided all together that we’re going to define Asia in its broadest terms and
because of that we need to bring the Middle East into the dialogue because
it’s an incredibly important region of the world. And it also allowed this museum to show how global Asia has been for its entire history. [XIAOJIN WU] With the
expansion of the museum, now we have one new large gallery about 3,000 square
feet. As long as I mean here, I’ve been trying to show Do Ho Suh’s
larger-than-life sculpture “Some/One.” But it was not possible because it was too big. So we’re really excited about the first special exhibition “Be/longing,” we’re
featuring contemporary Asian art from the collection. It presents works by 12
artists from seven countries. [FOONG PING] Contemporary works of art help us understand that there are some ideas which go across time and place. They are
relevant to all of us at any time. I want visitors to feel curiosity, to come back
many, many times, take different paths and have different experiences every single
time. Be prepared to be surprised!

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