In the early 2000s a friend told me about a curator named Alice Yang and the way she died tragically after being struck by a hit-and-run driver on Canal Street in 1998. We had lost one of the very few established Asian curators who were working in New York’s art scene, my friend lamented. Her remark implied a lost opportunity for aspiring Chinese curators, that if only she were alive, Ms. Yang would be able to champion the causes of other Chinese curators and artists. With her untimely death, a door for Chinese curators to enter the field seemed to have closed.
Ms. Yang was born in Taiwan and by all accounts was headed for a long, brilliant career. She was 35, a little younger than I am now when she passed away, fairly new to her job as Chief Curator of the Parrish Museum in Long Island and just about to open a show of works on paper by Taiwanese artists at The Drawing Center. She had developed her curatorial and scholarly chops through internships at the New Museum and the Whitney Museum.
In retrospect, it turns out that Alice Yang did blaze a trail for Chinese curators because there are now many Chinese curators in New York doing really interesting work, pushing the field in new, unexpected ways, and advancing the craft of curating. I wanted to compile a list (in alphabetical order) of some of these curators, many of whom I’m happy to call my friends and mentors, to highlight the work they’re doing. This list is not meant to be comprehensive; in fact, I hope it’s not. The truth is we need more Chinese curators doing the important work of presenting and interpreting contemporary culture. So to this list, I hope we’ll add many more names in the coming years.
Aimee Chan-Lindquist is an independent curator and the PR / Marketing Manager at EXIT Art. She was previously the director of Christopher Grimes Gallery in Los Angeles. Currently, Aimee is working on an exhibition of artist collectives at Kunsthalle Detroit and other independent curatorial projects.
Alexandra Chang is the Director of Public Programs and Research Manager of the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University. Chang has curated exhibitions and written on contemporary art, graffiti, design and architecture, including co-curating the exhibition Art, Archives and Activism: Martin Wong’s Downtown Crossings at the A/P/A Institute 7th Floor Gallery at NYU in 2009.
Howie Chen founded Dispatch with Gabrielle Giattino in 2007. Dispatch was a New York-based curatorial partnership that was conceived in response to a curatorial field that was increasingly preoccupied with institutional self-administration and formalized bureaucracies. I sadly never visited Dispatch when they were around but I’m sure Howie’s working on interesting projects that will reveal themselves soon. In 2009 Howie curated a series of talks, readings, concerts and performances in conjunction with the Dan Graham retrospective at the Whitney Museum.
Melissa Chiu is Director of the Asia Society Museum in New York and Vice President of the Society’s Global Arts Programming. She was appointed director in 2004 after serving for three years as the Museum’s first curator of contemporary Asian and Asian American art. Among of the highlights of her tenure was the show Art and China’s Revolution (Sept 2008-Jan 2009), which featured art made during and for the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) in China; the recently closed show of Buddhist art from Pakistan, as well as a Zhang Huan retrospective in 2007.
Ingrid Chu is a curator and critic based in New York. In 2008, Ingrid co-founded (along with Savannah Gorton) Forever & Today, Inc., a non-profit alternative art space based in New York’s Chinatown/Lower East Side that allows artists to engage diverse audiences through curated and commissioned exhibitions, site-specific installations, performances, publications, and educational and public programs. This winter, Forever & Today will be presenting a new project by Jack Early and a performance by pioneering Fluxus artist Alison Knowles.
Steven Lam is the Associate Dean at the Cooper Union School of Art, as well as an independent curator. He’s curated exhibitions in New York and Hong Kong, including co-curating Tainted Love at La MaMa Galleria and For Reasons of State at the Kitchen in New York. Lam focuses his work on how artists connect political activities with creative processes. He’s working on an upcoming show at Cooper Union about the deployment of precious metals in art.
Christopher Lew is the Assistant Curator at MoMA P.S.1 and is currently preparing for the opening of an exhibition by performance artist Clifford Owens, on view November 13, 2011—March 12, 2012. Prior to his current position as Assistant Curator, he served as the Manager of Curatorial Affairs at MoMA P.S.1. Lew is also an independent curator and organized exhibitions with AICON Gallery in 2010 and Aljira Contemporary Arts Center in 2008.
Olivia Shao, an artist and independent curator, organized an exhibition at MoMA P.S.1. in conjunction with Greater New York, a survey of new art in 2010. This exhibition, titled The Baghdad Batteries was adapted for David Zwirner Gallery that same year and reinterpreted as The Evryali Score.
Jason Sun is the curator of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has worked extensively on a number of exhibitions at the Met, including co-organizing The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty in 2010. Jason is also a welcome new addition to MOCA’s Board of Trustees, lending his expertise on exhibitions and collections policies.
Eugenie Tsai, the John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum, who curated the historically exceptional Robert Smithson retrospective for the Whitney Museum in 2005. Eugenie has recently organized a selection of recent work by Sanford Biggers, titled Sanford Biggers: Sweet Funk – An Introspective and is presenting Lee Mingwei’s The Moving Garden project in the Brooklyn Museum’s lobby.
And finally, Ryan Wong is the new Assistant Curator at MOCA, after having worked as an administrator in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Exhibitions Department. He has degrees in Art History and Urban Studies, and I’m looking forward to seeing the mark he’ll be making here at the museum.
Curator and Director of Exhibitions