- Asia Society Statement
Asia Society’s commitment to publishing scholarship on Asian art now has a history of more than half a century. The continuation of Archives of Asian Art has been one of our efforts to foster research and new thinking in the field. In recent years, this has meant the inclusion of contemporary art alongside historical investigations. One of the pioneers in these endeavors has been my predecessor, Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, who stepped down from her position as Asia Society President on September 1, 2012, after a distinguished tenure with the society of 22 years, which she began as Director of Asia Society Museum.
While at Asia Society, Dr. Desai published, edited, or contributed to numerous books as well as many articles on traditional and contemporary art. Among the exhibitions for which she received the most praise is Gods, Guardians, and Lovers: Temple Sculptures from North India, A.D. 700–1200, co-curated with Darielle Mason in 1993. Dr. Desai is also well known for commissioning large-scale contemporary art exhibitions in the 1990s, including Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art (1994), Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tensions (1996), and Inside Out: New Chinese Art (1998), each groundbreaking in its own right. In 2012, she oversaw the inauguration of two major architectural projects for Asia Society centers in Hong Kong and Houston, Texas. Both new buildings include gallery spaces for exhibitions of Asian art.
The field of Asian art scholarship has undergone many changes in the past decade, with new archaeological discoveries, the museum boom in Asia that has seen fast-paced collection formation, and the emergence of an appreciation for contemporary art. Asia Society responds to these changes in different ways. Our fall 2014 exhibition in New York focuses on a Korean American artist and his vision of the future through technology such as robotics and computer-generated imagery: Nam June Paik: Becoming Robot. Next spring we present Buddhist Art of Myanmar, the first major American loan exhibition focused on the art and culture of a country largely closed off to the world for decades. Both the exhibition and accompanying scholarly catalogue promise to be significant contributions to our understanding of Myanmar’s culture and Buddhism.
In addition to our ongoing plans for exhibitions of traditional, modern, and contemporary art, we are also establishing initiatives designed to respond to the changing landscape of Asian art. Through the formation of the Asia Arts and Museum Network, Asia Society will convene museum professionals from Asia, North America, and Europe for face-to-face discussions to identify and navigate the challenges and opportunities developing in the new museum ecology of Asia. This takes the form of a large-scale annual Arts & Museum Summit at Asia Society Hong Kong Center, which is open to scholars and museum professionals, and the U.S.-China Museum Leaders Forum, which allows American museum professionals and their Chinese counterparts to meet and connect on a personal level to develop shared projects. Following the Chinese government’s announcement that they will build thousands of new museums in the next decade, there is a great and urgent demand in China to exchange knowledge and best practices with their North American peers.
Archives of Asian Art plays an important role in bringing to light new thinking on Asian art through research. It remains as important as ever to hear from art historians—their areas of research, theories, challenges to historical preconceptions, and ways of connecting the past to the present. Archives is one of the few forums for such discussions. [End Page 1]