August 27th, 2015

China: Through the Looking Glass- An Open Letter

By: Robert Lee     Source: Asian American Art Centre        20/6/2015

Dear Friends,

The following is an open letter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art concerning their exhibition China:Through the Looking Glass.  It charges the museum with the continued exotification of Asia and Asians for profit.  By relating this exhibition to Kimono Wednesdays at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the cultural work of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, it indicates that such exhibitions may serve to maintain the foreignness/otherness of East Asians and Asians/Asian Americans .

 However, it also discusses the complexity of this problem, the validity of exploring cultural ties, and approaches other than fashion that could lead to some understanding of the cultural presence of Asian aspects and their perception in the West.  Please feel free to reply with your comments.
With Kind Regards,
Bob Lee
To : Met Museum Chairman, President & Costume Curator

Re: China: Through the Looking Glass – An Open Letter

I write to you largely because I was in direct and indirect ways, asked to by professionals in the arts and curatorial fields, people who are close to my field, the cross over arts of Asia and the West – artists who I call Asian American, and close to your institution, the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts.  The subject is an exhibition you currently have on view, China: Through the Looking Glass.  However, its similarity to other museum’s activities clarifies and expands the basis for this letter – Kimono Wednesdays at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston that was recently cancelled, and past exhibitions with similar public programs at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco entitled Geisha in 2004 and Samurai in 2009.  (see 

August 24th, 2015

The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t

In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art. Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways.

By: Steven Johnson     Source: The New York Times        Date: 19/8/2015


On July 11, 2000, in one of the more unlikely moments in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch handed the microphone to Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, to hear his thoughts on art in the age of digital reproduction. Ulrich’s primary concern was a new online service called Napster, which had debuted a little more than a year before. As Ulrich explained in his statement, the band began investigating Napster after unreleased versions of one of their songs began playing on radio stations around the country. They discovered that their entire catalog of music was available there for free.

Ulrich’s trip to Washington coincided with a lawsuit that Metallica had just filed against Napster — a suit that would ultimately play a role in the company’s bankruptcy filing. But in retrospect, we can also see Ulrich’s appearance as an intellectual milestone of sorts, in that he articulated a critique of the Internet-­era creative economy that became increasingly commonplace over time. ‘‘We typically employ a record producer, recording engineers, programmers, assistants and, occasionally, other musicians,’’ Ulrich told the Senate committee. ‘‘We rent time for months at recording studios, which are owned by small-­business men who have risked their own capital to buy, maintain and constantly upgrade very expensive equipment and facilities. Our record releases are supported by hundreds of record companies’ employees and provide programming for numerous radio and television stations. … It’s clear, then, that if music is free for downloading, the music industry is not viable. All the jobs I just talked about will be lost, and the diverse voices of the artists will disappear.’’ Continue reading

August 15th, 2015


By: Sylvia Tsai         Source: ArtAsiaPacific       Date: 15/8/2015

Xiaoyu Weng, the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation associate curator of Chinese Art at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Courtesy Xiaoyu Weng.

In the past few days, a buzz has swirled around New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as the institution introduced its growing contemporary Chinese art program. On August 12, the museum’s Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative announced its selection of Hou Hanru, artistic director of Rome’s MAXXI, National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, to join the Guggenheim team as the program’s consulting curator, and Xiaoyu Weng, director of Asia Programs at Kadist Art Foundation (Paris/San Francisco) as associate curator.

A leading curator, critic and historian of contemporary Chinese art, Hou’s first internationally acclaimed exhibition was “Cities on the Move: Urban Chaos and Global Change East Asian Art, Architecture and Films Now” (1997–99), a traveling show co-curated with Hans Ulrich Obrist. Hou has gone on to direct numerous art festivals, including the Auckland Triennial (2013), Istanbul Biennial (2007), Venice Biennale (2003), Gwangju Biennale (2002) and Shanghai Biennale (2002), among others. Prior to his current role at MAXXI, which he began in 2013, Hou was chair of exhibition and museum studies at the San Francisco Art Institute for six years. In late 2014, he made his curatorial debut at MAXXI with a solo show of Chinese sculptor Huang Yong Ping.

In addition to his role at MAXXI, the 52-year-old curator also acts as advisor to many other cultural institutions around the world. Speaking to ArtAsiaPacific via email about his new consulting role at the Guggenheim, Hou says, “My main responsibility is to provide an orientation of the project based on my experiences and research, which will be in close collaboration with Weng Xiaoyu, the new associate curator, and the team. We’ll work together to develop the project with a strategic vision and implement it in various exhibitions and public programs within the next couple of years.”

Hou’s project partner, Weng, has also been active in the art world—both under Kadist Art Foundation as well as with independent projects. Earlier this year, she presented a solo exhibition of young Singaporean photographer Robert Zhao Renhui, who was a 2015 artist resident at Kadist. Weng was also co-curator of “The Invisible Hand: Curating as Gesture,” the 2nd CAFAM Biennale, Beijing, in 2014.

Recently, the rising curator has been busy relocating from San Francisco to the Big Apple and will assume her new position at the Guggenheim on August 17. Commenting on her new position, Weng noted, “My first project is to lead the development and implementation of the second commission [of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative] and the exhibition of this Initiative. Instead of considering it as a single exhibition, we will develop a vision that creates close connections among the commissions, the presentation of this exhibition (and the third one) and the series of discursive events and public programs.” Weng is also slated to make trips to the Greater China region for research and studio visits, with one currently planned with Hou this fall.

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August 11th, 2015

Putting China’s Cyberpolice in Context

By: David Bandurski     Source: China Media Project    Date: 11/8/2015

In our rapidly evolving global news space, content is still king. But I confess at least equal devotion to the sovereign’s hoary (and so often ignored) envoy: context.

As media reported last week, following a Public Security Bureau “work conference” in Beijing, that China would now “embed internet police in tech firms” and priority websites — underscoring yet again the deteriorating information climate under President Xi Jinping — context cowered in the shadows of the court. Everyone, as a result, got the story wrong.

In every report I could find, in either English or Chinese, these so-called “cybersecurity police units,” or wang’an jingwushi (网安警务室), were presented as new and shocking developments.

jingwushi[ABOVE: This image posted in September 2014 to shows the websites own cybersecurity police unit along with an introduction to its on-site officer.]

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