The Chinese Diaspora

Melissa Chiu, Museum Director and Curator for Contemporary Asian and Asian-American art at the Asia Society, has had a long involvement with Asian contemporary art and is recognized as a leading authority in the field. Prior to working at the Asia Society, she served as the founding Director of the Asia-Australia Arts Centre in Sydney, a non-profit contemporary art center devoted to promoting dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region among artists, writers, curators and filmmakers.

Additionally, Ms. Chiu has curated over thirty exhibitions with artists from Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Thailand and Japan, among others. She was a founding member of the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium and a driving force behind the establishment of Asian Contemporary Art Week, which will mark its sixth year in New York next Spring.

Melissa Chiu received her B.A. from the University of Western Sydney and her M.A. from the College of Fine Arts, University of South Wales. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Western Sydney and has authored many artist monographs and conference papers and has published widely in journals, magazines and for exhibition catalogues. Ms. Chiu has been a faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design where she taught Asian contemporary art and design. She has also served on a number of boards and grant panels, including the New York State Council on the Arts, Museums Grant Committee and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. 

  • Transcript


Topic: The Chinese Diaspora

Melissa Chiu: Well I think that my first contact was even not so much with China, but more with Hong Kong because my father’s family were based there. We would spend a lot of time in Hong Kong, at least, visiting our families and relative . . . our family and relatives there. And so I think that Hong Kong in many ways is what you might call a China in diaspora. So it’s China, but it’s also a little bit different because it hasn’t experienced the same kinds of things that mainland China . . . that have defined modern . . . mainland China such as the Cultural Revolution. I think that my upbringing was unusual in that, like most children of that time and certainly in Australia, I think that what had happened was that my father very much wanted his children to be Australian. And so I think my mother really wanted us to be Chinese in influence and my father really wanted us to be Australian. And so I come from very much a kind of biracial household, if you like.  I think that on the one hand, these . . . this younger generation is given a voice; but I think what is . . . what is also interesting to note about China right now is that the generation of artists who are mostly in their 50s right now, a lot of them left China around . . . _____ the time of ’89. And they ______ different art centers around the world, most likely Paris and New York, in fact. And what’s really interesting about this is that there has been a huge return to the homeland. And many of these artists, even if they still continue to reside outside of China, have come to work at a high level with either business or government policy figures to actually influence China. And so I would say that certainly that generation who are in their 50s now have come of age. And they have a great deal of importance . . . important roles to play within society . . . within Chinese society. But what’s interesting about the diaspora population is that they obviously bring to China a different set of values that has been changed by their living outside of China for over a decade now.


Recorded on: 7/11/07