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.
Question: Do you have a personal philosophy?
Melissa Chiu: I think if my world view . . . and I think that in itself sounds quite grand . . . but I think that if I were to say anything about the way that I see the world, I think that one of the most important elements to remember is cultural sensitivity. That when we deal with . . . when we have relationships with other people in other parts of the world, I think that we can never assume that what we think we’re communicating is in fact how they see it; but I think that that’s what I’ve learned from living in different places around the world and also being, I guess, bicultural. Being bicultural, I think that that’s the one thing that has influenced all of the work that I do. I think that one of the . . . One of the interesting things about working with people who are based across the world is the way that you have to modify ideal behavior, or the way that you communicate to suit that local environment. And I think that, especially in Asia where people are often coming from their totally different cultural background with totally different expectations of how you might behave . . . I think that that’s both one of the challenges of what . . . what we do, but also one of the wonderful kind of abilities to engage with others. While there might not be one specific instance, I would say that it’s more about learning how to kind of . . . how to fit in in a different way.
Recorded on: 7/11/07