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: What sparked your interest in Chinese art?
Melissa Chiu: I think that from very early childhood, my . . . I had always shown an interest in art, and I think that my parents had always encouraged that. And so when it came for all of us to make decisions about what path our career might take, I decided to study in art history. And when I was going through university at that time in Australia, Australia was really undergoing a . . . an enormous kind of readjustment or realignment where those . . . those powers that be in politics and in the financial fields really wanted to see Australia realign itself to the Asia Pacific region, realizing that the U.S. and the European markets primarily were becoming harder for Australia to engage with them. So I was very much involved in seeing that kind of climate change. And I had long obviously traveled to Asia through my family’s experiences. And so I became interested . . . more and more interested in China and also Asia more broadly. I think I would have to say that seeing a great work of art is incredibly inspiring. I think that while I couldn’t necessarily identify an individual who would inspire me, I think that that . . . seeing . . . seeing a compelling, poignant work that speaks to our time, that says something about current day issues, or politics, or how an artist was experiencing the world around them I think is an incredible experience. And I think that that’s what really probably drew me to this field.
Recorded on: 7/11/07