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: When did you first become conscious of your heritage?
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.
Recorded on: 7/11/07