ASHK Ribbon-Cutting Acknowledges Roots While Stepping Forward

Kickoff event hearkens back to Asia Society's founding mission


Watch the complete program (42 min., 13 sec.)

HONG KONG, February 9, 2012 — Members of the Asia Society community gathered together on Thursday to celebrate the opening of the Jockey Club Former Explosive Magazine’s inaugural exhibit, Transforming Minds: Buddhism in Art, which was co-organized by the Asia Society Museum in New York and Asia Society Hong Kong. Asia Society has been operating in Hong Kong for over two decades, but this is the first time that it is presenting an exhibition in its own home.

The exhibition presents priceless Buddhist works from the Rockefeller Collection, originating across nine Asian nations and dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries BCE, alongside modern artworks by exceptional contemporary Asian artists that explore Buddhist themes. It presents a unique window into the sublime world of Buddhist art.

To kick off the opening, Asia Society President Vishakha Desai offered some welcoming remarks. "John D. Rockefeller 3rd and his wife, Blanchette, felt that arts and culture were paramount to the mission of the Asia Society because of their capacity to transcend place, time and culture. And it's that idea that still animates the mission of the Asia Society."

Desai emphasized, "This is especially important in Hong Kong at this time of explosive economic growth. We are all GDP junkies! Growth is important, but so are our roots. I encourage all of you in Hong Kong: come here, pause, explore… And you will be enlightened."

The choice of Buddhism as the inaugural theme of the gallery space and Asia Society Hong Kong Center was not accidental. Buddhism encapsulates a wide range of Asia's history and experiences, and it has been a trans-Asian language across which vastly different cultures have managed to communicate and find common beliefs.

Ted Lipman, the CEO of the Robert N. Ho Foundation — a sponsor of the exhibition — shared some thoughts on Buddhism with the audience. "Looking at what the Buddha taught in a modern context, one could say he's all about software. He was more interested in self-transformation than in transforming the environment. Like Buddhism, our foundation is involved in human software development, such as our growing program of creative arts education for young people in Hong Kong. Like the Asia Society, we are working to encourage people to create a better Hong Kong through arts and culture."

Following the speeches, Desai and Lipman stepped on stage, accompanied by Asia Society Hong Kong Center Chairman Ronnie Chan, Asia Society Co-Chair Henrietta Fore, Asia Society Vice-President Jack Wadsworth, Asia Society Hong Kong Executive Director Edith Ngai Chan, Hong Kong former Chief Executive C.H. Tung, Head of International Marketing and Corporate Affairs at BAML Claire Huang, artists Moriko Mori and Michael Joo, and Asia Society's Vice President for Global Art Programs and Museum Director Melissa Chiu, who is also Lead Curator of Transforming Minds. To great applause, they cut the inaugural ribbon and marked the opening of the show.

Finally, Chiu offered some closing remarks. "Transforming Minds was intentionally conceived as a way to show Hong Kong audiences the very best that Asia Society has to give. And that's exhibitions with great curatorial intellect and deep insight into Asia."

Mentioning the penultimate piece in the show, Michael Joo's Bodhi Obfuscatus, she added, "The final piece really does personify this dialogue between past and present that we keep talking about. It encapsulates so much of what we try to do at the Asia Society."

Reported by Maddie Gressel