Asia Society Launches New Acquisition Program with Major Gift of Video and New Media Art

Collecting Initiative - First of Its Kind in the U.S. - Focuses on Contemporary Asian Art

NEW YORK CITY, September 6, 2007 - Asia Society today announced a gift of 28 works of video and new media art, launching its new collecting program concentrated on the acquisition of contemporary Asian and Asian American art. While other U.S. museums have begun to collect contemporary Asian art, Asia Society is the first to formally establish a collection focused exclusively on the field. The new program grows out of Asia Society's long-standing commitment to identifying and fostering contemporary Asian and Asian American artists and to engaging new audiences with their work through exhibitions and programs. Later this year, the Society will create an endowment for future contemporary acquisitions and for the care and conservation of the new Asia Society Contemporary Art Collection. The initial endowment goal is $10 million.

The 28 new acquisitions include video, animation, and new media artworks by 18 Asian artists from 6 countries. Some of these artists are Nam June Paik, Patty Chang, Yoko Ono, Hiraki Sawa, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, Zhang Peili, Xu Bing, Wang Gong Xin, Shilpa Gupta, and Yang Fudong. The acquisitions were made in close collaboration with Asia Society, and the majority are promised gifts by Asia Society Trustees Harold and Ruth Newman. Three works - Sky TV by Yoko Ono, Excuse Me Sir, Can You Tell Me How To Get to The Asia Society? by Xu Bing, and Li Tai Po by Nam June Paik - are currently on public view in the Society's lobby exhibition space. The other new acquisitions are housed at the Asia Society and are available for research and future exhibitions. Works from the new collection will be included in the Asia Society's exhibition Vietnam: A Memorial Work by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, on view in June 2008.

The acquisitions program is designed to keep pace with the rapidly evolving field of contemporary art across Asia. The first phase of the collecting program will focus on the acquisition of video, animation, and new media works of art, with plans to acquire approximately 100 pieces over a two- to three-year period. One of the reasons for this focus is that artists in Asia are currently leading the world in innovation in this field. Acquisitions in future phases will continue to focus on influential works and artists.

Acquisitions for the Asia Society Contemporary Art Collection will be led by the Asia Society Museum curatorial staff. The acquisitions will be made with the support and approval of a collection committee comprising Asia Society trustees, members of the Museum's Contemporary Art Council (a donor group which supports contemporary art programs), as well as American and international collectors of Asian contemporary art.

"The Asia Society Contemporary Art Collection is a path-breaking new initiative for Asia Society and an important development in the contemporary art world," noted Asia Society President Vishakha N. Desai. "It is a natural progression for an institution that has, for decades, sought to lead in the engagement of U.S. audiences with Asian and Asian American issues through exhibitions, programs, and scholarly publications."

"The new Asia Society Contemporary Art Collection is part of the Society's larger vision, continuing to engage and educate in an increasingly globalized world," said Jack Wadsworth, Vice Chairman of the Board of Asia Society and long time supporter of contemporary Asian art initiatives at Asia Society. "This contemporary art initiative embodies the Asia Society's commitment not only to the past and present of Asian art, but to its future as well."

The collecting program was initiated by the Australian-born Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu, a specialist in Asian contemporary art.
"When I arrived at Asia Society in 2001," said Chiu, "I began to realize that there was an important opportunity for Asia Society to be a leader in acquiring Asian contemporary art, just as we have long been a leader in exhibiting it. As Asia becomes increasingly influential in world affairs, Asian artists are creating works of art that reflect a broader global perspective. That gives the artwork a pertinence and currency."

"Asia Society has an unparalleled collection of masterworks of traditional Asian art - the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection - given to us by the Rockefellers in 1972," continued Chiu. "Like the Rockefeller Collection, the Asia Society Contemporary Art Collection will be focused on key works of exceptional importance and quality. We are targeting our acquisitions very carefully."

"We've been involved in Asia Society for 20 years and have been on many trips to Asia with Asia Society where we saw artists and their creative processes first-hand," said trustees Harold and Ruth Newman. "We are very excited to support Asia Society in making this commitment to preserving new works and building a permanent contemporary collection."

The launch of the Asia Society's acquisition program is already catalyzing new gifts to the growing collection. An anonymous donor has pledged a gift of 14 contemporary photographs by artists including Zhang Peili, Hong Lei, Huang Yan, and Zhang Dali. These photographic works complement the acquisitions in video and new media; in the case of Zhang Peili, the Asia Society now has examples of both still and moving images created by the artist.

Asia Society and Contemporary Asian Art

Though the collection is a new initiative for the Asia Society Museum, contemporary Asian art is not new at Asia Society. The Asia Society Museum is a leader in identifying and fostering the latest contemporary Asian artists and engaging new audiences with their work. In the early 1990s, the Society was one of the first American museums to establish an ongoing program of exhibitions devoted to contemporary Asian art and artists. These exhibitions included the ground-breaking Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art (1994), Traditions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia (1996), and Inside Out: New Chinese Art (1998).

The Museum was the first institution in the United States to give one-person shows to now widely recognized Asian artists Cai Guo-Qiang, Yuken Teruya, Dinh Q. Lê, and Montien Boonma. It was also among the first museums to show the works of other Asian artists, such as Taiwanese Chen Chieh-Jen, Indian Subodh Gupta, and Japanese Bak Ikeda. Establishing a contemporary collecting program builds on this commitment to present, study, and support contemporary Asian art.


Major milestones in Asia Society's past contemporary art program include:

1994: Asia Society organizes Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art, the first major Asian American art exhibition in New York.

1996: Asia Society organizes Traditions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia, the first major U.S. museum exhibition of contemporary art from Korea, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Thailand.

1998: Asia Society, in cooperation with San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, organizes Inside Out: New Chinese Art, the first international touring exhibition of experimental Chinese contemporary art in North America.

2001: Asia Society establishes the first-ever endowed contemporary Asian art curatorial post in the United States with the appointment of Melissa Chiu.

2001: The museum commissions site-specific installations from such artists as Xu Bing, Sarah Sze, and Shahzia Sikander for the opening of its redesigned facility.

2002: Asia Society convenes the first Asian Contemporary Art Week in New York City, celebrating contemporary Asian art through exhibitions, lectures, performances, and public programs.

2005: Asia Society organizes Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India, the first-ever survey to include urban/modern alongside folk art, comprising nearly 40 artists.

About Asia Society
Asia Society is the leading global and pan-Asian organization working to strengthen relationships and promote understanding among the people, leaders and institutions of the United States and Asia. We seek to increase knowledge and enhance dialogue, encourage creative expression, and generate new ideas across the fields of policy, business, education, arts, and culture. Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Asia Society is a nonprofit educational institution with offices in Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Washington, D.C.

One of the first American museums to establish a contemporary Asian art program in the early 1990s, the Asia Society Museum presents groundbreaking exhibitions and artworks previously unseen in the United States. Through these exhibitions and related public programs, the Society provides a forum for the issues and viewpoints reflected in the work of cutting-edge Asian and Asian American artists.

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Contact: Elaine Merguerian or Jennifer Suh at (212) 327-9271