Within the first day of the opening of the Shanghai exhibition on February 12, 2010, a public engagement of unexpected proportions with the art on display began. Individuals have been writing up a storm on comment cards, comment books, news articles, and online blog postings that expressed their emotional responses to the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of the exhibition material. Added to the writings are lots of verbal feedback in various conversations with visitors, stimulating interesting buzz around the museum. I do not want to miss out on this exciting community discussion! This blog series, A Curator’s Notes, is where I will contribute my two cents on, and inside knowledge of, the controversial issues and hot topics presented in Shanghai at the Asian Art Museum.
Hot Topic #1: why was the exhibition presented in this way that you see here at the Asian Art Museum?
The answer has several layers:
- As an art museum, we aim to tell a story (you may call it a history) of Shanghai through the visual materials made by and for its residents.
- The visual materials available to us, on the whole, present an image of the city as eclectic and dynamic.
- So we made the decision to analyze how and why such a public image was created for Shanghai over the past 160 years.
Of course, there are a number of other stories (or histories) that can be told about this city! What the Shanghai exhibition does is give audiences one perspective–as unbiased as humanly possible–on how and why these visual materials look the way they do, whether the images depict historical reality or wishful fantasy.
Do you think neutrality is a fault in this case?
Come back for my next post, where I will try to tackle the challenge of how to regard visual representations of women in the Shanghai exhibition!
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