Archive of Posts by Janet Brunckhorst

Manager of Web and Digital Media, Asian Art Museum

Asian | Education: Our New Site for Teachers

Education website homepage

Today we’re proud to announce the launch of our new site for teachers.

The new site features lesson plans, videos, discussions of artworks, activities, school tours, professional development, and everything else you might need to bring Asian art and culture into your classroom. You can even save the things you like so you’ve got your materials all in one place.

We’re adding more content all the time, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for today check back later or let us know and we’ll tell you when it’s coming. And we’d love to hear your feedback: leave your comments in the blog or contact our education team.

This site was made possible by the generous support of Bank of America and The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.







Bob and Fred talk about the Asian Art Museum

We talked to storyteller Fred and docent Bob about their experience volunteering at the Asian Art Museum. Check out the interview with one of our favorite couples, and join us this weekend for Pride!

Pride at the Asian

Pride is around the corner and on our doorstep, and we can’t wait.

We are offering $5 entry all weekend, but like everyone else we want to be out where the action is. We’ll have booths on our front steps and in front of Breathing Flower in Civic Center Plaza. Stop by to get your picture taken with the lotus (we’ll give you a temporary tattoo in return—while stocks last!) and grab a coupon for discounted entry. Some lucky visitors might even find themselves with a free ticket.

Look out for the hula hoops out the front of the building, too. That’s right, we said hula hoops.

See you there.

PS check out our latest video, featuring Bob and Fred, two of our favorite volunteers.



Phantoms of Asia Tour, Part 1: Heman Chong

Heman Chong, Calendars (2020-2096), 2004-2010, Offset prints on paper. 1001 sheets, each H: 11 3/4 in x W: 11 3/4 in. Installation view. Photo by Jay Jao.

Heman Chong, Calendars (2020-2096), 2004-2010, Offset prints on paper. 1001 sheets, each H: 11 3/4 in x W: 11 3/4 in. Installation view. Photo by Jay Jao.

Recently staff were treated to an exclusive tour of Phantoms of Asia led by Associate Curator of Contemporary Art Allison Harding. While Allison can’t personally escort every visitor around the galleries, we wanted to share the experience. We’ll be presenting a series of posts based on the tour, with Allison’s insights into the works and the artists who created them. First up, Heman Chong‘s Calendars (2020–2096).

In this work, Chong presents an imagined vision of the future through 1001 calendar pages starting in the year 2020. Chong started with that year because he felt that it was a kind of fulcrum: many of the big goals we hear about—around health, climate change, economic stability—take 2020 as their target date. It’s a year that could be a promise or an ultimatum.

Calendars (2020–2096) is presented with the pages attached directly to the gallery walls. Chong personally oversaw much of the installation, ensuring that the spaces between pages were absolutely uniform throughout the room. Allison commented that this uniformity put her in mind of the use of the grid in postwar art. Rosalind Krauss wrote in the Summer 1979 issue of October 9 that the “grid announces modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, to narrative, to discourse.” For others, the grid is about creating complexity from the simplest of formal structures. It’s an interesting context to use when thinking about Chong’s work, which deliberately shows scenes devoid of people, haunted spaces, suggesting that what we have created might outlive us. Although I’m guessing that an artist who considers social media to be part of his art practice is not entirely hostile to discourse.

The images that make up the work were all taken in Singapore. Chong wanted to use public spaces for this work, but he also never asked people to leave. He simply waited in the space until no one was around. It’s hardly surprising, then, that these images were captured over a seven-year span—including an entire year in Ikea. He did not seek permission for any of these photographs, which is significant in Singapore where the use pf public space is highly regulated.

Walking into the room that contains this work, I was at first overwhelmed. Then slowly I started to see patterns, repetition of the same location, similar locations across a single column. These are just a couple of ways you could think about it; spend some time with it and you’ll find plenty more.

Tour Part 2: Hiroshi Sugimoto
Tour Part 3: Asian Cosmologies
Tour Part 4: Hidden Energies
Tour Part 5: The Afterlife
Tour Part 6: Myth, Ritual, Meditation
Tour Part 7: Art from Home 

Related: Heman Chong on Sci Fi

Heman Chong talks Sci Fi

We’re a little preoccupied with science today, what with the Transit of Venus and all. If you’re not too busy creating a pinhole camera or donning your eclipse glasses, you may enjoy this video. Artist Heman Chong talks about Singapore, science fiction, and identity.

Light and Space: Reading Phantoms

Last week, staff at the museum were fortunate to have guest curator of Phantoms of Asia Mami Kataoka present to us on the themes of the exhibition.

While spirituality is a core part of this show, Mami invited us to approach it from another perspective, saying that we could think of Phantoms as being all about light and space.

Bronze hand mirror, China, Western Han dynasty, (206 BCE - 9 CE)

Bronze hand mirror, China, Western Han dynasty, (206 BCE - 9 CE)

Mami showed us some examples of works from the Light and Space movement that resonate with works in this show. But the most fascinating part for me was a more literal example. Filipino artist Poklong Anading creates arresting photographs by having people hold a small hand mirror in front of their face; a flash of light, reflected by the mirror, obscures the face and transforms the image.  In a piece of curation that strikes me as both whimsical and utterly inspired, also included in the exhibition are some Chinese hand mirrors from the museum’s collection, polished to regain their reflective properties. While the creator of the bronze mirror pictured probably wasn’t thinking about identity and transformation, it is such an object that enabled Anading to create compelling works exploring those themes.

Mami’s reference to light and space has given me a new entry point for thinking about these works. I know next to nothing of Asian contemporary art, but she reminded me that we are free to make our own connections: through time and space, across cultures, and between art and everyday objects. We hope you have the opportunity to do the same.


Poklong Anading, Anomymity series. © Poklong Anading, 2011; Courtesy Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Graz, Austria.

© Poklong Anading, 2011; Courtesy Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Graz, Austria.

Hell of a Party

Last night we opened Phantoms of Asia with our first ever public preview party. While the shochu shots were surely popular, the hit of the night as far as art was concerned was undeniably Takayuki Yamamoto’s What Kind of Hell Will We Go. The work  features pieces created by local elementary school students alongside Yamamoto’s video of their presentations; fortunately the film is subtitled, because the rocking party atmosphere drowned out the sound! There was a crowd in front of the installation all night, and for a while Yamamoto himself was in the thick of it, adding to the excitement. Check out the video for more on Yamamoto’s process in creating this work, plus some charming children making art.

If you didn’t make the party we’re sorry you missed a great night. But the art is here until September 2, and tomorrow (Saturday, May 19), admission is free thanks to Target.


Takayuki Yamamoto with elementary school students in front of the installation, What Kind of Hell Will We Go

Takayuki Yamamoto with elementary school students in front of the installation in North Court.

Breathing Flower comes to life in Civic Center Plaza


Choi Jeong Hwa Breathing Flower San Francisco with flags

The lotus breathes! This afternoon, Choi Jeong Hwa’s kinetic sculpture, Breathing Flower, was inflated opposite the museum in Civic Center Plaza. Check out the images and video below, and join us this weekend for a Day of Dialogue with artists and a sneak peek at site-specific installations.



Choi Jeong Hwa Breathing Flower San Francisco team

The successful exhibition team.

Choi Jeong Hwa Breathing Flower San Francisco tourists

The first tourists getting holiday snaps in front of the lotus.


Five Reasons to Make Us Part of Your Mothers’ Day

Asian Art Museum Mani wall and dining terrace

Sunday is Mothers’ Day. Whether you think this is a sacred day to celebrate everything your Mom has given you or a cynical attempt by greeting card companies to fleece you of your May paycheck, chances are you’re planning to do something special for your Mom. Here are five reasons we should be on your list:

1. Your Mom took you to museums. On rainy days, on Saturdays, on holidays, your Mom stood in line with you outside. She looked at bugs with you. She encouraged you to pore over old swords and dinosaur eggs and she patiently followed you as you sprinted through her favorite art museum. So now it’s your turn.

2. Surprise your Mom with a gift membership; she can enjoy the museum year-round, as well as take advantage of discounts and special offers. If you buy a membership during your visit we’ll take off the cost of her admission ticket, too.

3. We’re open late Thursday (till 9 pm), so you can stop by on your way home for a last-minute Mothers’ Day gift from our store.

4. Sunday is going to be a beautiful day. Treat Mom to lunch on our outdoor terrace and enjoy a first glimpse of Breathing Flower, a motorized 24-foot red lotus that will be installed on Saturday May 12 in Civic Center Plaza.

5. There’s plenty here for you, too. Many of our Phantoms of Asia artists will have installed their works in our galleries, so it’s a great opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of them. And you and Mom can visit old favorites and discover new ones. We don’t have any dinosaur eggs, but we do have the odd sword.


A Farewell to Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak, children’s author and illustrator, died today. For those who loved his books it’s a great loss.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Asian Art. Granted, not a lot. But it has to do with how we think about children, and what we share with them. Sendak’s work is dark, exploring some of the grimmest topics a child could be exposed to. He didn’t believe in sheltering children from the real world. He had a deep respect for the ability of children to deal with complex and challenging themes. For an insight into Sendak’s work, check out this recent interview from The Colbert Report.

Phantoms of Asia, which opens on May 18, is in many ways a challenging show. As a parent, I am wondering how my three-year-old will react to the images. I wonder if he should even be exposed to some of them. I have been speaking with other parents here at the museum about how we plan to address some of the questions that could come up: about death, about violence, about sex. We will all have different ways of dealing with these questions, depending on the age of our kids, our own experience, our parenting styles. But we’re all bringing our children to see the show. We all feel there’s something in it that will be enriching for them. And I can’t speak for the others, but for me I know that Maurice Sendak is part of the reason that I feel prepared to engage with this material: not just as a parent, but as a person.

Vale, Mr. Sendak.

Howie Tsui, Mount Abundance and the TipToe People # 2
Howie Tsui, Mount Abundance and the TipToe People # 2. © Howie Tsui. Courtesy of the artist.My son will probably love the colors and animals. Will he also find it disturbing? I guess I’ll find out.