Archive for 'Contemporary Art'

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.

Jagannath Panda: Not Just Paint


Cristina and Katie with Jagannath Panda's The Cult of Appearance III

There are some very diverse contemporary pieces in the Phantoms of Asia exhibition. There is one that I especially like, The Cult of Appearance III, by South Asian artist Jagannath Panda. It is in two sections and the interesting thing—especially from the perspective of our exhibitions team installing the works—is that there are some separate elements that get attached to the painting.

Above is a photo of Assistant Registrar Cristina Lichauco helping our Head of Conservation Katie Holbrow during the installation. Katie is attaching a fabric and ribbon laden element to the piece.

One of the exciting things about contemporary art is that its meaning has not been fixed by scholarship. I cannot tell you that much about the painting or the artist’s intentions, but if you read his bio on our website it might give you more insight. You can also join us this Thursday night, May 17, for an after-hours preview of the exhibition and decide for yourself what it all means.

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.


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.

Phantoms of Asia: Art Everywhere

We’ve wrapped up week two of the Phantoms of Asia installation (read about week one here) and a crazy week it has been. Because this exhibition encompasses the entire museum, the install team has had the challenge of juggling simultaneous installation in several galleries at once.

Phantoms of Asia Curator Mami Kataoka surveys "Mountain Gods" (2011) by Aki Kondo, being installed in the Tateuchi Thematic Gallery.

Tateuchi gallery was the first major transformation. The brilliantly colored walls of Deities, Demons, and Dudes with ‘Staches have given way to a contemporary white space exploring the theme of sacred mountains.

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Artists at Work

Jakkai Siributr, Karma Cash

Jakkai Siributr, Karma Cash. © Jakkai Siributr. Courtesy of Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Last week we told you that Sun K Kwak had started work on her site-specific installation. She’s still working, and her ethereal piece now stretches almost the entire length of North Court.

Over the next two weeks, Kwak will be joined by Charwei Tsai, Heman Chong, Adrian Wong, Takayuki Yamamoto, Jompet Kuswidananto, and Jakkai Siributr, all of whom will be in the galleries installing their pieces. These artists work with materials as diverse as self-adhesive labels (Heman Chong) and live plants (Charwei Tsai), so it’s safe to say that the installations will be like nothing we have ever seen at the museum before.

Most of the artists will be working in public view, so if you’re in the museum you may catch a glimpse of a work in progress. The busiest days are likely to be May 10th and 11th; plan to come in on one of those days if your heart is set on seeing artists at work.

Phantoms of Asia: Installation in Progress

The first week of an exhibition install is always a magical week. As we begin to unpack and examine the artwork up close, we are continually reminded that catalog photographs are no substitute for the real thing.

Museum Conservator Katie Holbrow examines "Absence of God VII" (2008) by Raqib Shaw.

For Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, the first week of installation has concentrated on incorporating contemporary artwork into the second and third floor galleries.

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Inspiration, Installation

Sun K Kwak installation in progress.

Sun K. Kwak at work on the installation.

Sun K. Kwak at work on the installation.

What happens when an artist is suddenly inspired? She gets to work, of course. Artist Sun K. Kwak was scheduled to begin her installation on the first floor of the museum next week, but a flash of inspiration has brought her in today.

We don’t know how long she will be working this week and we don’t know when she’ll be done. As our exhibition manager Kelly put it, “This is kinda like whale watching—things just happen.” We are watching art performed and made in real time. If you’re able, you should join us.

Artists from Phantoms of Asia will be installing their work in our galleries over the next couple of weeks.

Check back here for updates about who is coming when. We promise you’ll know as soon as we do.

Phantoms of Asia: Bits and Pieces

One of the challenges of contemporary art is that artworks may be created for a particular space or a particular time. As a result, instead of shipping finished artwork from studio to museum, for the exhibition Phantoms of Asia we have found ourselves moving around a lot of bits and pieces for artworks that won’t be fully realized until the final installation.

Adeela Suleman, Untitled 1 (Peacock with Missiles) with added elements, 2011. Ink on paper. © Adeela Suleman. Courtesy of the artist and Aicon Gallery. Sketch of work to be installed for Phantoms of Asia.

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Phantoms of Asia: New Hell Project

Contemporary artist Takayuki Yamamoto got together with the Asian Art Museum and local art education non-profit Artseed to create the latest chapter of his ongoing artwork called What Kind of Hell Will We Go To.

Da Juan poses with his creation

Under the artist’s direction, and with help from staff and volunteers, children in the after-school program run by Artseed at Leola Havard Early Education School in the Bayview district of San Francisco devised and constructed their own “hells”.  These are places where they imagined miscreants of all types might end up.  The young denouncers were then filmed describing their creations; the transgressions, and the curious, often torturous, and sometimes hilarious, situations that awaited the guilty within.

Organizing and scheduling all the different players and components took super-human effort by the artist, staff, volunteers, and parents.  One initial challenge was in finding the perfect group of kids to partner with. After a lot of searching Artseed’s after-school program was recommended and we knew it’d be a great fit.

The week of the project itself was an eye-opening and invigorating spin-cycle of activity.  Takayuki’s calm confidence and child-like sense of playfulness and curiosity brought a sense of shared purpose and joy to the children and adults alike.  The results are funny and cute, bitter and grim, and altogether quite thought-provoking.  We’re all looking forward to seeing Takayuki Yamamoto’s (and the kids’) What Kind of Hell Will We Go To on display as part of the Phantoms of Asia exhibition beginning May 18. Yamamoto will also be participating in our teacher program Shh! We’re not Supposed to Talk About Religion and a panel discussion with other contemporary artists on May 12.  Hope to see you in new hell!