This pair of exhibitions features highlights of the museum’s recent acquisitions in Asian art. New Old: Recent Acquisitions of Chinese Painting includes new acquisitions of artworks created between 1629 and 2009. Many of these works of art were donated to the museum in honor of Director Emerita Mimi Gates, who was trained as a Chinese painting historian.
SAM's strong holdings of Chinese ceramics and sculptures have, for decades, reflected the museum's preference for three-dimensional Chinese objects. Collected mainly in the past two years, this group of paintings and calligraphy constitutes the largest and most ambitious acquisition initiative to date—and significantly enhances SAM's historically modest collection of this form of Chinese art.
These new acquisitions also characterize SAM's continual efforts to give the overall collection a solid balance of representation across various mediums. Key works by Bada Shanren (1626–1705) and Ren Bonian (1840–1895) demonstrate an exceptionally "modernist" approach that influenced later painters, whereas some "old-fashioned" works produced in 20th-century China took on new meaning in an era filled with political and identity crises.
All of the works in New New: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Asian Art have been acquired by SAM since 2002. The earliest work, Toshiko Takaezu’s biomorphic vessel, dates to the late 1950s, while the most recent object is Chinese artist Shen Liang’s large-scale oil painting, made in 2006. The 17 artists in this exhibition were born in at least five different countries—China, Japan, Korea, Canada and the United States—and currently reside in Asia, the United States and Great Britain.
Working in a multiplicity of media, from painting and photography to ceramics and glass, as well as computer-aided design, this enterprising group of artists is linked by more than their possession of an Asian surname and a passport. Each is engaged in a dialogue with tradition, whether by emphasizing their Asian nationality or heritage, or by questioning or even denying that very reflex. Taken as a group, the works in this gallery dispel the notion of contemporary Asian art as a unified category. Taken separately, however, they can be seen as disparate investigations of the play between cultural identity and individual selfhood. The conversation between past and present, tradition and modernity is reflected in the material, subject matter and mode of expression employed by artists who are no longer defined by their culture but rather seek to define it.
–Josh Yiu, Associate Curator of Asian Art, and Catherine Roche, Interim Assistant Curator for Asian Art
To explore this exhibition a little deeper, download our bibliography.