Cultured Magazine

April/May 2015

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Page 139 of 219

Showcasing the father of video art Nam June Paik's quixotic use of television sets as an artistic statement, alongside centuries-old Chinese bronzes and Ming porcelain at the Asia Society Museum on Park Avenue was a no-brainer for director Melissa Chiu. She's always been a pacesetter when it comes to highlighting contemporary art in an institution celebrated for traditional work. Now at the helm of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., Chiu is upping the stakes by focusing on international contemporary art and creating pivotal dialogues at this august Smithsonian fine-arts institution best known for its rich trove of Rodin and Giacometti sculptures. Her inaugural exhibition at the Hirshhorn is "Shirin Neshat: Facing History"—which debuts May 18—is a retrospective devoted to the Iranian exile's compelling and politically charged films, videos and photographs. "Shirin explores gender, identity and loss in her native land while reflecting universal issues," says Chiu, who is layering the exhibition with a string of lectures, panels and performances. She's also including examples from the artist's personal library, such as newsreels documenting the Arab Spring revolution and the artist's own copy of 10th-century Persian allegories, along with notebooks and sketches, which will be seen for the first time. "The exhibition highlights the political and cultural events and issues that inspire Shirin," says Chiu. In her 2013 photography series "Our House Is on Fire," a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation commission, Neshat examines the aftermath of the recent revolution in Egypt from the perspective of those who suffered the devastating loss of family members. In doing so, she tapped subjects from the very streets of Cairo who had experienced such tragedy. Beyond Neshat, Chiu is further heightening the profile of the Hirshhorn when it comes to cutting-edge contemporary art. She's quickly snapping up such work at a hurried pace. Among Chiu's latest acquisitions is Yoko Ono's video Sky TV for Washington, which displays a closed-circuit image of the sky and plays continuously on the museum façade. "I'm thinking of planning a site-specific work in the garden and more video projections right on the museum walls," says Chiu, who remains busy recruiting board members who hail from Dubai and Jakarta, as well as New York and Santa Fe, indicating her global vision for the D.C. museum. 138 CULTURED Contemporary Spin Melissa Chiu takes D.C.'s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in a new direction. Melissa Chiu stands in front of Jan Dibbets' Tide, 1969 BY BROOK S. MASON PORTRAIT BY CATHY CARVER

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