Alexandra Munroe Appointed First Senior Curator of Asian Art


(NEW YORK, NY, January 20, 2006) Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and Lisa Dennison, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, announced today the appointment of Alexandra Munroe as the Guggenheim’s first Senior Curator of Asian Art. Ms. Munroe will join the Foundation’s International Curatorial Staff on February 1.

The appointment furthers the Guggenheim’s commitment to Asia as a vital area of curatorial expertise, program activity, and cultural exchange. “Contemporary Asian artists have recently attracted enormous attention in the international art world, producing some of the most innovative and creative work of our time,” said Mr. Krens. “Yet despite this enormous shift, no major international museum of modern and contemporary art has yet established a curatorial position for Asian art. The Guggenheim is now the first.”

Ms. Dennison added, “The appointment of Alexandra Munroe will allow the Guggenheim to expand its holdings in modern and contemporary Asian art within its permanent collection. In addition she will help steer the Guggenheim’s Asian art activities, including exhibitions, publications, and educational programs.”

Ms. Munroe said, “I am hugely honored by this historic appointment. It culminates developments in the field of modern and contemporary Asian art and signals America’s readiness to re-calibrate its cultural compass toward the Pacific.”

Among her first projects will be an unprecedented exhibition tentatively titled Contemplating the East: Asian Ideas and Modern American Art, which will illuminate the impact of Asian art forms and philosophical concepts on American modernist and contemporary artistic practices. Spanning the 20th century, the show will chart the search for alternative realms of the sublime in American modernism. The exhibition will premier at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2009.

Although her focus will be on modern and contemporary art, Ms. Munroe will also build on the Guggenheim’s exhibition program of pre-modern art from non-Western cultures that China: 5,000 Years launched in 1998. She remarked, “Our aim is to develop a series of conceptually adventurous international loan shows, and to play an important role in the crucial work of cultural diplomacy and cultural literacy.”

Alexandra Munroe

Alexandra Munroe is internationally recognized as an influential scholar, curator, and museum director who has pioneered the study and exhibition of modern and contemporary Asian art. Her exhibition Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky, was the first interpretive survey of postwar Japanese art ever presented in Japan or the U.S., and its contribution toward establishing modern Asian art as an urgent area of academic, curatorial, and collecting activity is widely acknowledged and respected. The exhibition was organized by the Yokohama Museum of Art, where Munroe was the first foreign curator ever hired by a Japanese public museum. Its U.S. tour was co-organized by the Guggenheim Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Japan Foundation. Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky was shown at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in 1994 to high critical acclaim. Munroe’s accompanying book was a finalist for the College Art Association’s Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award for museum scholarship, and remains the subject’s leading textbook.

Other ground-breaking exhibitions that Munroe conceived and curated are YES YOKO ONO, the artist’s first multi-media retrospective, which opened at Japan Society Gallery, New York in 2000. YES YOKO ONO won First Prize for Best Museum Show Originating in New York City by the International Association of Art Critics and drew one million visitors over its 13-city international tour. Munroe’s 1989 retrospective exhibition of Yayoi Kusama, who was then obscure, secured Kusama’s standing as a seminal figure in postwar and contemporary art. Munroe has also been active in contemporary Chinese art, and was co-curator, with Wu Hung, of The Art of Mu Xin: The Landscape Paintings and Prison Notes, which opened at the Yale University Art Gallery and toured to four U.S. museums in 2002-03.

Ms. Munroe was Director of Japan Society Gallery from 1998-2005 and, in recent years, was also the Society’s Vice President of Arts and Culture. Under her tenure, the Gallery’s attendance increased four-fold and its critical standing soared. Among the acclaimed exhibitions organized under her direction at Japan Society Gallery were Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect’s Other Passion (1999); Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan, 15th – 19th Centuries, co-organized with The British Museum (2002); Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan, co-organized with the governments of Korea and Japan (2003), and the retrospectives of photographers Daido Moriyama (1999) and Shomei Tomatsu (2004), both organized with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In spring 2005, Ms. Munroe was the project director for Little Boy: The Art’s of Japan’s Exploding Subcultures, curated by artist Takashi Murakami, which has won First Place for The Best Thematic Show in New York City by the International Art Critics Association. For two consecutive years, The New York Times selected Japan Society exhibitions that Ms. Munroe directed as Best Show of the Year.

Ms. Munroe earned her Ph.D. in History from New York University, and holds a Masters in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, where she serves as a Trustee. She was graduated from Sophia University in Tokyo in 1982. Fluent in Japanese, Ms. Munroe publishes widely and lectures frequently on Asian art in Europe, North America and East Asia. From 1999-2005, she was a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

Ms. Munroe will become the ninth senior member of the Guggenheim Foundation’s distinguished International Curatorial Staff. The others are Lisa Dennison, who is Chief Curator of the Foundation in addition to holding the directorship of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Germano Celant, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art; Susan Davidson, Curator; Carmen Giménez, Curator of 20th-Century Art; Alison Gingeras, Adjunct Curator; John Hanhardt, Senior Curator of Film and Media Arts; Robert Rosenblum, Stephen and Nan Swid Curator of 20th-Century Art; and Nancy Spector, Curator of Contemporary Art and Director of Curatorial Affairs.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Asia

Over the past decade, the Guggenheim’s engagement with Asia has included a wide range of special exhibitions, traveling exhibitions, and programs. In 1994, the Guggenheim presented Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky, the pioneering exhibition organized by Alexandra Munroe, at its SoHo branch. In 1998, the Guggenheim presented three landmark exhibitions at its New York and Bilbao museums that encompassed Chinese art: China: 5,000 Years – Innovation and Transformation in the Arts; Dawn: Early Chinese Cinema; and A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China. The Guggenheim has also organized exhibitions from its permanent collections that have traveled extensively throughout Asia, including venues in Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, and Shanghai.

The Guggenheim has also exhibited works by several important contemporary Asian artists. Among these is Korean-born artist Nam June Paik, whose retrospective The Worlds of Nam June Paik was presented in 2000; Hiroshi Sugimoto, the Japanese conceptual photographer, was the subject of a major commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, and was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in 2001. A retrospective devoted to Cai Guo Qiang is currently in development. Since the inception in 1996 of the biennial Hugo Boss Prize, which is administered by the Guggenheim Foundation, the award finalists have included three Chinese artists: Cai Guo Qiang (1996), Huang Yong Ping (1998), and Yang Fudong (2004); two Japanese artists: Yasumasa Morimura (1996) and Hachiya Kazuhiko (2002); two South Koreans artists: Lee Bul (1998) and Koo Jeong-a (2002); as well as the 2004 winner, Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija (2004). Thus, the creation of a new curatorial position devoted to Asian art is a natural next step in the Guggenheim’s global art program.

If you would like this release in Japanese, please contact Public Affairs.

January 20, 2006

Betsy Ennis
Director of Public Affairs
Telephone: 212/423-3840

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