Published 2016, by

A Conversation With Our New Curator: Dr. Jacqueline Chao

Photo by Suzanne Oshinsky

How did you become interested in becoming a curator?

I have wanted to work in the realm of art and museums since I was in elementary school.  One of my earliest field trips was to an art museum and I remember being absolutely fascinated with all the work I saw, and at first I wanted to become an artist. Beginning in college, I fell in love with studying art history, and toward the end of my college years I had the opportunity to intern at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.  That was when I really began to understand the role of the curator and that the works on display in the museums I enjoyed visiting so much were selected by people who had a deep expertise in the artwork, the artists, and of the particular period. This idea deeply resonated with me, and with my passion for art and history.


How did you become specifically interested in traditional and contemporary Chinese art?

I have always maintained an interest in Chinese art, particularly regarding historical cross-cultural connections and modern and contemporary developments, but a pivotal moment for me was when I conducted a studio visit with a contemporary Chinese artist and had the opportunity to watch him create an ink painting. In Chinese painting, the act of viewing the process of painting can be as important and as mesmerizing as the resulting work itself.  Ink painting is prized for its ability to capture a gestural moment of vitality. I became instantly entranced with the practice and its history, and how traditional ideas of “spirit resonance” are still relevant to understanding contemporary ink art and practice.


What are the previous institutions you worked for prior to the Crow Collection of Asian Art?

Over the years, I have helped organize and independently curated many art exhibitions, including at the Phoenix Art Museum, ASU Art Museum, ASU Institute for Humanities Research, and the University of Toronto Art Centre, ranging from the historical to the contemporary in a variety of areas, including Chinese painting, Japanese prints, and contemporary new media. In Chicago, I was Director of Exhibitions and Residencies at Chicago Artists Coalition, a prominent 40-year-old arts service organization, and managed all of the exhibition and residency programming, including a year-long artist studio residency (consisting of approximately 11 artists), and a curatorial and artist incubator (consisting of 24 resident artists, 4 curators and 4 mentor curators), in addition to all special exhibition projects including the organization’s annual presentation at EXPO Chicago. For the past couple years, I have been teaching courses on Asian Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ranging from surveys on the Arts of India, China and Japan, to more specialized courses in Buddhist art, history of Chinese painting, and modern and contemporary Chinese art, in addition to contributing research on the Chinese painting collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.

It is no longer sustainable to present modern and contemporary art from a strictly Western viewpoint.

How are your personal interests connected to the type of exhibitions we will be seeing from you in the future?

It is my belief that exhibitions should open up dialogue, create a space to see artists as important thinkers and to see artworks as a way to not only understand art and its histories, but also to understand cultural histories. My interests are to think globally, to open up the idea of the museum and redefine what “Asia” and “Asian Art” means in the 21st century. It is no longer sustainable to present modern and contemporary art from a strictly Western viewpoint.  In my future exhibitions, I will be aiming to show the collection in new ways, collaborating with artists, scholars, community members, and engaging in experimentation and critical discourse. I will be looking at the ways in which art and culture can help us understand ourselves – our past, our present, and our future.


What drew you to relocate to Dallas and work for the Crow Collection of Asian Art?

I was extremely excited about the idea of relocating to Dallas because it is such a welcoming and vibrant city, and already has very strong connections with Asia. Furthermore, the chance to work at the Crow Collection, a prominent museum solely dedicated to Asian Art in the United States, was an opportunity that I was immediately attracted to because of the Museum’s very fine and high quality collection of Chinese jades and scholars’ objects, Indian sculpture and Tibetan bronzes. I was further inspired by the Museum’s commitment to scholarship, innovation, and educational excellence, and to strengthening a sense of community for all visitors; principles which I strongly share. I am looking forward to becoming a part of this community and continuing to build upon the Crow Collection’s already dynamic programs and collection.


Why is it important to have the Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas?

The ideals of the collection’s founders, Margaret and Trammell Crow, was to share their love for the arts of Asia, nurture understanding and education of Asian arts and cultures, and bridge cultural understanding between countries.  From its inception, the Crow has been an important vehicle for stewarding broader understanding and greater appreciation for the various arts of Asia, showcasing works of art from around the world, promoting education about Asia, and nurturing a strong sense of community within Dallas.  I am thrilled to be joining the Museum at a very exciting moment in its development, and look forward to continuing these ideals and spirit.