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EAS Postgraduate Research Seminar

When May 02, 2017
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where Seminar Room, St John’s College Library
Contact Name
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Ivy Chan, PhD candidate, Department of History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS
Edward T. Chow and Chinese Art Collecting in Hong Kong during the 20th Century

Edward T. Chow 仇炎之 (1910-1980), a leading Chinese art dealer-collector of his time, was part of a large group of Shanghai intellectuals and businessmen who relocated to Hong Kong after the Communist takeover of China in 1949, bringing with them significant art collections and expertise to the British colony. Chow’s successful career coincided with the rise of Hong Kong as a global hub for collecting, studying and institutionalising Chinese art, while a further influx of Chinese art objects came through the border as the Cultural Revolution went underway in 1966.

Through reconstructing Chow’s biography from fragmented sources – mapping his early training in Shanghai (1920s-1940s), his stay in Hong Kong (1950s-1960s), his move to Geneva and his legacy after his death (1960s-1980s) – this paper examines how Chow’s activities reflected as well as triggered broader trends in the consumption and perception of Chinese art, such as a new impetus for collecting early Ming Dynasty porcelain. This case study exemplifies how historical and socio-political events enabled Hong Kong to provide unique opportunities for individuals like Chow to build his career and status in the Chinese art world, where interaction between Chinese migrants, Hong Kong citizens and British expatriates gave rise to a distinctive pattern of Chinese art connoisseurship which transcended pre-existing cultural boundaries. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, this is the first in-depth study on Chow which incorporates Chinese history, studies on material culture and collecting theories. In addition to archival research, interviews have been conducted to document the unrecorded oral history of related individuals and to offer new perspectives on the subject.

Naomi Kojen, FAMES MPhil Alumna, Independent researcher (Serbia)
Reconstructing the past: expressions of collective memory in the art of Chen Chieh-jen and Wu Tien-chang

This presentation will examine the artistic phenomena of engaging with themes of history and collective memory in Taiwanese contemporary art. Sociologist Maurice Halbwachs introduced the idea of collective memory as a social structure, which is acquired, recalled, recognized and localized in society. According to his theory of social memory the past is continuously reconstructed and reshaped in light of present conditions and concerns. Exploring collective memory is a means of understanding an identity that unites a certain social group. How do artists translate collective memory into visual mediums? Why are images effective methods for translating collective memories? What does the artist achieve with this strategy? I will address these issues through the analysis of two prominent figures in Taiwanese contemporary art, the artists Chen Chieh-jen and Wu Tien-chang. Through their critical reflections, collective memory becomes a medium for understanding issues of Taiwanese society and identity. Chen Chieh-jen works with local communities, unemployed laborers, sanatorium patients and foreign spouses to expose marginalized identities and alternative histories, rarely included in official narratives and public life. On the other hand, Wu Tien-chang focuses on developing an aesthetic based on local Taiwanese culture and visual habits.

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