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An international arts event accents the treasures of Asia

USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art spotlight collections of the USC Pacific Asia Museum

museum artifact
The symposium focused on topics related to Asian art collections around the world. (Photo/courtesy of USC Pacific Asia Museum)

In the first major event since USC joined forces with the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, a two-day international symposium explored topics related to Asian art collections worldwide.

The “Ideas of Asia in the Museum” symposium held on Jan. 23-24 included guests from the United Kingdom, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, Bhutan and Israel.

The first day was held in the Doheny Memorial Library, the second in Brown Auditorium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

The Pacific Asia Museum has the potential of becoming a major hub to promote Asian art and culture.

Sonya Lee

“Now as part of the USC community, the Pacific Asia Museum has the potential of becoming a major hub to promote Asian art and culture in the LA area through innovative research and exhibition programs,” said Sonya Lee, associate professor of art history, East Asian languages and cultures, and religion at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, who organized the symposium with the Department of South and Southeast Asian Art at LACMA.

 “As so many colleagues and institutions responded so positively to the symposium, I think we’ve made an important step toward realizing this goal.”

International in scope

USC faculty and students attended the symposium along with colleagues in Asian art and Asian studies from universities, museums and research centers across the United States. The event also attracted the museum-going public, with a score of supporters, docents and visitors from local museums on hand.

“This made the gathering truly international in scope,” Lee said.

Since its inception in 18th-century Europe, the museum has provided modern societies with a potent tool to display and define cultures of their own and those from around the world. The symposium brought together distinguished scholars and museum curators to examine the collecting and display of Asian art in relation to different ways of conceptualizing Asia in the geopolitical arena of the modern era.

Through six panels and a roundtable discussion, speakers explored the mechanisms and meanings in representing Asia through objects and artifacts inside the museum.

The event offered critical analyses of art institutions through the perspectives of colonialism, nationalism and capitalism. Some of the speakers examined the construction of narratives and conceptual frameworks in art history, anthropology, archaeology and Asian studies to explain and exhibit collections of art objects and cultural artifacts in museums. Lively discussions about the past developments and future of museum collections also took place.

The symposium was supported by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, with additional funding from LACMA Education and Public Programs, the USC East Asian Studies Center and the USC Korean Studies Institute.

In 2013, USC collaborated with the museum to form the USC Pacific Asia Museum. The affiliation broadened the community that benefits from the museum’s role as a vital resource for education and cultural heritage, expanding the audience interested in a dialogue about art, history and culture.

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An international arts event accents the treasures of Asia

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