Bucking local trends, the Asian Art Museum announced today that Abby Chen, former artistic director of the Chinese Culture Center (CCC), will assume the role of head of the museum’s contemporary art department on Jan. 7, 2019.
The appointment, a newly created position, is part of the Asian Art Museum’s ongoing $90 million transformation project, which includes the renovation of existing gallery spaces and the construction of the new Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Pavilion, which is scheduled for completion in 2020.
Chen is no stranger to the Bay Area art scene. During her 12 years at the CCC, she built a reputation of presenting exciting, multidisciplinary projects that reached well beyond the walls of the culture center to encompass the entire neighborhood. Her curatorial practice, she says, is centered in artists and their process—the thinking behind contemporary art, and not just the finished product.
Speaking of her experience shaping the CCC’s art program, and what lessons she hopes to bring to the Asian Art Museum, Chen has no illusions of grandeur. “I feel like there's really no shortcut to building a solid contemporary art program,” she says. “You need a whole army to do it. I’m not just talking about the team inside an institution, but the whole ecosystem—the neighborhood, the funders. You need to work collaboratively and intersectionally.”