Phantoms of Asia: The Asian Art Museum Goes Contemporary

Jay Xu, director of San Francisco's Asian Art Museum, started off with some numbers about the museum's new exhibit, Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past: 31 artists from 15 countries, and 60 new works of art.

Those 31 artists are all living, and from countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Canada, and Thailand, came to the museum to discuss and display their work. That's something different for the Asian, which has one of the largest collections of historical traditional Asian art in the world. Phantoms, exploring Asian cosmology, is the museum's first large scale exhibit of contemporary art, and the museum is pulling out all the stops – parties, galas, conversations with the artists, a talk by Holland Cotter, a New York Times art critic, a discussion with the curators on where contemporary Asian art is going, and free admission to the museum on Saturday, May 19, as part of the Asian Heritage Street Celebration at Civic Center Plaza, in front of the museum.

Xu says there's another important number associated with the exhibit – the 80 works from the museum's classic collection that are on display, juxtaposed with the contemporary works.

“So much of this story is about diversity, but it's also about interconnectivity,” Xu said. “It's a dialogue between old and new”

Xu made these remarks standing in the Civic Center Plaza in front of the largest of the new works of art – Breathing Flower, a 24-foot kinetic sculpture by artist Choi Jeong Hwa of a red lotus that is illuminated at night.

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