First Look at the Asian Art Museum

Untitled, No. 25, 2008, by RongRong (Chinese, b. 1968) and inri (Japanese, b. 1973). Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Gift of Jack and Susy Wadsworth, 2013.15. © RongRong and inri. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

First Look at the Asian Art Museum — I met fashion photographer Chen Man at the Asian Art Museum, and I will never forget her. Her art and her philosophy were intriguing — I wanted to see and know more. Chen Man’s Long Live the Motherland, Shanghai No. 1, and Four Seasons: Spring, 2011, are two of 57 artworks recently added to the Asian Art Museum’s permanent collection and on view through October 11, 2015. First Look: Collecting Contemporary at the Asian, features highlights from the museum’s contemporary collection organized by guest curator Allison Harding. The exhibition aims to spark connections to Asia’s histories and traditions with the immediacy of contemporary ideas. Many works are on public view for the first time, at any venue.

“To truly understand the contemporary, you must understand the tradition from which it emerged,” says Harding. “First Look embodies how tradition can inspire new works in the present and continue to impact contemporary life.”

Scenes from First Look at the Asian Art Museum:

Photographer Chen Man said that she looks to China for inspiration, “The more modernized we become, the more I feel the need for Chinese traditional philosophical thought in our every[day] lives. In my work I aspire to make visual illustrations of traditional Chinese culture using modern aesthetics.” Long Live the Motherland, Shanghai No. 1, is a photograph from Chen Man’s Motherland series, which uses iconic locations in China as backdrops for her models. Unlike many of Chen Man’s fantastical photographs, the image is untouched by post-production technology.

The Asian Art Museum is internationally renowned for its presentation of more than 6,000 years of Asian art and cultural history. First Look displays a range of mediums from photography, animation and video to contemporary Korean ceramics, Chinese ink paintings, sculptural Japanese baskets, installations, drawings and more. First Look is a focused introduction to the groundbreaking contemporary artworks the museum has acquired so far, and the foundation for what is to come.

— Related: more Red Carpet Bay Area coverage of Asian Art Museum events and exhibitions