This collaborative project with Pauline J. Yao has the ambitious aim of developing, for the first time in the UK, an extended critical dialogue around the profound recent changes to the cultural landscape of contemporary East Asian art. It will accomplish this through two interrelated initiatives: to nurture an intellectual environment for critical discussions on contemporary East Asian art, and to build collaborative relationships with institutions in the UK that will ensure the dialogue continues in a sustainable and long-term fashion.

To deliver the first, a seminar series, ‘What of Dragons and Butterflies?: Women, Art, and East Asia’, is organized, and to address the second, ‘What Difference does East Asia Make?’, a series of public forums are planned. These two programs are designed to benefit from Yao’s unique critical and professional knowledge and respond to the need for sustained engagement with contemporary East Asian art at UK cultural institutions. The entire project is generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorships Grant.

Pauline J. Yao received her formal education in the U.S, with the final degree in Master of Art at the University of Chicago in 1998. Since then, she has established herself as an important voice in contemporary Asian art through her curatorial practices and writing projects. Fluent in written and spoken Mandarin Chinese, Yao occupies a unique position to work within and across several cultural spheres and discourses. Linguistic ability aside, her educational and professional training positions her within a multicultural context that buttresses her professional work. Her years in Beijing as the co-founder of Arrow Factory, an alternative art space operating in contrast to commercially built art environments, attests to the self-aware and conscious choice that distinguishes her in the field of contemporary Asian art.

Through her deep engagement with the socio-political reality of Beijing and of China more broadly, particularly involving the commercialization of art on an international scale, Yao has effectively carved out an alternative space and mode of appreciating and understanding contemporary art in Beijing. Since joining M+ in 2012, she has continued to investigate the relationship between art production and value by guest curating important exhibitions in Taipei, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Using curatorial practice as an intellectual tool to both investigate and expose the challenges in art production and contemporary art more broadly, her contributions in edited volumes of seminal books on contemporary Asian art, as well as through wide-ranging presentations at conferences around the globe speak clearly to the distinct perspective and voice Yao brings to the field.  Working for M+, an ambitious and emerging cultural institution in Hong Kong, Yao now is Lead Curator of Visual Art.

Maki Fukuoka received her Ph.D from the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago in 2006, and has been teaching at the University of Leeds since 2012. Her research has focused on histories of photography and Japanese visual culture. Recently, she began to explore materials pertaining to the writings on and exhibitions about contemporary art practices by women in East Asia. In particular, she is examining the means by which artists represent themselves in their work as a way to both proclaim and question their position as a woman as well as the discourses surrounding such work. Guided and informed by methodologies in histories of ideas and histories of art, this new area of interest has taken her to analyze the field of legal history particularly the areas of publication laws and obscenity laws in Japan. Fukuoka designed this project with a hope to not only co-produce space for dialogues about women and contemporary art in East Asia with Yao, but also to cultivate a research and creative environment in which historical and historiographical questions are taken seriously in the discussions about contemporary art and gender.

For further inquiry about this project, please contact us at engenderingeastasia[at]leeds.ac.uk. Please note that it might take a couple of working days for us to respond to your emails.