Jan Stuart

Topic:
THE BRITISH MUSEUM AND ASIA
Date: 21 May 2013


About the talk:
Jan Stuart presented an insider's insight to and perspective on recent developments at the British Museum. Focusing specifically on the Museum's connections with Asia, Stuart discussed upcoming and recent exhibitions, material objects in the Museum's collections, training and overseas partnership programmes, and explained some of the important international cultural interactions that were taking place because of museums.

Specific initiatives that were discussed included a new series of exhibitions that look at thematic topics across Asia, such as the acclaimed 'Ritual to Revelry: the Art of Drinking in Asia', which utilised the material objects held by the Museum to explore the significance of water, alcohol and tea in Asian culture. Stuart also discussed the kinds of exhibitions that Asian countries requested from the British Museum. These requests ranged from a desire for materials that certain nations do not hold, as was the case when Egyptian mummies were sent to India, to intriguing cases of cultural and aesthetic identity, such as that when the National Museum of China requested a British exhibition which focused Chinese porcelain. The resulting exhibition, 'Passion for Porcelain: Masterpieces from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum' was discussed as an important case study of the history of European-Chinese interactions as they were expressed through ceramics, as well as being a significant step in international aesthetic and institutional dialogue.


About the speaker:  Jan Stuart, Keeper of Asia at The British Museum, heads a department which houses a collection of over 150,000 objects from East, South, and Southeast Asia. She is also actively involved in acquiring new works, including contemporary art, for the collection, as well as developing exhibition ideas and expanding ties between the BM and partners in Asia. She led the project to develop a new permanent display at the BM of the world-renown Sir Percival David Collection of Chinese ceramics. Current personal research interests are focused on studying the practices of display of art in late Imperial China, including the creation and deployment of objects to celebrate festivals and serve as visual manifestations to mark the passage of time. She contributed to the renowned BBC series History of the World in 100 Objects and her analysis is much sought after internationally.Prior to her role at the Museum, Stuart spent eighteen years at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, which together as the Freer+Sackler Galleries constitute the National Museum of Asian Art in the United States. During her time there Stuart helped expand their permanent collection, curated international touring exhibitions and was regularly consulted as an advisor on Chinese art and culture.

Stuart’s research specialty lies in Chinese art and material culture with special emphasis on the Ming and Qing dynasties of the fourteenth to early twentieth century. Her specialisation began at Yale, where she completed a BA and then an MA in East Asian Studies. During her five-year BA program she spent a year working and traveling in Taiwan, and followed her Yale degrees with a further MA in Chinese Art and Archaeology at Princeton University.

Fluent in Chinese, she has published several important works in the area of Chinese art and material culture. Her book written with Evelyn S Rawski, Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits was the first full-length survey of Chinese commemorative portraits and remains in high demand. Other publications include studies of the significance of Chinese textiles, Chinese Imperial portraiture and the relationship between Chinese Portrait painting and the body, and recently the publication of a presentation at the British Academy on art created for festivals. She is currently on the editorial board of two of the most prominent Asian art academic journals, Ars Orientalis and Oriental Art .

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