Graduate student curates exhibit at the Johnson Museum

Yuhua Ding, a doctoral candidate in history of art, has curated an exhibition currently on view at the Johnson Museum of art.

“Debating Art: Chinese Intellectuals at the Crossroads” explores the 20th century movement to “modernize” China by intellectuals who promoted artistic education and practice. The exhibition was curated by Ding with archival resources from the Cornell University Library, and paintings and calligraphy from the museum’s permanent collection.

The goal of the exhibition is to highlight the scholars that saw art as a way to reform politics and education, establish new cultural movements and foster the development of society, Ding said.

“Most of the Chinese artists were intellectuals,” Ding said. “They were politicians and professors, but also painters and calligraphers. I wanted to show art as an intellectual practice.”

She said that her favorite part of the project was being able to show the different dimensions of Chinese intellectuals. The exhibition not only includes their works of art, but also their manuscripts and books. It emphasizes the idea that the scholars were also artists who created art, taught art and established schools for art. 

Ding, who is conducting research on Chinese art and antiquities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, received assistance from Elizabeth Emrich, curatorial assistant for Asian art at the museum, and supervision from Ellen Avril, the museum’s chief curator and curator of Asian art.

This is her second exhibition at the Johnson Museum: her first, in 2016, focused on “Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation in East Asian Art.” It emphasized the interactions between China, Korea and Japan in the form of cultural images and artistic styles.

“Debating Art: Chinese Intellectuals at the Crossroads” will be on view in the Gold Gallery (Floor 2L) until July 8. 

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Yuhua Ding in front of her exhibition