In 2019, the AGGV welcomed Heng Wu as the new Curator of Asian Art. We catch up with her three years on to get an update on her role and the evolution of the Gallery's diverse collection of Asian art.

In 2019, the AGGV welcomed Heng Wu as the new Curator of Asian Art. We catch up with her three years later to get an update on her role and the evolution of the Gallery’s diverse collection of Asian art.

Q: You joined the AGGV shortly before the pandemic which changed the way we worked and limited the interactions we were all able to have. How have you adjusted to working at the Gallery and getting to know the Asian art collection?

Heng Wu (HW): The pandemic did bring great challenges for me, particularly as a newcomer eager to “see and meet” the collections. Thanks to technology, I was able to get access to our online database while working from home, so I am still able to review the information and images of the collections. On the occasion that I needed to check items onsite – for example, to examine details not visible from images alone – I would then work from the gallery that day. The other means I used to learn more about our collections is by reading the catalogues that were previously published and speaking with people who had worked with these collections.

Q: What is the future of the AGGV’s Asian art collection? Are there gaps you wish to see filled?

HW: The Asian art collection, which takes up half of the AGGV’s total collection, has become one major label of the AGGV, and an important part that shaped the AGGV’s identity, thanks to my predecessors who have done a great job building and developing this collection. I hope, and believe, it will keep as is in the future. Currently, our Asian collection is very broad and diverse – geographically, culturally, and in terms of media or format. In the future, I hope, while keeping the diversity, we could put more focus on the “quality” or “significance” of the collected items rather than the “quantity”, while emphasizing the strengths of our collection. For more specific collecting plans, I want to wait until our new institutional strategy takes shape, as the collecting policy needs to be in line with AGGV’s mission and vision.

Unknown artist, A Woman of Peking,1820, gouache, 45.8 × 38.1 cm. Gift of Cynthia Simpson. AGGV 2013.018.008
Q: Have there been any notable recent acquisitions or donations? 

HW: We have been passive in acquiring new items, firstly due to the challenges from the COVID pandemic, but also because of our limited storage and conservation facilities and resources. Most importantly, we are working toward revising our collecting policy and strategies, in tandem with the institutional strategies. But we still have managed to acquire some artworks, which will be included in our next exhibition featuring new acquisitions.

Q: The Blue & White exhibition was a thrilling success that juxtaposed Asian artworks with European counterparts. Will we see more of such all-encompassing exhibitions in the future?

HW: Definitely. “Relevance” or “connection” sits at the center of my curatorial ideas and practices. To contextualize the collections, removing the boundaries between “Asian” and “European” or “American”, will help audiences to understand and better appreciate the collections, and has already been demonstrated by the exhibitions that I have curated, including the Blue and White show. However, it is not simply juxtaposing two different categories to make an all-encompassing appearance. There must be compelling links that make a common ground for items to be in the same exhibition space, finding and disclosing these connections are one major part of the curatorial work.

Thank you, Heng Wu!


Feature image: Heng Wu picured in AGGV collections.