Jun 16 2014

The Hirshhorn Hires Melissa Chiu as New Director

by Susanna Chen

Melissa Chiu, incoming director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Photo by Ashley Gilbertson. Courtesy the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.

Melissa Chiu, current director and senior vice president for global arts and cultural programs at Asia Society Museum in New York, has been named as director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, after the museum’s previous director, Richard Koshalek, announced his resignation over a funding controversy last year.

With her global vision and extensive knowledge of contemporary Asian art, Chiu is expected to bring a new perspective to the Smithsonian institution. While writing her doctoral thesis at University of Western Sydney, the Australian-born Chiu researched contemporary Chinese art in the diaspora, a field which had rarely been explored at the time, ensuring her pioneering role in the field.

In 2001, Chiu moved to New York in order to take up the position of curator at Asia Society Museum, becoming the first curator of contemporary Asian and Asian-American art at an American museum. Three years later, she was promoted to director and later, in 2007, launched Asia Society’s contemporary art collection. Other notable curatorial projects include an exhibition of the work of infamous Chinese performance artist Zhang Huan, “Altered States: Art of Zhang Huan,” in 2007, and “Art and China’s Revolution,” in 2008, which examined the three decades following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Open to the public since 1974, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden holds over 12,000 objects by 20th-century masters in its collection. Chiu’s tenure will begin in September, just in time to oversee the institution’s 40th anniversary.