Institute of Asian Art


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Installation view of Michael Lin, Georgia Street Plaza 23.01–02.05.10, 2010, in Michael Lin: A Modest Veil, January 23 to May 2, 2010

Installation view of The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors, October 18, 2014 to January 11, 2015

Installation view of Kimsooja, A Mirror Woman, 2002, in KIMSOOJA Unfolding, October 11, 2013 to January 26, 2014

Vancouver has become one of North America’s most important gateways to Asia, and the region now has one of the fastest growing Asian populations on the continent. Responding to the city’s geographic location on the eastern edge of the Pacific Rim, the cultural diversity of Vancouver and the numerous Asian art exhibitions presented over the last 30 years, the Vancouver Art Gallery announced the creation of the Institute of Asian Art in October 2014. It was launched simultaneously with the landmark exhibition The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors.

The Institute of Asian Art (IAA) is a comprehensive initiative committed to advancing scholarship and public appreciation of Asian art and is a platform for the creative talents of Asian artists living throughout the world. The Institute’s goals are to bring greater visibility to Asian art, increase engagement with Vancouver’s Asian communities and strengthen the connections between Vancouver and Asia. Building on the Gallery’s longstanding commitment to fostering cultural connections throughout the Pacific Rim, the IAA is dedicated to developing the Gallery’s leadership in exhibitions, public programs, collections and scholarship of the visual arts of Asia, with particular focus on China, India, Japan and Korea.

The Institute is integrated within the Vancouver Art Gallery and includes collaborations with other organizations.

Staff of the IAA includes Zheng Shengtian, esteemed Chinese scholar, curator and artist, as Adjunct Director of the Institute, and Diana Freundl, Associate Curator, Asian Art, who is working as the Vancouver Art Gallery’s first curator with a focus in this field.

Installation view of Ai Weiwei, Bang, 2010-14, in Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art

The Gallery has spearheaded major Asian art projects and promoted cross-cultural collaborations throughout its history. Since 1933, the museum has presented over 50 exhibitions of Asian art, from Dr. Kiang Kang-Hu--Chinese Paintings in 1933 to Pacific Crossings: Hong Kong Artists in Canada planned for 2017.

Exhibitions are the most prominent aspect of the Institute of Asian Art. The Gallery mounts at least one major Asian exhibition (historical or contemporary) every two years. Smaller exhibitions, including singular installations, solo projects and instalments of the NEXT and Offsite series featured in the years between.

Gu Xiong, My Own Words, 1993, oil on canvas, 212.5 x 152 cm, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of the Artist

As the Gallery continues to develop new projects focusing on Asian art, it is important to represent this aspect of the Gallery’s exhibition history in the collection, which is held for the benefit of the citizens of Vancouver and Canada. This enormous resource is the impetus for organizing exhibitions, conducting research and lending artworks to other institutions. The Gallery’s IAA collection-building activity will focus on art that engages with issues of cross-culturalism, identity and tradition. The Gallery’s new building, which is currently being planned, will offer an opportunity to prominently feature artworks from the Asian art collection.


Producing new knowledge about Asian art is one of the core values of the curatorial work at the Vancouver Art Gallery. With books, catalogues and brochures expanding the ideas within an exhibition, the Gallery’s active, award-winning publications will continue to contribute to the broader literature that creates an art history. Publications for the major Asian art exhibitions will be disseminated by the Gallery Store, the Library Exchange Program and co-publishers, who distribute internationally. The Gallery Library holds a range of Asian art publications, which can be consulted by appointment. Please contact the Library for more information.

Public Engagement
Performance by Radix Theatre as part of FUSE, underneath Kimsooja’s installation, Lotus: Zone of Zero, 2013, in the Gallery’s rotunda

One of the most important aspects of art, as well as the Gallery’s mission, is to produce opportunities for dialogue. The Institute of Asian Art’s activities facilitate lifelong learning that occurs in various formal and informal ways through the Gallery’s School Programs, including workshops, school tours, Teen Art Group and Think Tanks for Youth, and through Family Programs. Adult Programs, such as public talks, film screenings, symposia and live performances, are organized in relationship to exhibitions and other opportunities such as visiting scholars.

The Gallery is pleased to offer ongoing guided tours of select exhibitions in Asian languages including Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese) and Korean. Asian Language Tours are programmed in relationship to current exhibitions and are free with admission.

Reena Saini Kallat
Reena Saini Kallat’s Woven Chronicle, 2015, site-specific installation at Vancouver Art Gallery Offsite, located on West Georgia Street at the Shangri–La Hotel

The Asian Art Council was established in 2015 to guide the activities of the Institute of Asian Art. The Council comprises a select group of artists, scholars, collectors, curators and philanthropists who share an abiding interest in art from Asia. Members meet annually and offer feedback on the IAA’s activities. Members of the Council contribute in an advisory capacity.

    Founding members of the Asian Art Council include:
  • Mr. David Chau, Collector, Shanghai
  • Dr. Vishakha Desai, Special Advisor for Global Affairs,
    Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of
    International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, New York
  • Ms. Roobina Karode, Director/Chief Curator of
    the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi
  • Ms. Kimsooja, Artist, New York/Seoul
  • Ms. Lin Li, Collector, Hangzhou
  • Mr. Fumio Nanjo, Director, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
  • Mr. Xu Bing, Artist, Beijing

Support The Institute of Asian Art
Join us as we present innovative exhibitions, support local and international artists and build the audiences of tomorrow. Your donation will contribute to a vibrant program of exhibition and public programs. The generosity of our supporters and their collective passion for the arts continue to fuel the Gallery’s dialogue about art in its monumental journey toward a new building.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is a not-for-profit organization supported by its members, individual donors, corporate funders, foundations and three levels of government. We thank everyone for their support!


Founding Corporate Visionary Partner
for the Institute of Asian Art

  Visionary Partners:
Liu Bao, Wang Ying and Liu Manzhao

Additional support from Founding Members of the IAA Development Committee:
Angela Bi, Gary Chen, Amelia Gao, Shawn He, Liu Junjun, Guo Quan Peng, Fiona Yang, Yin Qing, Vivian Zhang, Cathy Zuo

Shengtian Zheng,
Adjunct Director
Institute of Asian Art
  Diana Freundl
Associate Curator
Asian Art