The Charles Lang Freer Lecture in the Visual Arts: Vishakha N. Desai


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  • Host Department: History of Art
  • Date: 02/15/2011
  • Time: 4:30PM - 6:00PM

  • Location: Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington, Ann Arbor

  • VishakhaDesai
  • Description: From the time of Charles Freer in the late-19th century to most of the 20th century, “Asian art” was synonymous with pre-modern or traditional arts of Asia. With the arrival of contemporary arts on the scene in the last two decades, accompanied by rapid economic growth of Asian countries, especially China and India, traditional arts are now at risk of being overshadowed by the contemporary art obsessions in popular culture as well as in scholarly communities.

    In this illustrated lecture, Dr. Desai, widely recognized as a leader in introducing contemporary Asian arts to American audiences, will focus on the current state of the study of pre-modern arts in China and India, their relevance for contemporary realities, and their future in the rapidly changing societies of Asia.

    About the series: The Charles Lang Freer Lecture aims to encourage a broad-spectrum dialogue on the arts of Asia in keeping with the larger mandate of the Freer bequest. Through engagement with outstanding speakers from all corners of the art world, the series fosters fresh perspectives on the arts and Asia in the twenty-first century.

    About Vishakha N. Desai: Dr. Desai is the sixth President and CEO of the Asia Society, a leading global organization committed to strengthening partnerships among the people, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the United States. Founded by John D. Rockefeller 3rd in 1956, Asia Society is the premier organization with a unique focus on three-dimensional engagement—combining culture, commerce, and current affairs—with more than 35 countries in Asia. Appointed President in 2004, Dr. Desai sets the direction for the Society's diverse sets of programs ranging from major US-Asia policy initiatives and national educational partnerships for global learning to path-breaking art exhibitions and innovative Asian American performances.

    Dr. Desai is a frequent speaker at national and international forums on a wide variety of subjects that include US-Asia relationships, cultural roots of Asian economic development, regional connections within the Asia Pacific region, as well as the arts and cultures of Asia and Asian America. She has authored many opinion pieces that have appeared in over 50 publications around the world. As a scholar of Asian art, Dr. Desai has published and edited several books and numerous articles on traditional and contemporary art. She has an international reputation for introducing contemporary Asian art in the US through critically acclaimed exhibitions and scholarly catalogues.
    Prior to assuming her current position as President, Dr. Desai held several positions at Asia Society, first as director of its museum, and then as vice president for arts and cultural programs and as senior vice president of the society. Before joining Asia Society in 1990, Dr. Desai was a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the head of public programs and academic affairs. She has also taught at the University of Massachusetts, Boston University, Columbia University, and Williams College. Dr. Desai holds a BA in political science from Bombay University and an MA and PhD in Asian art history from the University of Michigan.