Daisy Yiyou Wang may not be a household name for the average Joe and plain Jane of the world but for the select few who do, she is the gatekeeper to an exotic world of discovery. As the Curator of Chinese and East Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum in the United States, the diminutive academician guards a wonderful collection of art from China, Japan and Korea. Numbering some 40,000 pieces, it is one of the earliest and largest museum collections of East Asian art in the United States. In this issue, the meticulous and charming curator shares with Top 10 of Asia her background and the work that she is so passionate about.
“They not only celebrate the artistic creativity, culture and life in Asia, but also speak about Asia’s ties to the United States through the exchanges of people, goods and ideas. Here, I organize exhibitions, expand the collection, and write to broaden and deepen our understanding of Asian art and culture to widening American and global audiences,” says Daisy Yiyou Wang who was born and raised in People’s Republic of China before moving to America.
The daughter of creative individuals, Daisy certainly did not stray far with her career choice. “My father was an artist, who was deprived of opportunities to finish high school during the Cultural Revolution, but he taught himself Chinese and Western music instruments, Chinese classical painting and calligraphy, as well as oil painting and photography, and writing. My mother was not trained as an artist either, but was very talented in embroidery and tailoring. I was born right after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and grew up in a family that put art, books and education before everything else in the world. We were in debt for five years in order to own the first private piano in a small city in Mainland China.”
As part of her job, Daisy continues to jump through figurative hurdles and hoops. A noteworthy incident which she amusedly recollects happened in 2012 when she was the co-curator and project manager of the Chinese contemporary artist CaiGuo-Qiang’s first ‘Explosion Event’ on the National Mall in Washington D.C. In ninety seconds 2,000 smoke bursts were scheduled to be ignited in a 40-foot tree to create flashes of light and a cascade of black smoke.
“Behind this thrilling scene was something one would not ever expect an art curator to do. In order to make it happen, I needed to get approval in two days from 9 departments in the Washington D.C. government, including closing several major roads during rush hours with police and security guards in the heart of the National Mall in Washington D.C. Without so many people who believe in art and creativity, this would never happen,” admits the John Lennon and Yoko Ono fan.
Daisy is one person who will look forward to enjoying every moment of the future in her own unique way. “Well, my small ambition is that everyday I can still wake up in the rosy and light blue twilight, feeling blessed and inspired, and write a few pages about art while sipping my morning tea and looking forward to a day of discovery in the museum galleries or storage.”