Talks & presentations: upcoming & recent

Sherman E. Lee, 1952

Sherman E. Lee, 1952

Sherman E. Lee and Chinese Art Collecting in Postwar America

November 14, 2018 at 6:00pm

Cleveland Museum of Art, Recital Hall

Chinese art scholar and professor Noelle Giuffrida presents the history of collecting and exhibiting Chinese art in post-WWII America through the lens of the career of renowned Cleveland Museum of Art curator and museum director Sherman E. Lee. Drawing upon artworks and archival materials, Giuffrida excavates an international society of collectors, dealers, curators, and scholars who constituted the art world in which Lee operated. From his early training in Michigan and his work in occupied Japan as a “monuments man” to his acquisitions, exhibitions, and publications for museums in Detroit, Seattle, and Cleveland, this lecture highlights how Lee shaped public and scholarly understandings of Chinese art. This is the Cleveland launch for Giuffrida’s recent book, Separating Sheep from Goats: Sherman E. Lee and Chinese Art Collecting in Postwar America (University of California Press, 2018).

Free, no reservation required.


Performing Zhenwu: Material and Immaterial Dimensions of Daoist Experience in an Early Ming Album

November 18, 2018 at 11:00AM

American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting

Denver Convention Center, Room 111

As one the most ubiquitous deities in the religious landscape of late imperial China, Zhenwu, the Perfected Warrior, inspired the creation of a rich corpus of images. While discovery, identification, and categorization of images remain fundamental aspects in the study of Zhenwu, Noelle Giuffrida’s paper moves beyond those concerns to explore the performative dimensions of Zhenwu images, elucidating the ways in which they evoked both the material and immaterial realms of Daoist experience for viewers. In particular, she focuses on paintings from an early Ming album known as Zhenwu lingying tuce 真武靈應圖冊 (Pictures of Zhenwu’s Numinous Responses). Her analysis of these pictures reconstructs the role of Zhenwu images not only as material objects deployed in external ritual practice but also as integral to Daoist priests’ internal meditative visualization bianshen neilian 變神內煉 (transformation into a divinity [through] inner refinement) as described in Ming liturgical texts. 

Chinese Religions Unit and Daoist Studies Unit

Panel: Vision and Visualization in Art, Alchemy, and Ritual: Exploring Daoist Modes of Perception

Fellow panelists: James Benn (presiding), Natasha Heller (discussant), Anna Hennessy, Marc Meulenbeld, and Aaron Reich

Gallery view,  Chinese Landscape Painting , 1954

Gallery view, Chinese Landscape Painting, 1954

Episodes in the history of Studying and Exhibiting chinese art in Postwar America

November 27, 2018 at 3:30PM

Brandeis University, Mandel Humanities Center 

In the decades following World War II, the United States became an international hub for the study and presentation of Chinese art. Political, economic, and social changes affected individuals and the art market, prompting a new wave of collecting and, with it, the production of new scholarship and the organization of exhibitions by experts living in the United States. Among the individuals behind these developments, American curator and museum director Sherman E. Lee (1918-2008) stands out as one of the most important. Noelle Giuffrida’s talk uses Lee as a lens through which to explore several significant episodes in the history of studying and exhibiting Chinese art including debates about the relative merits of art historical approaches such as stylistic analysis and Sinological textual methods, discourses on connoisseurship, the roles of “Chinese” and “Japanese” taste in determining canons, and strategies for presenting Chinese paintings to American museum audiences.

Recent talks and presentations

Zhenwu Cultivating Himself at the Wudang Mountains, bronze, early 17th century, Wudangshan Museum, Hubei Province, China

Zhenwu Cultivating Himself at the Wudang Mountains, bronze, early 17th century, Wudangshan Museum, Hubei Province, China

Traversing Zhenwu's Sacred Terrain in Bronze

June 1, 2018 at 4:00pm

Beijing Normal University

12th International Conference on Daoist Studies

Concentrating on several surviving Ming period bronzes that encapsulate the apotheosis, ascension, and intervention of the Daoist God Zhenwu, Noelle Giuffrida’s paper argues that these bronze sculptures functioned as active agents for the transmission and maintenance of his cult while also serving as surrogate sites of pilgrimage that reinforced the authority of the god’s home in the Wudang Mountains. Visual and textual sources concerning imperial, court, and Daoist association patronage of temples and rituals dedicated to Zhenwu during the Ming and early Qing offer a rich repository for research. Cross-media comparisons with paintings, prints, woodblock-printed books, and scriptures facilitate the identification and analysis of scenes and locales implied in the sculptures, while inscriptions and texts provide clues about the patronage and journeys of the objects themselves. Examination of these bronzes demonstrates that the selection and arrangement of images of the god and episodes from his hagiography prompted active engagement among viewers and patrons of these sculptures, allowing them to visually and experientially traverse Zhenwu’s sacred terrain.