Asian Art Museum Hires Karin Oen in Aim to Step up Contemporary Programming

Karin Oen. Courtesy Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.
Karin Oen. Courtesy Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum has hired Karin G. Oen as assistant curator of contemporary art, a new position supported for two years by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Oen takes up her new post on June 15.

The museum is better known for historical exhibitions, like “Seduction: Japan’s Floating World,” currently on view and focusing on prints and other objects from the Edo period (1615-1868).

But it’s aiming to update its image with shows like “28 Chinese,” opening this summer and featuring artists including Xu Zhen, Zhang Huan, and Ai Weiwei (see Zhang Huan’s Sculptures Dance Upon the Grass at Storm King and Ai Weiwei Project and Participants at Iraqi Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2015 Announced). The show is organized by Miami collectors Mera and Don Rubell and features works from their holdings. There’s also a series of events starting this week and featuring a multimedia installation by Iranian-born artist Sanaz Mazinani.

The museum’s acquisitions of new art go on view this fall in “First Look: Collecting Contemporary at the Asian,” showing the results of efforts made over 15 years at collecting new art and including artists like Ahmed Mater, RongRong and Inri, Zhu Jinshi, Okura Jiro, and ink painters Lu Shoukun and C.C. Wang.

Oen comes to San Francisco from Dallas, where for two years she was the curator at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, founded in 1998 by real estate developer Trammell Crow and his wife Margaret. Oen assisted in a renovation of the museum and the opening of its sculpture garden.

Before her work in Dallas, Oen was a museum educator in Asian art at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, where she worked for three years. She has also worked at ArtWorks, a contemporary art center in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and at New York gallery Ethan Cohen Fine Arts.

Oen earned a PhD in art and architectural history, theory, and criticism from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after getting an MA in modern art history, connoisseurship, and art market history from Christie’s Education. She got a BA in urban studies with an art history minor from Stanford University.


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