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detail, still from A Lapse of Memory by Fiona Tan

Above: Detail, A Lapse of Memory, 2007 (still), Fiona Tan, singleā€channel video installation, 24 minutes.
Left: Detail, Rise and Fall, 2009 (still),Fiona Tan, two-channel video installation, 22 minutes.
Image Credit: Courtesy of the Artist and Frith Street Gallery, London

First Major U.S. Exhibition of Contemporary Artist Fiona Tan


Media only: Ellie Reynolds, 202.633.0521
Public only: 202.633.1000

July 07, 2010

The first major U.S. exhibition of internationally renowned contemporary artist Fiona Tan will be on view at the Sackler Gallery Sept. 25 – Jan. 16, 2011.  "Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall" includes video installations and photographs exploring the individual's place in a world increasingly shaped by global culture. By integrating archival film footage and photographs, original location shooting and the spoken word, her works question the relationship among images, narrative and memory. The works on view invite reflection on the role of the recorded image in the experience of time and the construction of individual identity.

"The exhibition is largely autobiographical," said Carol Huh, curator of contemporary art and organizer of the exhibition at the Freer and Sackler galleries. "Through Tan's works, we gain a sense of her own personal journey through the world."

Tan's most recent video installation, Rise and Fall (2009), specially commissioned for this exhibition and filmed in Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands, focuses on an older and younger woman. Filmed in striking locales, Tan emphasizes the intimacy of place, the simplicity of daily acts and the mutability of time to evoke the interwoven lives of these two women—scenes in gardens, caresses between lovers, the acts of sleeping, reading and dressing. The viewer wonders if the women are, in fact, the same, as if each embodies the dreams of the other.

Other video works on display include Provenance (2008)and A Lapse of Memory (2007), which draw on the traditions of 17th-century Dutch and 19th-century British architecture to explore western notions of Asia. The photo installation, The Changeling (2006), compiles more than 300 archival photos of Japanese schoolgirls in an examination of how personal narratives shift over a lifetime.

"In her beautiful and evocative way, Tan conveys the flux of life," said Huh. "We are always surrounded by images, and those images become the basis for our constantly shifting memories and the ways in which we represent ourselves."

Born in 1966 in Indonesia to a Chinese-Indonesian father and Australian-Scottish mother, Tan eventually settled in Amsterdam to study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten. She began exhibiting in the early 1990s and was most recently recognized for her important contributions as the Dutch representative at the 2009 Venice Biennale. In addition to other international biennials and group exhibitions, Tan has participated in recent solo exhibitions at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam in the Netherlands (2008), the Royal Institute for British Architects in England (2007) and the Villa Arson Nice in France (2002).

"Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall" is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will be the only U.S. venue for the exhibition, which will also travel to the Galerie de L'UQAM in Montréal.

A 125-page illustrated exhibition catalog, produced by the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Aargauer Kunsthaus in Switzerland, includes essays by five scholars, each on a different work from the exhibition.

"Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall" is supported by the Mondriaan Foundation in Amsterdam, with additional support from the Netherland-America Foundation.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public may visit www.asia.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285.

detail still from Rise and Fall by Fiona Tan

Exhibition Information


Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall

September 25, 2010–January 16, 2011
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
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