We are pleased to welcome Karen Smith to CIMAM

26 May 2023

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Within the field of contemporary visual arts, museum practice in China is a work-in-progress. We learn from exchanges with those working in the arena of historic museums, but these established practices are not always applicable to the contemporary field, especially in the area of curatorial thinking and audience engagement. I hope that by joining CIMAM, being able to learn from exchanges with international colleagues, these insights and connections can be put to use within the growing field of independent museum practice and curating in China for the benefit of future audiences and practitioners.

Karen Smith, Director of Academic Initiatives, De Ying Foundation, Hong Kong

Resident in China since 1992, Karen Smith is a curator and writer focused on research about art in and from the Chinese mainland. Starting her career as an independent practitioner, Smith took a more formal institutional role in 2012 with her appointment as the founding director of OCAT Xi’an, contemporary art centre. In 2021, Smith joined the Shanghai-based De Ying Foundation, to lead its academic initiatives, where she currently runs the foundation’s Curatorial Fellowship Programme, launched in spring 2022.

She has curated numerous exhibitions in China and abroad as group exhibitions and solo presentations, including “Who Is He?” A Retrospective of Geng Jianyi (1962-2017) (with artist yang Zhenzhong), at Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2022 / UCCA, Beijing, 2023; “About Material Expression”, OCAT Xi’an, 2022, “One Light, Different Reflections: Wing Shya”, Kyotographie Photo Festival, Kyoto, Japan, 2020; “Out of Ink: Works by Chinese Artists”, Pera Museum, Istanbul, 2019; “Social Geography: Journeys with a Camera Across China”, Shanghai Center of Photography (SCoP), Shanghai, 2018; “OVERPOP” (with Jeffrey Deitch), YUZ Museum, Shanghai, 2016; “Grain to Pixel: A Story of Photography in China”, SCoP, Shanghai, 2015 / Monash Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, 2016; and “The Real Thing” (with Simon Groom, Xu Zhen), Tate Liverpool, 2007.

Smith continues to write widely about contemporary art and individual artists for artist monographs and exhibition catalogues. She is the author of books on China’s contemporary art scene, most notably Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China, Scalo 2006/Timezone8 2008; the three-volume series As Seen; Notable Artworks by Chinese Artists, Post-Wave Publishing/UCCA (2011/2013/2015).


CIMAM – International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art – is an Affiliated Organization of ICOM.* Founded in 1962, CIMAM’s vision is a world where the contribution of museums, collections, and archives of modern and contemporary art to the cultural, social, and economic well-being of society is recognized and respected.

Join today, and take part in our network with more than 700 contemporary art museum professionals from 86 countries.

Thank you Karen Smith, for becoming a member of CIMAM!