MUSEUM 2050 Dispatches

Updates from Asymmetry Art Foundation

Michèle Ruo Yi Landolt

Spring has sprung early in London this year. The weather is moody with the air still moist and the soil cold from a difficult winter. However, between long lanes of houses and parked cars (which they never show you in movies!) the cherry trees and magnolia branches have begun to unfurl their flowery buds. Behind brick walls hide fragrant jasmine shrubs and old friends finally meet again for a coffee walk in the park. This year, spring feels particularly hopeful as this awakening is also analogous to a country carefully craning its neck in the direction of a bit more safety and freedom. The global health crisis hit the UK particularly hard in terms of illness and devastation which resulted in a much stricter, longer (and needed) lockdown than most countries. As a result, the last year has been challenging for the arts with cultural institutions remaining shut for the most part. Nonetheless, a lockdown exit roadmap is in place and I can’t begin to describe the collective excitement in the air at the thought of museums and galleries reopening, and the idea of experiencing art in person soon again.

The image of springtime with the proverbial first sprouts after sowing seeds into the wintery ground rings true to our work at Asymmetry, which we launched with our website going live last Autumn. Founded by collector and philanthropist Yan Du in late 2019 and still very much in its infancy, the pandemic catapulted us into a void of uncertainty. In hindsight, it was the foundation’s core mission to nurture curatorial practice through global exchange that brought us into fight mode. Stuck between London and Hong Kong, we quickly adapted our inaugural programme to the new normal as it became evident that independent practitioners worldwide needed and welcomed that extra support. We have since launched an Open Call for a curatorial fellowship at Whitechapel Gallery with a residency at Delfina Foundation and an Open Call for a fully funded scholarship for the ‘Advanced Practices’ PhD programme at Goldsmiths, University of London, both starting this Autumn. Moreover, we have recently placed our first curatorial writing fellow, Hang Li, at Chisenhale Gallery and are excited to see her ambitious project outcome in Autumn following her six-month residency, together with many more new initiatives in the pipeline! With these three inaugural collaborations aimed at practitioners who identify as from Greater China and who are based anywhere in the world, we hope to bring Chinese and East Asian voices in curation and academia to a global stage. At the same time, UK institutions and centres of learning will benefit from the knowledge and expertise unique to our practitioners’ cross-cultural and curatorial experiences. And yes, we haven’t been able to travel, or sit down all together, but new modes of collective working and collaboration that emphasise community and solidarity, while finding synergies in technology have developed instead (which happens to be one of Hang’s research focuses!). I hope these notions are here to stay.

We have worked tirelessly and within a short period of time, found many allies and friends along the way. Being new to London, personally, and not having left my home office in what feels like years, I am proud of our achievements. With spring promising to be eventful, can I just say, I can’t wait for summer! And with that, I’m off to go admire the blooming camellia bush across the street.

About the Author:

Michèle is Deputy Director at London-based Asymmetry Art Foundation. She is passionate about working across cultures, joining academic and curatorial resources and practices in new innovative ways.

About the Series:

Museum 2050 has always been about bringing people together through our community’s shared passion for museums and institutional development. As the world slowly and carefully starts reopening, we are checking in weekly with various members of our broader network to share personal reflections, anecdotes and musings about how they and their institutions have been operating in the face of this pandemic. In these incredibly difficult times for all, we hope that these brief vignettes from around the world bring us closer together, and remind us that even when the world stops and museum doors close, we still persevere.