Seven Poses: A Gift Fit for a Queen
Hung Liu (Chinese American, 1948–2021) was an artist born in China, raised under the Maoist regime, and educated in both China and the United States. A painter known for engaging and challenging narratives present within historical Chinese imagery, Liu created these seven prints based on a series of paintings inspired by historical photographs of Chinese courtesans from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By portraying these sex workers alongside birds, flowers, and other symbols common in Chinese decoration and including one-inch square collaged image depicting a “gift” object in the center of each print, Liu draws attention to the ways that these women have been commodified, while emphasizing their power, agency, and humanity. This exhibition marks the first time the entire series of prints will be on view at Kemper Museum.
Not only are gifts a central subject in these works, but the prints themselves were gifted to Kemper Museum’s Permanent Collection in 2005, enclosed in a special silk portfolio with a thoughtful presentation that parallels the gifts in the print. This marks one of many touchpoints between Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the artist throughout the past three decades before she passed away in 2021. Kemper Museum is honored to be the steward of twelve iconic works by Liu in the Museum’s permanent collection, to have collaborated with Liu on a major exhibition in 2014, and to have presented several public programs with the artist. A timeline of this meaningful relationship through which Liu’s work inspired many in our community will also be on view in the gallery.
Seven Poses: A Gift Fit for a Queen is curated by Jade Powers, assistant curator at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.