Thursday June 23, 2016
Tags for: Clarissa von Spee Appointed Curator of Chinese Art
  • Press Release

Clarissa von Spee Appointed Curator of Chinese Art

exterior of the CMA building

Accomplished Scholar and Curator will oversee Cleveland’s outstanding collection of Chinese Art

CLEVELAND (June 23, 2016) – The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) has announced the appointment of Clarissa von Spee as Curator of Chinese Art and Head of the Department of Asian Art. The museum’s renowned collection of Chinese art, ranging from the Neolithic period to the early 21st century, is distinguished by the quality and rarity of each object. Von Spee’s appointment follows an international search. She will assume her responsibilities at the CMA in September.

“Clarissa is an exceptional curator and an accomplished and prolific writer. She is also remarkable for the range of her expertise and her scholarly interests, which span such diverse media as paintings and ceramics, and include both earlier traditions and the work of living Chinese artists,” said Director William M. Griswold.    

As Curator of Chinese Art, von Spee will oversee the care and development of the collection, and work closely with the Director and Chief Curator on the identification and acquisition of works of art to augment the collection. She will be responsible for the rotating installation of the Chinese art galleries and oversee special exhibitions exploring all aspects of Chinese art. Von Spee will also develop interpretive and didactic materials for a broad audience, helping to deepen visitors’ understanding of Chinese art and culture.

Cleveland’s collection of Chinese art spans more than 5,000 years and encompasses a variety of art forms, including archaic bronzes, jades, sculpture, paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, furniture and the decorative arts. The collection represents China’s artistic traditions in considerable depth, with particular strengths in ceramics from the Han to Qing dynasties (1st–18th centuries); Buddhist sculpture from the Northern Wei to Ming dynasties (6th–17th centuries); and paintings from the Song to Qing dynasties (10th–19th centuries). 

 “I am delighted and honored the Cleveland Museum of Art appointed me Curator of Chinese Art and Head of the Department of Asian Art,” said von Spee. “The museum is one of the foremost institutions in the United States with an outstanding collection of Chinese Art, known for its quality and the breadth of its material. I very much look forward to working together with a highly accomplished team of dedicated colleagues in an institution that offers great opportunities of national and international engagement and partnership in the field of Chinese Art.”

Clarissa von Spee brings more than a decade of curatorial work and museum experience to the CMA. Since early 2008, she has served as Curator of the Chinese and Central Asian collections, Department of Asia, at the British Museum, London, where she conceived and mounted such diverse exhibitions as The Printed Image in China from the 8th to the 21st Centuries (2010), Modern Chinese Ink Paintings: A Century of New Directions (2012), and Gems of Chinese Painting: A Voyage along the Yangzi River (2014). During her tenure at the British Museum, von Spee played an important role in a host of other exhibitions outside London, including Passions of an Elegant Lady: Asian Textiles of the MCH Foundation, Hammonds Collection at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin (2013), and The Printed Image in China from the 8th to the 21st centuries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012). 

Von Spee has great expertise in both working with objects as well as in teaching and scholarly research. Since 2013 she has been a Fellow of the China Center of Visual Studies at the China Academy of Art, Department of Art and Archeology, in Hangzhou, China. She was previously Assistant Professor at the Institute for East Asian Art History, Heidelberg University, as well as an advisor to The Julius Eberhardt collection, Vienna, Austria, and a curator at the Museum for East Asian Art, Cologne, Germany. 

Holding a PhD from Heidelberg University, von Spee has been the recipient of numerous awards. In 2015–16 she received the Leverhulme Research Fellowship to conduct research on the art of the Jiangnan region of China. While a doctoral candidate, she was awarded both a DAAD scholarship and a MCH Foundation scholarship to conduct research in Shanghai in 1999–2001, and in 1992–93 she received an ERASMUS scholarship at the Sorbonne, Paris. 

Von Spee is a prolific scholar. Recent exhibition catalogues include Modern Chinese Ink Painting: A Century of New Directions (London: British Museum Press, 2012), The Printed Image in China from the 8th to the 21st Centuries (London: British Museum Press, 2010), and Der Perfekte Pinsel – Chinesische Malerei 1300–1900/The Perfect Brush – Chinese Painting 1300–1900, (Cologne: Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst Köln, 2010). Among her many other contributions to the literature on Chinese art are Wu Hufan: A Twentieth Century Art Connoisseur in Shanghai (Berlin: Reimer, 2008) and a number of important essays, such as “Visiting Steles: Variations of a Painting Theme,” in Shane McCausland and Yin Hwang, On Telling Images of China: Essays in Narrative Painting and Visual Culture (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2014), “Setting Milestones – Collecting Chinese Paintings in Europe,” in Zhang Hongxing, Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, 700–1900 (London: V&A Publishing, 2013), and “Wu Dacheng at 58: Two Handscrolls with Bronze Rubbings from the Shanghai Museum,” in Burglind Jungmann, Adele Schlombs, and Melanie Trede, eds., Shifting Paradigms in East Asian Visual Culture: A Festschrift in Honour of Lothar Ledderose (Berlin: Reimer 2012).

Clarissa von Spee will be moving to Cleveland with her husband, James Godfrey.



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