The Center for the Art of East Asia (CAEA) at the University of Chicago is dedicated to the study of East Asian art and visual culture from ancient to contemporary times.
Established in 2003 under the directorship of Wu Hung in the Department of Art History and Division of the Humanities, it has recognized the burgeoning importance Asian art and the need for programs and resource to facilitate and support teaching and research. The CAEA has aspired to develop new perspectives and methodologies for research on East Asian art and visual culture, to encourage interdisciplinary approaches, and to enable work extending beyond the classroom and library in order to promote broader opportunities for students and greater public understanding. To these ends the CAEA organizes international symposia and carries out collaborative research projects and other programs with the generous support of international funding entities and generous private donors, as well as the division and centers within university.
The CAEA organizes international symposia and collaborative research projects to create platforms for research and scholarly exchange. An annual two-day symposium on a selected theme invites scholars from various institutions and fields of study to share their research and contribute a paper for publication. Attendance is free and open students and faculty, providing students with the opportunity to meet and interact with other scholars and students. The CAEA has published numerous of volumes of research papers based on these gatherings. Symposia held in recent years have resulted in two volumes published in 2019 and two more expected in 2021. Because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic, the CAEA is planning an online symposium for the current academic year.
The CAEA offers travel grants to enable graduate students at the University of Chicago to participate in conferences and conduct research on East Asian art. This includes support for travel to museums, libraries, and cultural sites with the recommendation of a faculty member. The Center also sponsors an annual competition, The Liu Cong Memorial Prize for the Best Essay on East Asian Art and Visual Culture, awarded for a publishable essay by a graduate student.
The members of the CAEA Steering Committee have worked closely with museums and other institutions around the world to develop and carry out research projects. They conduct research trips with students, and they have curated major exhibitions based on groundbreaking results of their research projects. The exhibition Allure of Matter: Material Art from China opened at the Los Angeles County Museum in June 2019 and traveled to Chicago in early 2020 where it was exhibited at the Smart Museum of Art and Wrightwood 659. This featured contemporary Chinese art created from unique and unprecedented approaches to materials. An earlier exhibition, Echoes of the Past: Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan, opened at the Smart Museum of Art in September 2010 and traveled to four other museums in the U.S. Based on the unprecedented digital imaging of sculptures taken from the Xiangtangshan caves in the early part of the twentieth century, it employed new digital imaging technology to record the widely dispersed sculptures and to recreate the former appearance of the cave shrines.
To facilitate and support teaching and research, the CAEA has created project websites. In particular, it has collaborated with museums to create the widely used East Asian Scroll
Paintings Website, a website of handscroll paintings, a horizontal painting format mounted as continuous scrolling pictures that progress in space and time. Though meant to be unrolled by the viewer, these fragile historical works must be protected from handling and exposure light and thus are seldom shown by museums. The interactive website simulates the viewing of these artworks by allowing the viewer to move through them section by section, zoom in and out, and compare one painting to another.
The CAEA also hosts a postdoc fellow who teaches classes in the Department of Art History. It accepts scholar and student affiliates who come from abroad to Chicago to conduct research.