Metropolitan Museum of Art Announces James C. Y. Watt to Become Curator Emeritus

Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today that distinguished scholar James C. Y. Watt will retire on June 30, following a decade as Brooke Russell Astor Chairman of the Department of Asian Art and a career at the Museum that has spanned the past 25 years. He will become Curator Emeritus of the department as of July 1.

Mr. Campbell announced further that Maxwell K. Hearn, who is currently serving as the Douglas Dillon Curator for Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, will become the Douglas Dillon Curator in Charge of the Department of Asian Art on July 1. He was elected to his new position at the January 11 meeting of the Museum’s Board of Trustees.

“James Watt has contributed immensely to scholarship and connoisseurship in the field of Chinese art,” Mr. Campbell said in making the announcement. “He is renowned both in this country and internationally for his outstanding work, which has been complemented over the past decade by his superb leadership of the Department of Asian Art. As he becomes Curator Emeritus, we celebrate both his distinguished career and his passion for promoting a greater awareness and understanding of the arts of Asia in the Western world.”

Mr. Campbell also commented: “I am very pleased that Mike Hearn will take on the leadership of his department, as successor to James Watt and his predecessor, Wen Fong. Mike joined the Museum in 1971, just one year after Douglas Dillon and the Board of Trustees resolved to expand the Museum’s nascent holdings of Asian art into a world-renowned collection with major, permanently dedicated galleries. Mike has long played a major role in the department and I look forward to working closely with him in the years ahead.”

James C. Y. Watt
James C. Y. Watt (Qu Zhi-ren) began his career with the Metropolitan Museum in 1985 as Senior Consultant for Chinese Antiquities and Decorative Arts. He became Brooke Russell Astor Senior Curator in the Department of Asian Art in 1988 and assumed the chairmanship of the department in 2000.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Watt served from 1981 through 1985 as Curator of the Department of Asiatic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, he was also Chairman of the Board of Studies in Fine Arts (1977-80) and Curator of the Art Gallery, Institute of Chinese Studies.

Over the past four decades, Mr. Watt has been curator of a number of major exhibitions. These have included, in recent years, the Metropolitan Museum exhibitions Splendors of Imperial China, Treasures from the Palace Museum, Taipei (with Wen Fong), 1996; When Silk was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles in the Metropolitan and Cleveland Museums of Art (with Anne Wardwell), 1998; and China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 A.D. , 2004-2005. The last of these exhibitions, co-organized with the State Administration for Cultural Heritage in China, explored the origins of Chinese art in the High Tang period. It was hailed in China as the model for exhibitions of Chinese art and archaeology. Most recently, he organized the major exhibition The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty, which was on view at the Metropolitan Museum from September 28, 2010, through January 2, 2011.

Born in Hong Kong, Mr. Watt was educated at The Queen’s College, Oxford University, and the University of Hong Kong.

Maxwell K. Hearn
Currently the Douglas Dillon Curator for Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, Maxwell K. (Mike) Hearn, began working at the Metropolitan Museum in curatorial assistant (1971 to 1974) and research associate (1977) positions. Over the following years, he served as Assistant Curator (1979-84), Associate Curator (1984-92), and Curator (1993-2004), and became the Douglas Dillon Curator in 2005. He received his undergraduate degree in art history from Yale University and his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

At the Museum, he has helped oversee the expansion of the collection of Chinese art as well as major additions to many permanent gallery spaces, including the Astor Chinese Garden Court and the Douglas Dillon Galleries, both completed in 1981, and the renovated and expanded galleries for Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, which opened in May 1997. He has also been curator of a large number of exhibitions and installations including, in recent years, The Artist as Collector: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the C. C. Wang Family Collection, 1999; The World of Scholars’ Rocks: Gardens, Studios, and Painting, 2000; The Embodied Image: Chinese Calligraphy from the John B. Elliott Collection, 2000; Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Chinese Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001; When the Manchus Ruled China: Painting under the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) , 2002; The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum, 2004; Art of the Brush: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 2005; Bridging East and West: The Chinese Diaspora and Lin Yutang, 2007; Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings, 2008; Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632-1717) , 2008; Eccentric Visions: The Worlds of Luo Ping (1733-1799) , 2009; Mastering the Art of Chinese Painting: Xie Zhiliu (1910-1997) , 2010; and The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change, 2010.

He has authored a wide range of catalogues and catalogue essays, articles, symposium presentations, and lectures at more than 40 institutions, as well as graduate and undergraduate seminars on Chinese painting given at Yale, Princeton, and Columbia universities, and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

Asian Art Collection at the Metropolitan Museum
The Asian collection at the Metropolitan Museum is one of the largest and is the most comprehensive in the West. Each of the many civilizations of Asia is represented by outstanding works that provide—in both quality and breadth—an unrivaled experience of the artistic traditions of nearly half the world. The collection, which ranges in date from the third millennium B.C. to the 21st century, includes paintings, woodblock prints, sculptures, metalwork, ceramics, lacquers, other decorative arts, and textiles from China, Korea, and Japan, as well as the countries of South and Southeast Asia. Since the Museum’s centennial in 1970, the department has been engaged in expanding its staff, collections, and display space. This process culminated in 1998 with the completion of an entire wing, occupying 64,500 square feet, devoted to Asian art—a “museum within a museum.”

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