- ExhibitionsCurrent ExhibitionsPast Exhibitions
- Wild Carrot
- Raqs Media Collective: The Great Bare Mat & Constellation
- Luisa Lambri: Portrait
- Magic Moments: The Screen and the Eye–9 Artists 9 Projections
- (TAPESTRY) RADIO ON: New Work by Victoria Morton at the Gardner
- Points of View: 20 Years Artists-in-Residence at the Gardner
- Taro Shinoda: Lunar Reflections
- Su-Mei Tse: Floating Memories
- Luisa Rabbia: Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008
- Cliff Evans: Empyrean
- Stefano Arienti: The Asian Shore
- Sculpture and Memory: Works from the Gardner and by Luigi Ontani
- Henrik Håkansson: Cyanopsitta spixii Case Study #001
- A Pagan Feast
- Variations On a Theme by Sol Lewitt and Paula Robison
- Danijel Zezelj: Stray Dogs
- Maurizio Cannavacciuolo: TV Dinner
- Artist, Curator, Collector
- Episodes: Bus Park & Forevermore
- Manfred Bischoff
- Laura Owens
- New Works by Denise Marika
- Artists By 2000
- Lee Mingwei in the Courtyard, 1999. Photo: John Kennard
- Lee Mingwei, Host in <em>The Living Room Project</em>, 2000. Photo: Anita Kahn
- Lee Mingwei, <em>The Living Room Project</em>, 2000. Photo Anita Kahn
- Lee Mingwei works with Kindergarteners at the Mission Hill School, 1999. Photo: John Kennard
- 2008 AIR <a href="/contemporary_art/artists/su-mei_tse">Su-Mei Tse</a> and 1999 AIR Lee Mingwei, 2008. Photo: TSY
1999, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009
Born in Taiwan and currently living in New York City, Lee Mingwei creates both participatory installations, where strangers can explore issues of trust, intimacy, and self- awareness on their own, and one-on-one events, where visitors explore these issues with the artist himself through eating, sleeping, walking and conversation. Lee’s projects are often open-ended scenarios for everyday interaction, and take on different forms depending on the participants. Time is central to this process, as Lee’s installations often change during the course of an exhibition.
Lee received an MFA from Yale University in 1997, has had solo exhibitions at the New York Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and other venues. He has also been featured at Biennials in Venice, Lyon, Liverpool (2006, 2010), Taipei, Echigo-Tsumari, and the Whitney, and at the Asia Pacific Triennial.
Currently, he has two solo exhibitions in New York, at the Brooklyn Museum (Lee Mingwei: The Moving Garden, October 5, 2011–January 22, 2012) and at the Museum of Chinese in America (Lee Mingwei: The Travelers and The Quartet Project, October 20,2011 – March 26, 2012).
Lee Mingwei began each day of his June 1999 residency with a swim at the YMCA and frequently explored Boston by bike or on rollerblades. His time at the museum was devoted to experiencing the galleries and courtyard, as well as looking through archival materials. Early on, Lee became interested in the role that Isabella Gardner played as a hostess and an interpreter of her collection. He made repeated visits to archives where he researched letters, looked at photographs, and at illustrated music programs. He also examined Mrs. Gardner’s travel albums, guest books, and several Asian textiles including an early 19th century flag embroidered with dragons and clouds from China, which was a gift from the painter, collector, and scholar, Denman W. Ross.
The Living Room was conceived as a result of Lee Mingwei’s residency at the museum. It was his response to Gardner’s love of entertaining, collecting, and her desire to foster intimate interactions with art. In February 2000, the Special Exhibition gallery became filled with furnishings, plants, live birds, and refreshments. Lee’s intent was to give visitors the opportunity to participate in a process of exchange and hospitality, which he determined to be a vital part of life at Fenway Court during Gardner’s lifetime. In conjunction with the exhibition, Lee and Jennifer Gross, the Curator of Contemporary Art, produced a catalogue that described the thinking behind the exhibition, highlighted several other of Lee’s projects, and included a text by Lewis Hyde.
For several a days in February, and in March, Lee carried objects into The Living Room that meant something special to him and acted the part of the host. He invited visitors and staff to spend time in the room, relaxing and discussing the articles on display, sharing personal experiences, and musing on new and old aesthetics and other values reflected in the museum. On the remaining days, Lee invited volunteers to participate in the project and become hosts of The Living Room. They came from many walks of life - staff at the museum, members of the Governance Board, past Artists-in-Residence, teachers and students, all of whom had a significant relationship with the museum. Thirty-two individuals were chosen from a lottery system to bring in objects that meant something special to them. Over the course of two days, each acting Host talked with visitors about the museum and about the significance of the objects they had chosen to share. The vast array of interests represented ranged from tutorials on flower arranging and ice fishing, to historic events, to a day of a cappella serenades. Hosts brought bones, shopping bags, games, textiles, pencils, CDs, and works of art. Some changed the space into a temporary art studio and others spoke about personal experiences, about their family histories, the experience of being a part-time firefighter, and on the earthquake that devastated northwestern Turkey six months prior.
Also in March 2000, Lee Mingwei worked with fifteen 10th graders from the Boston Arts Academy, who were studying set design and theater props. The final objective of the program was for students to design a collaborative artwork for the Community Creations student exhibition in May of that year. Students from the Boston Arts Academy visited The Living Room to observe and reflect on the installation before meeting with Lee Mingwei. While in the gallery, they wrote a journal of their thoughts, ideas, and the questions they wanted to ask the artist. Most of the students were interested in the installation concept and the decisions made by the artist in designing the space. The next day the students met with Lee in The Living Room, where he was acting as Host, and spoke with him about his work and what inspired him. Back in class after a series of discussions and workshops, the students designed and later constructed a bedroom and garden area in the museum gallery in which they incorporated their artwork, personal items, and their collections.
Lee also worked with twenty Kindergarteners at the Mission Hill School. The class had been talking about the meaning of objects while making a classroom quilt based on things that were important to each child. The students visited with Lee in the The Living Room and in the classroom to discuss what personal objects mean, why people care about them, and what they tell us about ourselves and others.
Lee Mingwei has returned to the Gardner Museum several other times over the years. In March 2000, he spoke about The Living Room during an Eye of the Beholder lecture and in October 2005, gave a Noontime Talk about his current projects. In 2007, eight years had passed since Lee had first come to the Gardner Museum as an Artist-in-Residence and that September, Su-Mei Tse, a friend, had just completed three weeks of her residency at the museum. Seizing the opportunity, the two artists spoke about their time at the Gardner Museum, their work, and their upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei. Lee returned again for the opening of Su-Mei Tse’s exhibition Floating Memories in July 2008 and stayed to lead a meditation in the exhibition gallery to reflect on the new work during Gardner After Hours.
Because of the deep impact The Living Room exhibition had on the museum in 2000, Lee Mingwei was invited back in 2007 to collaborate on Gardner Museum’s new building project and to help design a room inspired by his project. Staffed by a series of “hosts” – volunteers, staff, artists, and other special guests, this space will promote conversation and reflection, as well as help visitors answer any questions they may come with, and inspire new ones. That year a working group met at his apartment in New York and again later at the Gardner Museum. In November 2008, Lee returned for a two-week mini residency staying in the Carriage House apartment for one last time before it was taken down, to work and visit the galleries and research the archives. He was back again at the museum in the Fall of 2011 to explain his work to the many volunteers who will be working in the room and to the future Hosts of the new Living Room project.