Desire, Conflict & Exchange Featured Student: Yiwen Bai

Z1220 Art Museum Collection Objects

Written by Arts Management Intern Diana Kate Karsanow

Yiwen Bai is one of the students from the Art History Capstone course from this past fall which was responsible for the curation of the current exhibit: Desire, Conflict & Exchange Art of 19th Century East Asia & the West. Bai is a senior from Shanghai, China with a major in Art and Architecture History. She is also involved in the Japanese Culture and Language Community on campus.

During the semester long capstone course, all students worked collaboratively to select an overall theme, sub-themes, and a wide variety of pieces to be featured. Later on, each student chose an individual piece to highlight and explore more in-depth, researching its history and background and then compiling that information in a catalogue entry. 

Bai chose a print titled A Foreign Residence in Yokohama for her personal research. She was drawn to this piece because it represents Japan’s curiosity with the European cultures that were occupying their ports during the 19th century. Bai is fascinated with the Western world’s current interest with Japanese culture and entertainment industry. She wanted to study the historical origins of this cultural intermingling and A Foreign Residence in Yokohama satisfied her curiosity. The artwork showed her a unique point of view on the cultural exchange between the West and the East.

During the semester, Bai’s understanding of the 19th century in the West and East Asia grew. She learned how cultural exchange between these regions occurred and the positive and negative outcomes of East Asia opening up to the rest of the world. She states “the changes and developments in various socioeconomic trades that result from this [cultural exchange] are very special and meaningful.” Bai valued the experience she had working with MUAM professionals and learning about the behind-the-scenes work an art museum must complete to put on an exhibition.She enjoyed planning the exhibition and spreading knowledge on such an important historical time period.

Bai’s favorite part of the capstone course was getting to study the plethora of East Asian artworks MUAM has in their collection. As an Art and Architecture History major, Bai appreciates the chance to work with artworks and objects directly and is always surprised by what she can find out about a piece when working in an art museum. Bai is looking forward to sharing her work on the capstone exhibition with her family and friends. She believes that visitors to Desire, Conflict & Exchange can learn a lot about the complex relationships between the West and East Asia during the 19th century and encourages everyone to stop by.

The exhibition opened Tuesday, January 28 and will remain open through alumni weekend, closing on Saturday, June 13.

Come learn more about Yiwen’s piece along with the rest of the exhibition, Desire, Conflict & Exchange, at the Miami University Art Museum!

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