Cultural: News, Travel & Trendsetters

Vishakha A. Desai


The financial crisis, more than any other in recent history, comes at a time when a seismic shift in world order is underway. For those of us who have been committed to furthering greater understanding among Asians and Americans, the crisis has also been a clear indicator of the growing importance of Asia, especially China, in the world.

Thus, at the Asia Society, while we have faced economic challenges (as have all cultural institutions in the country), we have redoubled our efforts in educating Americans about the nuanced nature of Asian cultures and societies.

Recognizing that during hard times more people visit museums to find an oasis of calm pleasures and thoughtful contemplation, we have committed ourselves to providing fresh perspectives on the arts of Asia. Our exhibitions Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan and the upcoming Arts of Ancient Vietnam (on view Feb. 2-May 2, 2010) are both designed to provide new dimensions to understanding countries with which the U.S. has engaged in a one-dimensional way.

I feel strongly that during troubled times we have to be even more vigilant about our core mission without being afraid to experiment. This is the time to ask tough questions and be willing to let go of old habits, institutionally and personally.