Western Sydney University graduate Melissa Chiu recognised with honorary doctorate

Melissa Chiu 

She is one of the world's leading authorities on modern and contemporary Asian art, and features in Western Sydney University's highly successful 'Unlimited' television commercials. Now Melissa Chiu has been recognised with an honorary doctorate from her alma mater.

Dr Chiu, the Director of the Smithsonian Institute's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, was awarded a Doctor of Creative Arts honoris causa on Wednesday 16 December as part of Western Sydney University's December graduation ceremonies. She also delivered the occasional address.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover says the University is delighted to recognise Dr Chiu's significant and longstanding contribution to the arts – both in Australia and internationally – with an honorary award.

"Melissa Chiu is one of Western Sydney University's highly distinguished graduates. Her early interest and intention to specialise in modern Chinese art as part of her studies was ground breaking at a time when there had only been two books written about the subject," says Professor Glover.

"As we know, she has gone on to become one of the leading experts on contemporary Asian art, and is highly respected among the international arts community for her work. 

"Western Sydney University is incredibly proud of Dr Chiu's immense achievements. On behalf of the University's Board of Trustees, I am pleased to confer the title of Doctor of Creative Arts honoris causa on Dr Melissa Chiu for her distinguished contribution to the Arts."

More Information

Melissa Chiu was born in Darwin in 1972, and was evacuated with her family as a young child to Sydney after surviving Cyclone Tracy.

Upon finishing her schooling, she chose to study art history at what was then called the University of Western Sydney, and graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts (Art History and Criticism).  She then completed a masters degree in arts administration at the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, and in 2005 completed a PhD at University of Western Sydney, with a dissertation on experimental Chinese art.

From 1993 to 1996, Dr Chiu was curator of the University's own Art Collection, organising exhibitions and building a collection of contemporary Australian art. From 1996 to 2001, Dr Chiu was the Founding Director of the Asia-Australia Arts Centre, a non-profit contemporary art centre in Sydney, which was devoted to promoting dialogue in the Asia-Pacific region. 

In 2001, Dr Chiu was appointed as the first curator of Asian and Asian American arts by the Asia Society in Manhattan, the first curatorial post of its kind in an American museum and, in 2004, was appointed Asia Society's Museum Director.

In 2014, Dr Chiu was appointed as the Director of the Smithsonian Institute's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC where she oversees a staff of 50 and a collection of nearly 12,000 objects.

Dr Chiu is highly regarded for her skills in cultural diplomacy whilst also curating exhibitions which might confront political challenges.  She is a prolific curator, having organised over thirty international exhibitions which focus on the art and artists of Asia; she has created a series of cultural dialogues between museum leaders in China, India and the United States; she has commissioned ground-breaking international loan exhibitions devoted to modern art, including first-time presentations of Iran's pre-revolutionary period "Iran Modern" (2013) and "Art and China's Revolution" (2008), the first exhibition to focus on the art of China's Cultural Revolution.

Dr Chiu has authored and edited several books on contemporary art, including 'Contemporary Art in Asia; A Critical Reader' (MIT Press, 2010), and has also written for art magazines and journals on the subject. She is a regular speaker at international conferences and symposia and has delivered lectures at institutions including Harvard, Columbia and Yale Universities, and the Chinese Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Dr Chiu has also conducted television interviews with cultural leaders including William Kentridge, Shirin Neshat, Yoko Ono, Tan Dun, Chuck Close and Antony Gormley.


16 December 2015

Amanda Whibley - Manager, Media and Public Relations