The Secret to a Long and Prosperous Art Career, According to Victoria Lu

Victoria Lu has lived and breathed art from a young age. She had her first solo show at the age of 13, and followed a path of art education basically ever since. Victoria’s career spans decades all over the world, working as a professor, curator, and artist, but she continues to live for one thing: making art accessible to the public.

We are humbled to speak with such a creative powerhouse like Victoria, and are excited to share some of her life story through pictures and words. You’ll get a sense of how she entered the art world, some of the challenges and successes she’s had, and how she spends her time today. We hope you enjoy!

As someone who has spent so much time interacting with art spaces, what do you think of first when you enter a new space for art? What is the first thing you look for, and what do you think constitutes a well curated space?

I started my career as a curator in 1978. Art scenes have changed tremendously since. Nowadays, when I enter a new space for art, I always look for a new way (overall) of installation at first. Then, I look into individual artworks later. The biggest priority to me when it comes to a well curated show, is to make the space attractive to the audience. I’m concerned first and foremost with the overall installation of a show. The purpose is to create interesting dialogues between the artworks and the viewers. I abandoned the concepts of art for art’s sake, but embraced the ideas of art for the sake of people. Inter-activities are the principals of curating a show.

Victoria with her parents
Victoria at Royale Art Academy in Brussels

What is your favorite subject(s) to discuss with your students? Why is this your favorite? 

My absolute favorite subject to discuss with my students has always been the new way of understanding creativity. Art has been the bi-product of human creativities, constantly changing every moment and second in our conscious awareness and unconscious state of minds as well. Discovering new and different ways of recognizing art has been my most favorite subject.

Victoria at Stage One Gallery with George Herms, 1979

What excites you about working with students, and what do you gain from the experience? What do you hope they walk away with from taking classes with you?

I teach at both university level and graduate school. My excitement for working with students comes from the encounters that I get to have with different individuals in their late teens, guiding them into their adulthood with a fantastic understanding of life. Students who have taken classes with me walk away with their unique and different expectations for each of their individual futures. And I make sure that their expectations do not coincide with mine.

Victoria and Master Chang Dai Chien, 1962
Victoria performing in California, 1970s

What kinds of themes do you seek out in the work that you’ve curated? What kinds of artwork do you prefer to engage with? Why?

Most shows that I’ve curated mainly focus on current cultural conditions. But I presented the term of Animamix (Animation+Comics) which I created in 2006 to address how the 21st century’s main aesthetics are influenced by animation and comics. My curation jobs after 2006 were mostly dedicated to my Animamix concept. Animamix art is not about animation or comics only. It is about the popular aesthetics in the 21st century influenced by animation and comic cultures. We see that influence in fashion and entertainment industries more and more today. I believe that Animamix aesthetics will represent the 21st century just like the aesthetics of abstraction represented the 20th century. The artworks I preferred to show after 2006 also mostly related to my Animamix concept.

Victoria and Xu Bing, 2001
Victoria interviewing artist Chu Chiahua in Tiapei for a Taiwanese TV show, early 1990s

What does your role as Creative Director at MOCA Shanghai entail?

The role created for me at MOCA Shanghai was to serve mainly as a chief curator, in charge of exhibition programs but I also wound up leading the education department for a while. Because of my previous experience in Taipei, establishing their first contemporary museum for the city, my main task actually involved helping the founder and Director Kung to establish the first private contemporary museum in Shanghai. It’s so amazing to me that private museums are now so prosperous in Shanghai, versus when I started working with museums.

A Western and Asian style photoshoot from 2008

What are some of your favorite aspects of your work? What have you come to love and appreciate over the years?

The favorite aspects of my work involve discovering new directions in art and finding new talents for the art world. These two aspects have been my mission for my curation work over 40 some years. Now, I’ve retired from curation tasks, and that’s probably the part of my work that I miss most.

Victoria and Zhang Xiaogang

What were some of the challenges you faced in your career, as the first woman to ever work as an art critic and curator in the Chinese contemporary art world? How did you overcome those challenges?

I have been fairly lucky in my lifetime. I was born in Taiwan in 1951. My family is originally from Shanghai and we have a big family there. I went to Belgium then to the United States in the 1970’s to receive the bath of Feminism. Therefore, my upbringing was very different from my generation in China. When I started my curatorial career in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s, I did not encounter any difficulties. But I was lonely for sure at the early stage of my art career in China. I was often the only woman juror, panelist or specialist in an all male environment. I had to be strong and outspoken to get my voice heard. My situation was unique and it could be beneficial from time to time. So I really did not have much to complain, but I have so much appreciation for the people who have cared for and loved me as the years go by.

Victoria and Takashi Murakami
Victoria at Venice Biennale with Silvia Buziol, 2011

What are some of the goals you have in mind for your work and life today?

Even though I am retired as a curator, I still write art criticism for magazines and art websites. My goals have always been in education, especially art education for the general public. I am a full time professor for the Creative Industry PHD program at Shih Chien University in Taipei. I keep myself very busy. Just recently, I started my first film project with my husband Fu Shen: “Re: Promises” to discuss the aging society today with our own experiences. I was expected to be a genius artist when I was very young. I had my first one person show when I was 13 and the painting I made when I was 17 years old, a 40 meters long landscape scroll is now among the Taipei National Palace Museum’s vast collection. Today, I want to resume as an artist, to make my long lost dream comes true.

Victoria and Ang Lee in his New York office, 2016
Victoria at MoCA Taiwan, 2015

What kinds of advice would you give to young art critics and curators? What kinds of resources are available to helping aspiring talent in this field?

When I first started my career, there was very little competition. Nowadays, things are very different, one should be very sensitive to international occurrences and the fast pace of changes. One should be diligent and move faster than others in order to move ahead. One will have to compete with artificial intelligence for the data sources, analyses and judgements.

Future Pass at Venice Biennale, 2011
Future Pass at Venice Biennale, 2011

What attracted you to working with the art world as a critic? Did you know that this was what you wanted to do from a young age, or was there a particular experience that opened your eyes to this world?

As I said, my goals have always been education, especially art education for the general public. Being an art critic has enabled me to educate the general public to understand and love art. I went to Belgium when I was 20 years old. I traveled intensively ever since in order to see more realities of the world. I educated myself to be a multicultural person and strived to be able to reach beyond the boundaries of all matters. I feel that I am forever a newcomer in all the fields I’m involved with. Renewing and regenerating myself is the secret to living my long art career.

Victoria’s portraits as a mermaid and leaf fairy
Victoria’s Avatar

If you’re feeling inspired by Victoria’s artwork, put that inspiration to use by adding a new pair of shoes to your shoe wardrobe!

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