An-yi Pan (PhD '97)
In October 2017 the department welcomed back An-yi Pan as the 2017 Franklin D. Murphy Distinguished Alumni Lecturer. Currently Associate Professor in the History of Art and Visual Studies and in Asian Studies at Cornell University, An-yi Pan received his BFA from National Taiwan Academy of Art in 1981. He earned his MA (’92) and PhD (’97) from KU, both with honors. His dissertation research enjoyed the support of prestigious fellowships from the Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Studies (Kyoto); American Oriental Society; and Samuel H. Kress Foundation. He developed his dissertation on Li Gonglin into a monograph, Painting Faith: Li Gonglin (1049-1106) and Northern Song Buddhist Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2007). Also very active as a curator, Dr. Pan’s other major publications include the exhibition catalogue Nature Imagined and Observed – 500 Years of Chinese Painting (Ithaca, NY: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2010) and several exhibition catalogues devoted to contemporary Taiwanese art: Contemporary Taiwanese Art in the Era of Contention (Taipei: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 2004); Destiny Intertwined, Tuvalu Pavilion, 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia (on the work of Taiwanese artist Vincent J.F. Wang, Venice Biennale, 2013); Boundaries: Contemporary Art from Taiwan (National Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 2014); and Power, Haunting, and Resilience: Contemporary Art from Taiwan (Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 2017). He is currently writing a book with the working title Taiwan Modern: Postwar Art Movements, 1945-1970.
Dr. Pan has over two dozen articles and book reviews to his credit and has given over sixty public lectures and scholarly presentations around the world. His prolific service to the profession includes membership on the advisory board of Brill Academic Publishers and on the executive council of the Taiwan Art History Association.
Pan (as we fondly refer to him here at KU) kindly responded to a few questions from David Cateforis via email.
Briefly describe your career path from graduate school to your current position – and what motivated you to follow that path.
I have been focusing on teaching and curating exhibitions since graduation. As an artist, I am interested in hands-on experiences with artworks, and seeking a curatorial position in a museum was my original career goal. Since teaching became my main career path, I try to combine both interest in scholarly research and curatorial projects. Through the synergy of both, I have been able to work closely with the Herbert F. Johnson Museum in organizing exhibitions and teaching exhibition seminar courses.
What was the most important thing you learned as a graduate student that helped prepare you for your career?
Passion and patience. I enjoyed art and art history, but didn’t think too much about the future, except to tell myself to do my best.
What do you wish you had learned as a graduate student that would have helped to prepare you better for your career?
When I was a graduate student, the field of art history was undergoing drastic changes due to the emergence of “visual culture” and “visual studies.” I did not learn about this trend until I arrived at Cornell. It took me a few years to retool myself.
What is the biggest adjustment that one has to make in transitioning from life as a graduate student to a working as a full-time professional?
The first year of teaching was the toughest thing to adjust to. In the old days, a new faculty member had to prepare slides and write all new lectures. Nowadays, the internet and PowerPoint make it much easier to prepare lectures. What has not changed is that new faculty members oftentimes also have young families, and so balancing family life and academic demands, particularly the first book, is a very tough challenge.
How has your field changed since you started working in it?
Inter-disciplinary, cross-boundary, colonial, post-colonial, and transnational are a few key phases that indicate the drastic shifts in Chinese art historical research. Much attention and interest in recent years have been focused on modern and contemporary art. I am fortunate to have a solid foundation in traditional art historical training, and am capable of working on both premodern and modern/contemporary topics. Being an artist and having lots of artist-friends also helps.
What advice do you have for today’s undergraduate and graduate students regardless of their career aspirations?
Art history is a wonderful discipline capable of enriching human society. It is also a tough field for getting jobs and financial rewards. If one aspires to pursue this discipline as a career, one should, in addition to preparing oneself to become a good scholar/curator in public institutions, be open-minded and explore possibilities in the private sector, such as auction houses and galleries. Art history trains people to develop critical thinking, research skills, and visual acuity, which can be applied to many fields unrelated to art history.