USC Pacific Asia Museum Curator Rebecca Hall, Shares Her Favorite Pieces

After a yearlong closure, the USC Pacific Asia Museum has reopened its doors—just in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

After a yearlong closure, the USC Pacific Asia Museum (PAM, has reopened its doors—just in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Rebecca Hall, who received her PhD from UCLA in Southeast Asian art history, has been a curator at the museum since 2018, overseeing exhibitions on Asian textiles and contemporary art, including the recent We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles, and the upcoming anniversary exhibition Intervention: Artists’ Perspectives for a New PAM. In between visits to the region’s top cultural institutions, the Echo Park resident spends her time hiking in the Angeles National Forest above Pasadena.

USC PAM is working to build our contemporary art collection, and while I admit I am biased, I think my favorite contemporary artwork is a print by Yu Youhan called Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Home So Modern and So Appealing? (2002) at USC PAM, though not currently on display, that comments on the wealth and power of the Communist party in the People’s Republic of China.

A not-so-contemporary favorite artwork is Crowned Buddha from the Shan States in Myanmar, part of USC PAM’s permanent collection. I love Buddha images from the Shan States, a region of Myanmar that borders Northern Thailand and has many cultural connections to the areas where I have spent time doing research.

In addition to USC PAM’s fantastic works, another favorite artwork of mine is Railing Pillar: The Great Departure of Siddhartha, at Norton Simon. The pillar dates to the first century BCE. We are very lucky to have access to such incredible works of art from such an early time period.

Photo Credits: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical GardensThe Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens has really beautiful landscape art, and, as the name suggests, beautiful opportunities to see and enjoy nature! The newly expanded Chinese gardens at the Huntington are both well thought out and impeccably made, with great attention to the details required for a true Chinese garden.

Outside of museum walls, my favorite public art is Memorial Park Station’s art installation by artist John Valdez that pays homage to indigenous artists whose ancient pictures and carvings have been discovered throughout Southern California.

Norton Simon MuseumPasadena is a great city that has amazing arts institutions in relatively close proximity to each other. My top three places to see art in the area are: Armory Center for the Arts, which always has excellent exhibitions. Norton Simon Museum—I always go straight to the lower floor of this museum to view the art from South and Southeast Asia because the museum has an outstanding collection that I never tire of admiring. And, of course, USC PAM does a great job of presenting art from across Asia and the Pacific Islands.

One of my favorite local artists is Phung Huynh. She lives in South Pasadena and her work was on view at USC PAM. Her work is quite phenomenal in the ways that she highlights Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences and empowers her community.

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