Nov. 15, 2021

Black and white photo portrait of Sol JungThe Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art has named Sol Jung the inaugural Shirley Z. Johnson Assistant Curator of Japanese Art. Jung was appointed to this role in September 2021. The position is made possible by a landmark bequest from the late Shirley Z. Johnson, a pioneering collector, friend and trustee of the museum, distinguished attorney and philanthropist. The largest single gift to the museum since its founding, the bequest enables the museum to deepen the study of Japanese art, especially ceramics and metalwork, and to educate the public through new initiatives.

In this role, Jung stewards the museum’s collection of pre-modern, modern and contemporary ceramics, lacquer ware and metalwork, which together number over 3,000 works. Jung also collaborates with the curatorial team and across departments to contribute significantly to the museum’s Japan-related initiatives. As the museum prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2023 and embark on its next 100 years, Jung will play an important role in highlighting Japanese objects and their connections across cultures.

“Colleagues and I are excited that Sol Jung has joined our curatorial team,” said Chase F. Robinson, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the museum. “Her perspective and contributions will strengthen our voice at a time of great opportunity for the museum as we approach our centennial.”

“I am delighted to join the National Museum of Asian Art during such an exciting time as we approach its centennial,” Jung said. “I am grateful for the late Shirley Z. Johnson’s visionary gift, which supports the museum’s continued commitment to preserving and studying Japanese objects. I am especially honored to continue Ms. Johnson’s initiative to promote research on modern and contemporary Japanese metalwork. I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand our understanding of Japanese objects in relation to the greater context of Asian art history and culture.”

Jung specializes in Japanese art history with a focus on how transnational maritime trade affected Japan’s visual culture during the premodern period. Jung received her Bachelor of Arts with distinction in the history of art at the University of Pennsylvania and her Master of Arts in art and archaeology from Princeton University, where she successfully defended her doctoral degree at the end of October. Jung curated Princeton University Art Museum’s first thematic exhibition of Korean ceramics entitled “Korean Ceramics: From Archaeology to Art History.” She has examined the reception of Korean tea bowls, called kōrai jawan in Japan, during the 16th century. Fieldwork at several maritime settlement sites in Japan and analysis of period tea documents, literary texts and archaeological remains have informed her research, which has been supported by the Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies and the Kyujanggak International Center for Korean Studies.

About the Museum’s Strength in Japanese Art

The Japanese art program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is the first and largest interdisciplinary program outside of Japan focused on Japanese art, film and culture. It is devoted to researching, exhibiting, publishing and promoting the arts and culture of Japan from pre-history to the present, nationally and internationally. The museum’s collection of more than 12,000 objects from Japan spans four millennia and includes paintings, ceramics, metalwork, sculpture, lacquer and modern and contemporary photography and graphic arts. The program is overseen by an interdepartmental team of Japanese specialists, including curators, conservators and a curator of films who presents a robust series of Japanese films.

About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, are located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Committed to preserving, exhibiting and interpreting exemplary works of art, the museum houses exceptional collections of Asian art, with more than 45,000 objects dating from the Neolithic period to today. Renowned and iconic objects originate from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, the ancient Near East and the Islamic world. The Freer Gallery also holds a significant group of American works of art largely dating to the late 19th century. It boasts the world’s largest collection of diverse works by James McNeill Whistler, including the famed Peacock Room. The National Museum of Asian Art is dedicated to increasing understanding of the arts of Asia through a broad portfolio of exhibitions, publications, conservation, research and education.