Hao Sheng belongs to a new generation of curators whose bi-cultural fluency is bringing a fresh approach to the interpretation of culture-specific collections for the museum-going public in the United States. Sheng joined the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), in 2004 as the Assistant Curator of Chinese Art, and was named Wu Tung Curator of Chinese Art in 2007.
Born in Shanghai, Sheng arrived in the United States at the age of 18 as an exchange student at the Sidwell Friends High School in Washington, DC. He studied physics at the College of Wooster, Ohio, but soon switched to studio arts and art history, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in architectural history. With the support of a Watson Fellowship, Sheng traveled to Japan for three years, apprenticing to the late master potter Shimaoka Tatsuzo in the rural village of Mashiko. He returned to the US and in 2002 received his Master of Arts in Chinese art history from Harvard University, where he is a Ph.D. candidate.
Sheng is curator for Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition,a groundbreaking exhibition at the MFA. He has chosen 10 leading artists from China and the Chinese diaspora who will present new works that they created in direct response to masterpieces in the Museum’s world-renowned collection. Set to open November 20, 2010, as the inaugural exhibition for the new Ann and Graham Gund Gallery, Fresh Ink will juxtapose the new works with the masterpieces to which they refer. Sheng is also the curator for the Museum’s exhibition Chinese Master Paintings from the Collection, which highlights 21 of the most important Chinese paintings in existence, selected from the MFA’s collection. Debuting on September 4, 2010, it showcases landscape, figure, bird-and-flower, and narrative painting traditions in Chinese art and serves as complement to Fresh Ink.
During his tenure at the MFA, Sheng has curated a series of well-received exhibitions including Through Six Generations: The Weng Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy (2007), which highlighted one of the greatest private collections of Chinese art in the United States. The exhibition subsequently traveled to the Millennium Museum in Beijing, and to the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA, where it was ranked by the Los Angeles Times as one of the 10 most fascinating museum exhibitions of 2009. Other exhibitions organized by Sheng at the MFA include Gentlemen of Suzhou (2007–2008), Understanding the Master: Dong Qichang and his Circle(2006–2007), Laughing Buddha and Dancing Immortals: Gods of Chinese Popular Religion (2005–2006), and Worlds within Reach: Scholar’s Rocks and Landscapes of Escape(2005). In addition, in 2004 he organized Connoisseur’s Choices: The Bernat and Hoyt Collections of Chinese Ceramics, a permanent installation at the MFA.
Sheng’s responsibilities include overseeing the care and documentation of the MFA’s collection of Chinese art, including painting, calligraphy, ceramics, bronze, textiles, stone sculpture, jade, and lacquer; researching and recommending acquisitions; and collaborating with other institutions on loan exhibitions both at home and abroad. Sheng has also been committed to sharing the MFA’s masterpieces with the local Chinese community in Boston.