The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery Presents “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands”


The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will present “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands,” the first retrospective of the artist’s portraiture and the first major presentation of her work on the East Coast. Featuring more than 50 paintings, photographs and drawings, the Portrait Gallery’s exhibition will examine the powerful art of Hung Liu (1948–2021), from her earliest photographs and drawings made in the early 1970s to her recent large-scale paintings. Liu, who was born in Changchun, China, experienced political revolution, exile, and displacement before immigrating to the United States in 1984.

Liu’s “portraits of promised lands” represent her family members as well as anonymous subjects. Over the course of five decades, she portrayed refugees, women soldiers, migrant laborers, sex workers, orphaned children, and other overlooked individuals, whom she described as lost souls or “spirit-ghosts.” Liu reimagined their stories and honored them with her brush.

“Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands,” curated by Dorothy Moss, the National Portrait Gallery’s curator of painting and sculpture, is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story.” The exhibition’s richly illustrated catalog, is published by the National Portrait Gallery in association with Yale University Press.

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