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Harvard Art Museums Receive Million Dollar Gift to Establish the Nam June Paik Fellowship

Cambridge, MA,

Gift will advance scholarship about Nam June Paik and his influence on contemporary art

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The Harvard Art Museums have received a $1 million gift from Harvard Business School alumnus Ken Hakuta (M.B.A. ’77) to establish the Hakuta Family Endowment Fund, enabling the creation of the Nam June Paik Fellowship at the Harvard Art Museums. Hakuta is the nephew of major mid-20th-century artist Nam June Paik, a pioneer in video art.

The two-year fellowship will expand knowledge about the artist, his work, and influences. The scholarship and research undertaken by Nam June Paik Fellows will examine Paik’s pivotal contributions to the ideas and language of visual expression and how they profoundly influenced generations of artists worldwide, including Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus group, with whom the artist engaged deeply and whose work is strongly represented in the Harvard Art Museums collections. The gift also includes approximately ten works of art by Paik, making the museums an important repository of his work for exhibition, study, and research. These works, together with the museums’ rich holdings of works by Beuys and the Fluxus group, will foster new curatorial, educational, and conservation perspectives on artists from the 1960s.

“Ken Hakuta is dedicated to the legacy of his uncle, Nam June Paik, and the important contributions he made to contemporary art. Ken’s generous support will lead to groundbreaking scholarship that will benefit students and scholars around the world,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “This transformative gift also strengthens our ongoing commitment to rigorous, original scholarship—an integral component of our teaching, learning, and research mission.”

“Nam June Paik was a real renaissance man. He was a global thinker, media visionary, composer, writer, video artist, painter, sculptor, performer, engineer, television producer, and much more; the research topics on Paik, including the conservation of Paik video art, are limitless,” said Ken Hakuta. “I could not be more pleased that the Harvard Art Museums will be the center of Nam June Paik research for generations to come, working with other institutions globally with an interest in Paik and, most importantly, educating the next generation of scholars.”

The works by Paik will be exhibited in multiple locations and contexts in the Harvard Art Museums’ facility. They will support the curriculum and will actively be used for teaching in spaces ranging from the Art Study Center, to the Collections Galleries, to the Special Exhibition and University Galleries. Research will also extend to the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, focusing on the Nam June Paik works and other contemporary art objects that shed light on Paik’s concerns and influences, including works from the Beuys and Fluxus collections.

Through this gift, the Harvard Art Museums join a select group of institutions in which Paik’s work is studied and exhibited; others include London’s Tate Modern, the Smithsonian American Art Museum which is the home of the Nam June Paik Archive, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, National Gallery Berlin, Kunsthalle Bremen, Museum Kunstpalast in Dusseldorf, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wein, and 21er Haus in Vienna.

“Nam June Paik was a profoundly daring artist who led the way for so much of what we consider contemporary art today,” said Mary Schneider Enriquez, the Houghton Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Harvard Art Museums. “Now we have the opportunity to learn more about this pioneering artist, his ideas mixing music, performance, installation, sound and video, his process and influences, as well as the conservation challenges his works present.”

Nam June Paik (1932–2006) was a leading figure in mid-20th-century art, and his pivotal contributions to the ideas and language of visual expression are achievements that have profoundly influenced generations of artists worldwide. Internationally recognized as the “father of video art,” he created a large body of work including video sculptures, installations, performances, videotapes, and television productions.

Born in 1932 in Seoul, Korea, to a wealthy industrial family, Paik and his family fled Korea in 1950 at the outset of the Korean War, going first to Hong Kong and then to Japan. Paik graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956, before traveling to Germany to pursue his interest in avant-garde music, composition, and performance. There he met John Cage and George Maciunas and became a member of the neo-Dada Fluxus movement. In 1963, Paik had his legendary solo exhibition at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany; the show featured his prepared television sets, which radically altered the look and content of television.

After immigrating to the United States in 1964, he settled in New York City, where he expanded his engagement with video and television, and had exhibitions of his work at the New School, Galerie Bonino, and the Howard Wise Gallery. In 1965, Paik was one of the first artists to use a portable video camcorder. In 1969, he worked with Japanese engineer Shuya Abe to construct an early video-synthesizer that allowed Paik to combine and manipulate images from different sources. The Paik-Abe video synthesizer transformed electronic moving-image making. Paik invented a new artistic medium with television and video, creating an astonishing range of artwork, from his seminal videotape Global Groove (1973); to his sculptures TV Cello (1971) and TV Buddha (1974); to installations such as TV Garden (1974), Video Fish (1975), and Fin de Siecle II (1989); to videotapes Guadalcanal Requiem (1977/79) and Living with the Living Theatre (1989); to global satellite television productions such as Good Morning Mr. Orwell, which was broadcast from the Centre Pompidou in Paris and a WNET-TV studio in New York City on January 1, 1984.

Paik has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including two major retrospectives, and has been featured in major international art exhibitions including Documenta, the Venice Biennale, and the Whitney Biennial.

About the Harvard Art Museums
The Harvard Art Museums, among the world’s leading art institutions, comprise three museums (the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler Museums) and four research centers (the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, the Harvard Art Museums Archives, and the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis). The Fogg Museum includes Western art from the Middle Ages to the present; the Busch-Reisinger Museum, unique among North American museums, is dedicated to the study of all modes and periods of art from central and northern Europe, with an emphasis on German-speaking countries; and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum is focused on Asian, ancient, and Islamic and later Indian art. Together, the collections include approximately 250,000 objects in all media. The Harvard Art Museums are distinguished by the range and depth of their collections, their groundbreaking exhibitions, and the original research of their staff. Integral to Harvard University and the wider community, the museums and research centers serve as resources for students, scholars, and the public. For more than a century they have been the nation’s premier training ground for museum professionals and are renowned for their seminal role in developing the discipline of art history in the United States.

The Harvard Art Museums’ renovation and expansion, completed in 2014, builds on the legacies of the three museums and unites their remarkable collections under one roof for the first time. Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s responsive design preserved the Fogg Museum’s landmark 1927 facility, while transforming the space to accommodate 21st-century needs. Following a six-year building project, the museums now feature 40 percent more gallery space, an expanded Art Study Center, conservation labs, and classrooms, and a striking new glass roof that bridges the facility’s historic and contemporary architecture. The new Harvard Art Museums’ building is more functional, accessible, spacious, and above all, more transparent. The three constituent museums retain their distinct identities in this new facility, yet their close proximity provides exciting opportunities to experience works of art in a broader context.

Exhibitions, Events, and News
Our Special Exhibitions Gallery presents important new research on artists and artistic practice, and our University Galleries are programmed in consultation with Harvard faculty to support coursework. Visit the Exhibitions page for information on current and upcoming installations. Visit the museums’ Calendar to learn more about lectures, workshops, films, performances, special events, and other programs that are held throughout the year. Check out Index, our multimedia magazine, to keep up with what’s happening at the Harvard Art Museums.

The Harvard Art Museums receive support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

For more information, please contact:
Lauren Marshall
Associate Director of Communications
Harvard Art Museums

Jennifer Aubin
Public Relations Manager
Harvard Art Museums