January 2, 2024 San Francisco — This New Year, the Asian Art Museum opens RAD, a Research And Development laboratory for engineers, designers, and other leaders from the world of gaming to prototype hardware for a major original exhibition from visionary game artist Jenova Chen (coming in Spring of 2025). Through a thought-provoking mix of behind-the-scenes workshops and public demonstrations, the haptic device being tested via the RAD platform will enable audiences attending Chen’s 2025 exhibition to interact directly with the rich sensory experiences of his newest immersive world.
Part atelier, part salon, and part gamer space, RAD allows the Asian Art Museum to investigate and deploy cutting-edge technology in real time. Its unorthodox, non-object-based format is driven by the museum’s novel collaboration with Chen and his studio thatgamecompany, the group behind award-winning global megahits like Flow, Flower, Journey, and Sky: Children of the Light. Chen’s designs and gameplay have revolutionized the game world using what the museum’s head of contemporary art, Abby Chen, calls a “new, unique, often beautiful aesthetic language.” Building on interface testing conducted during RAD’s runtime, Chen’s 2025 exhibition at the Asian Art Museum will be the first of its kind to frame the emotional experience of gaming (as opposed to design, hardware, or visuals alone) as art.
Opening January 18, 2024, RAD will occupy the Doris and Theodore Bo Lee Gallery on the museum’s ground floor. The gallery will initially be accessible and facilitated only at select times monthly, though visitors will be welcome to observe and discuss output from RAD experiments via online channels (see museum website for details). The public will also be invited to attend monthly programs showcasing the eclectic, multidisciplinary creativity of the Bay Area’s art/tech community. As more research takes place and developments progress, RAD’s open hours and public components will evolve, generating a feedback loop of creative discovery among game creators, game enthusiasts, and audiences curious to learn more about the connection between one of the most popular social activities in the world and the aesthetic traditions more typically associated with the Asian Art Museum. The first public program is also scheduled for January 18, 2024.
“I’m a gamer, and RAD gets at what I love most about encountering a great game, like the freedom to roam, to develop new skills, or to get a glimpse inside someone else’s dreams. It’s inspiring to have this kind of platform — one might even say playground — to explore at the Asian Art Museum,” says Cheng Xu, the museum’s new curator of technology and the organizer of RAD. “Digital arts and their hardware counterparts are like the craft traditions of the 21st century. We use them every day, and they connect us, making our lives not only easier, but fuller and more interesting.”
From teamLab (2021) to Kongkee (2022) to Takashi Murakami (2023), the Asian Art Museum has been sharing experience-centric blockbuster exhibitions from some of Asia’s most important artists working in, or drawing inspiration from, the digital realm. An addition to this portfolio, the RAD laboratory helps pave the way for the incomparable experience of stepping into a real-life “game” in 2025.
“RAD is a chance to turn the museum inside out for our audiences,” says Jay Xu, the Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum. “Much of our work at the museum is informed by community collaboration, and now visitors can see that process unfold — tracing how fresh technologies become new tools for learning, connecting with each other, and having fun! These are some of the core values of our museum and I’m thrilled to open our galleries up to innovative creators working at the forefront of one of San Francisco’s — and the Bay Area’s — most exciting and impactful industries.”
About the Asian Art Museum
Located in the heart of San Francisco, the museum is home to one of the world’s finest collections of Asian art, with more than 20,000 awe-inspiring artworks ranging from ancient jades and ceramics to contemporary video installations. Dynamic special exhibitions, cultural celebrations and public programs for all ages provide rich art experiences that unlock the past and spark questions about the future.