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Karen Wong, Deputy Director of the New Museum, gives us a tour of the NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star exhibition.


Karen Wong

Current location

Bowery, NYC

Where were you born?

Queens, NYC – moved South and grew up
as a Tar Heel


Deputy Director, New Museum

5 words that best describe you

Workaholic, foodie, cheerleader, culture junkie, negotiator

What are you working on these days?

Ideas City Festival, NYC 1993, an exhibition to open in mid February at the New Museum, our Spring Gala, a weekly article for and a secret project.

Tell us a bit about the Ideas City Festival:

It’s a biennial event that will take place from May 1-4, 2013 in downtown NYC. We’ve created a platform for hundreds of partners to think out loud and reshape the city. We believe that culture is essential to the vitality of a city and a valuable economic engine. The festival is a sophisticated way of crowdsourcing for new ideas and we are focused this year on what is the untapped capital in our city?

What new artists are you excited about right now?

Tauba Auerbach, Canyon Castator, Klara Liden, Haroon Mirza, Takeshi Murata

What is the most challenging part of working for a cultural institution?

Finding ways to make contemporary art relevant to a larger audience.

What is the most gratifying?

Talented, keep-you-on-your-toes colleagues

Recent favorite film(s)?
  • A Brighter Summer Day directed by Edward Yang
  • Festen directed by Thomas Vinterberg
  • The Lives of Others directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
  • White Ribbon directed by Michael Haneke
Do you collect anything?

I barter my design services for artwork; I collect mid-century candle holders, artist designed skateboards and vintage dresses

Top 3 pop culture encounters thus far:
  • 1. At the New Museum’s George Condo opening, Kanye West approaches me and looks down, “Love your sneakers. Wow. Are they Isabel Marant?”
  • 2. I gave a one-on-one Sunday afternoon tour of Skin Fruit for Bono, and as we say our goodbyes, he gives me a big bear hug.
  • 3. After attending the US Premiere of Bamboo Blues at BAM, I went to nearby bistro and the choreographer Pina Bausch sits down at the table next to me. I am enthralled and unable to muster the nerve to pay my respects. She passes the following year.

What’s your idea of the perfect NY day?

Breakfast in my hood (Miles End in Boerum Hill), gallery and museum hopping in Manhattan, early dinner in Queens Chinatown, a New Wave Festival event at BAM and a late night Japanese whiskey at Char No. 4.

How do you relax?

Cooking for friends, playing doubles (tennis or ping pong), watching Knicks game at MSG

If you were stranded on a desert island and could have one object, what would it be?

A solar-powered iPad loaded with music and books

3 things on your life-long to-do list:

Visit Brasilia
Pen a book of short stories
Work for a U.S. President who inspires me

What does style mean to you?

Being yourself with flair

Strangest thing inside your handbag?

Shocking pink octopus key chain by MZ Wallace



What are you listening to these days?

The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by J.S. Bach, Explosions in the Sky, Animal Collective

What qualities in others do you most admire?

Passion for his/her vocation and loyalty

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Aung San Suu Kyi