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Fiona Tan: Inventory - Study Day

Philadelphia Museum of Art; Moore College of Art & Design; History of Art Department of the University of Pennsylvania

Saturday, March 29, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (PDT)

Fiona Tan: Inventory - Study Day

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Fiona Tan’s Inventory opens up onto multiple lines of inquiry. Bellow are a list of possible questions to consider for discussion:

  •  Fiona Tan asks two important questions in the catalog for Inventory: “Why collect?  Why surround oneself with dead inanimate objects?”  Does Inventory provoke answers to these questions for you?
  • To what end is Tan employing various media, and how might this reflect upon the different temporalities of material culture in Inventory?
  • How is the viewing experience of Inventory different from a walk through of a collection of Antique art in a museum?  What are your responses to (or interpretations of) these differences?
  • Is there a human presence in Inventory? If so, where? Does Inventory figure mortality and obsolescence through the representation of the body? And how does this relate to the work’s media and content?
  • Can Tan’s work be considered an artistic portrait of Sir John Soane? Could it function as a portrait of something else as well?  What, if any, problems arise when considering Inventory from these perspectives?
  • What type of archive does Inventory build in relation to Soane’s own personal and idiosyncratic collage of original objects and copies?
  • How does Inventory explore and challenge the institutional framework of museums and their collecting practices? Does the site-specificity of immersive museum spaces that frame the viewing experience come into question here?
  • How can a trans-historical and cross-cultural approach be applied to a work of contemporary art like Inventory? How do different temporal and spatial planes converge in Inventory?
  • Does Fiona Tan’s work in general, and Inventory in particular, provide unique display strategies that shape the viewer’s experience within the gallery space?
  • Do any of the following themes relate to your experience of Inventory? Where, and how and/or why?
    • Memory
    • Intimacy
    • The Gaze
    • Detail
    • History
    • Time
    • Mortality
    • Fragmentation
    • Authenticity – original vs. copy

In addition to thinking about these questions, you may want to consult the following links:

  • Artist website:
  • Articles and essays on Tan's work: (
  • Tan’s previous work generously provided by the artist: please click on this Vimeo link: and enter the password pijfw-0. The Vimeo link is to be used for the study day purposes only. Please do not forward or share this link to the press or general public.
  • The Soane Museum website is also an excellent resource ( 
  • A text by curator Adelina Vlas titled Re-Imagining the Past addresses the relationship between Inventory and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Please see attachment in email. 

If you need transportation assistance from the Perelman Building to Moore College of Art & Design, please email Charlotte Ickes ( 

When & Where

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perelman Building / Moore College of Art & Design, Great Hall
Perelman: 2525 Pennsylvania Avenue, Philadelphia
Moore: 1916 Race Street, Philadelphia

Saturday, March 29, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (PDT)

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Philadelphia Museum of Art; Moore College of Art & Design; History of Art Department of the University of Pennsylvania

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