Paper Tigers Prowl the Brooklyn Museum


Fay Ku, a New York-based artist and current Keyholder Resident at the Lower Eastside Printshop created this very compelling temporary installation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art for their annual Artist’s Ball fundraiser. The one night event, which took place on the 18th of last month, was a gala extravaganza over-flowing with New York’s glitterati. Glamourous- yes. Amazing exposure- yes. Ideal installation situation- hmm.. I can’t imagine so. When asked about the project, Fay Ku had this to say,

 [T]his Brooklyn Museum project was daunting in its limitations and challenges: to create a 40-foot long table environment where nothing can be hung from the ceilings, and no holes can be drilled into either the table or through the table cloth.  Also, I had one day to install.  My own work is more often meticulous, unique large scale drawings, and the challenge was to not only create three-dimensional self-standing objects .. but also the scale of the project.. Luckily, I was a Keyholder Resident at the LES Printshop, so I had the ability to use printmaking as a tool, and I knew the resources to create two-dimensional prints quickly- which would prove to be a great asset.


The artist installing her paper army.

Like many great artists before her, Kay Fu took the intrinsic constraints as a challenge, while, the concept of the paper tigers, evolved from a more personal investigation,

The idea for the project had actually been in my mind for several years.  I am born in the year of the tiger, and with my family, I am constantly referred to as a tiger, (but because I grew up mostly among non-Chinese, I didn’t take this for granted as much, perhaps, if I had stayed in Taiwan where the reference to zodiac animals is much more commonplace).  So, when my mother, being angry with me, called me a paper tiger, it was an image that stayed with me.  Also, the rituals surrounding ancestory worship, which are because of my personal circumstances both familiar and exotic, are something that appeals to me.  [In these rituals] Not only is paper money, or joss paper, burned, but replicas of houses, cars, etc., are created and then burned.  When I thinking about the Xi’an terracotta army, a necropolis meant to supply the first emperor with an army for the after life, the ideas of the paper tiger and the terracotta army combined in my imagination.

This collage of the historical, cultural, and personal came together brilliantly in Fay Ku’s hands. For this kind of pop-up exhibition her work carries the gravitas of history (both of the works cultural signifiers, but also of the labor of it’s making), as well as a playful lightness of wordplay.


To see more images of this installation and read more about this exciting new artist follow the jump. 




When asked about her experience working with print on this project, and why a hand-printing process appealed to her, Fay Ku had this to say,

 Printmaking is a new medium for me, so I knew that I could not rely on my skills to create perfect prints, and the budget limit also prevented unlimited paper and attempts.  But, with the terracotta army in mind (where the faces are uniquely hand-molded), I knew that even the inconsistencies in the hand-printing, hand-cuting and hand-assembling, would enhance the overall complexity; the differences among the tigers would be noticed in conversation with the total effect of the group seen together.  Originally I wanted 100 tigers, but during the installation process, I realized 54 had the best visual impact in the space allotted for the installation.  I am still looking for another venue to display the complete 100.

So are we!

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Categories: Artwork, Current Events

2 Responses to “Paper Tigers Prowl the Brooklyn Museum”

  1. Courtney says:

    These tigers are fabulous, and relate to my own work with animal multiples with printmaking.

  2. Very nice! Fay and I went to grad school together. It is great to see print making its way back into her work.