Noelle Giuffrida’s research focuses on Chinese art, particularly the history of collecting and exhibiting premodern works in American museums after World War II and the visual culture of Daoism in late imperial China. Her teaching and curatorial experience extend broadly both temporally—from Neolithic to contemporary—and cross-culturally to China, Korea, and Japan, as well as to South and Southeast Asia.
Her book Separating Sheep from Goats: Sherman E. Lee’s Collecting of Chinese Art in Postwar America (University of California Press, 2018) uses American curator and museum director Sherman E. Lee (1918–2008) as a lens through which to investigate the history of collecting and exhibiting Chinese art. Her study excavates the activities of an international society of collectors, dealers, curators, and scholars. Moreover, the book evaluates transnational efforts to collect and present Chinese art by multiple institutions, while also scrutinizing scholarly and museological discourses of the time.
Giuffrida’s object-oriented Daoist scholarship engages with materiality, pilgrimage, body, performance, and ritual. Her work has explored the performative dimensions of Zhenwu images, including bronze sculptures featuring episodes from the hagiography of the god that encouraged active, immersive experiences, allowing viewers to visually and imaginatively traverse Zhenwu’s sacred terrain in the Wudang mountains. Her research has also examined fourteenth through seventeenth century painted albums and woodblock-printed books featuring Zhenwu as well as the Daoist patriarchs Zhang Daoling, Lü Dongbin, and Xu Xun, elucidating the ways in which they participated in and evoked the material and immaterial realms of Daoist experience for viewers. Her recent research examines a priestly robe of descent, arguing that it operates as a material manifestation of communication and response between the wearer and Daoist thunder deities, thereby providing a visual and bodily connection between the priest and the forces he collaborates with to efficaciously intervene on behalf of a terrestrial community.
Recent curatorial projects include the reinstallation and reinterpretation of the Japanese collection at DOMA (2022) and the special exhibition Fibers of Being: Textiles from Asia in the David Owsley Museum of Art’s Collection (2023). Giuffrida earned a PhD in East Asian Art History from the University of Kansas, an MA in Asian Art History from the University of Wisconsin, and a BA in Asian Studies from Vassar College.
Selected Publications and Curated Exhibitions
Fibers of Being: Textiles from Asia in the David Owsley Museum of Art’s Collection. Special Exhibition. Ball State University, Muncie, IN, September–December 2023.
“Provenance Research on Chinese Paintings in American Collections of the 1950s: Sherman E. Lee, Walter Hochstadter, and the Cleveland Museum of Art” Journal of Art Market Studies 4, no. 2 (2020): 1-15.
Separating Sheep from Goats: Sherman E. Lee’s Collecting of Chinese Art in Postwar America. University of California Press, 2018.
“Ming Imperial Patronage of the Wudang Mountains and the Daoist God Zhenwu.” Royal Taste: The Art of Princely Courts in 15th Century China. Exhibition catalogue. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and Pacific Asia Museum. Scala, 2015: 49-54, 149-167, 208.
“The Right Stuff: Chinese Art Treasures’ Landing in Early 1960s America.” The Reception of Chinese Art Across Cultures, edited by Michelle Y. L. Huang. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014: 201-228.
“Paintings, Politesse, and Petromania: Sherman E. Lee and the Art and Archaeology Delegation Trip to China in 1973.” Archives of American Art Journal, Smithsonian Institution 52, no. 1-2 (Fall 2013): 34-42.
“Transcendence, Thunder, and Exorcism: Images of the Daoist Patriarch Zhang Daoling in Paintings and Prints.” On Telling Images of China: Essays on Narrative and Figure Painting, edited by Shane McCausland and Yin Hwang. Hong Kong University Press, 2013: 61-88.