Joan Stanley-Baker, (née Xu Xiaohu 徐小虎) is Eurasian by birth, multilingual and multicultural by upbringing, her primary schooling was in Rome and Chungking, junior high in Shanghai, and senior high school in Washington, D.C.. Her passion for the visual and performing arts were nurtured at Bennington College, followed by an introduction at Princeton University to art-historical investigative methodology. As mature student she gained her MLitt and DPhil at the University of Oxford with an in-depth investigation of the paintings and calligraphy ascribed to 14th century Chinese master Wu Zhen, overturning thirteen centuries of misattributions. She excavates the Master’s very few genuine works that have survived, and respectively dates the better known and more favoured later contributions whose acquired functional authenticity largely informs today’s gross misperceptions.
In 1987 when she took her degree at Oxford, she was Captain of Women of the OUGBC (Oxford University Graduate Boat Club), and also participated in the First World Trials of the three-tiered 171-oared Athenian Trireme in Poros, Greece.
She has taught Chinese and Japanese art history at the University of Melbourne, National Taiwan University, National TsingHua University and Tainan National University of the Arts of which she had been co-planner and founding professor at the Institute of Art History and Art Criticism. She served in museums and art centers in America, Canada and Taiwan, and was art critic and columnist in Tokyo, Japan (1967-71). As inaugural Curator of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia (1975-80) she organised with the help of Dr Kurata Kimihiro the museum-specific and conservation-centered Japanese design of the Asian Wing including storage, staging space, and Gallery for the then-largely Edo-Meiji period objects. She researched and published the Japanese art collections in comprehensive catalogues. She also fully staged contemporary art exhibitions introducing Canadian audiences to enduring Chinese and Japanese aesthetics. In Taiwan, as director of National Tsing Hua University Arts Center (1991-94), she created an international multi-media venue with a Boesendorfer grand piano for chamber-music, and produced 12 bilingual catalogues of contemporary art from Australia, Japan & China. In 1995 she designed the “Four Worlds of Alexander” Theme Park Project that won funding for the city of Thessaloniki as European Cultural Capital for the year 1997. With Oscar-winning StarWars designer Harry Lange, she prepared an inauguration exhibition for the National Museum of Natural Science, Taichung, a ten-gallery replication with ambient light and sound of “Life in Bronze Age Crete” highlighting Minoan Nature Consciousness as a beacon for the future of our Planet. Although the Smithsonian had offered to tour it across America through the SITES programme, the exhibition was never staged.
In archaeology, she introduced Tainan students (1999-2001) to Silk Route artefacts at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg with its collections from over 80-years of excavations across Eurasia. Her team joined excavations of the Inst. of Archaeology, Samarkand, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Paikend under Dr Grigory Semenov, then-Head of the Hermitage’s Oriental Department. She was named Mentor for the curator of the Arch Museum, Bukhara, in the Soros Program Mentor.
As educator, she has been highly critical of Taiwan’s ineffectual high school and university English-programs, once causing a major overhaul of English-teachers training. In the Hellenic Republic (1995) she was instrumental in outlining basic principles and teaching methods informing a creative theme-based and pupil-centered approach to foster the inner being. This has gained increasing popularity among Greek schools and has spread across Europe as the Melina Programme.
Her books include Japanese Art (1984, Thames and Hudson World of Art series with French, Taiwan, Spanish & Iranian editions), a cross-cultural monograph Transmission of Chinese Idealist Painting to Japan (University of Michigan 1993); her major methodological breakthrough, Old Masters Repainted. Wu Zhen (1290-1354) Prime Objects & Accretions (1995) was updated with annotations for its 2011 traditional Chinese edition 《被遺忘的真跡。吳鎮書畫重鑑》Artco Publishing Company 典藏家庭藝術有限公司, and in simplified characters by the BBT Press of 廣西師範大學出版社理想國 in 2012. Her new book revealing long-hidden insights into the essence of Chinese brushwork with connoisseur extraordinaire C. C. Wang, comes from the same publishers in 2013 as 《畫語錄》.