Ja Won Lee Faculty Profile

Photo of Ja Won Lee

Ja Won  Lee

Assistant Professor

Department of Art

Ja Won Lee specializes in the art and visual culture of Chosŏn Korea (1392-1910). Her teachings and research interests include art collecting, antiquarianism, and cross-cultural exchange between Asia and Euro-America. She teaches on a wide range of topics in the history of Asian art and visual culture, including collecting and display of Korean art in the West, global modernism, the role of female artists and patrons, visual and material culture of empire and colonialism, Asian American art and culture, cultural exchanges through the Silk Road, and the issue of connoisseurship and conservation. In her article, “Collecting Culture, Representing the Self: Chosŏn Portraits of Collectors of Chinese Antiquities,” she examines how a trend in collecting Chinese antiquities had an impact on the developments of portraiture in nineteenth-century Korea. Her work has been supported by numerous institutions and foundations, including Columbia University’s Mary Griggs Burke Center for Japanese Art, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies, Japan Foundation, UCLA Asia Pacific Center, and Harvard-Yenching Institute.


Trained in ink painting, calligraphy, seal carving, fashion design, and art history, Ja Won Lee received her BFA and MA from Seoul National University and her PhD from UCLA. Prior to joining Cal State East Bay, she has taught at Columbia University, UCLA, and the University of Hong Kong. She was also a Mary Griggs Burke Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University (2018-2019) and a Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2016-2017), and worked on Asian art exhibitions and conservation at the Frankfurt Museum for Applied Art in Germany, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, and Seoul National University Museum of Art in Korea.

Ja Won Lee is currently at work on a monograph, Crossing Cultures: Collecting and Representing Chinese Antiquities in Korea, which centers on antiquarianism and transcultural movements of Korea. 

  • PhD in Art History, University of California, Los Angeles
  • MA in Art Theory, Seoul National University
  • BFA in Korean Painting and BS in Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design, Seoul National University

Not teaching this semester.

2023. “Visualizing ‘National Art’: O Sech’ang’s Art Collection and Connoisseurship against Japanese Colonialism,” The Art Bulletin 105.4: 116–133. Refereed

2018. “Collecting Culture, Representing the Self: Chosŏn Portraits of Collectors of Chinese Antiquities,” Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 31: 1–20. Refereed

2017. “Der Antiken-Stellschirm des Museums für Völkerkunde Hamburg [Screens of Antiquities in the Museum of Ethnography in Hamburg],” in Uri Korea: Kunsthistorische und ethnografische Beiträge zur Ausstellung, edited by Susanne Knödel and Bernd Schmelz, 296–313. Hamburg: Museum für Völkerkunde of Hamburg.

'Cultural Encounter: Embroideries, Chinese Antiquities, and Royal Court Women in Late Chosŏn Korea.' Korean Art and Gender Conference, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, September 2023 

'Picturing Culture: The Role of Chinese Illustrated Catalogs in Nineteenth-Century Korean Arts and Visual Culture.' Annual Conference of College Art Association (CAA), New York, NY, February 2023

'Beyond Boundaries: Chinese Objects in Korean Screens of Antiquities.' Annual Conference of College Art Association (CAA), February 2021 (Virtual Conference).

‘Chinese Bronzes in Korean Ch’aekkŏri Screens.’ The Institute of Fine Arts, New York, June 2019.

‘Tansaekhwa: Convention and Challenge in Contemporary Korean Art.’ Korean Cultural Center in Hong Kong, March 2018.

‘The Life of Things: Collecting and Illustrating Chinese Bronzes in Korea.’ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, April 2017.

Faculty Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Grant, CSU East Bay, 2022–2023           

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Mary Griggs Burke Center for Japanese Art, Columbia University, 2018–2019               

Taiwan Studies Fellowship, Asia Pacific Center, UCLA, 2017–2018          

Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellowship, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016–2017              

Research Travel Grant, Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, 2016   

Mellon Pre-dissertation Fellowship, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2015–2016                              

Edward A. Dickson History of Art Fellowship, Department of Art History, UCLA, 2014–2016      

International Institute Fieldwork Fellowship, UCLA, 2014