Het Nieuwe Instituut, the institute for architecture, design and digital culture in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is pleased to announce the appointment of Aric Chen as its new General and Artistic Director. Chen will assume the post remotely on 1 May before relocating full-time to Rotterdam on 1 September 2021. He joins Josien Paulides, Business Director, on the institute’s Board of Directors and will succeed current General and Artistic Director Guus Beumer, who will retire in May.

“Het Nieuwe Instituut is a young institution with a long history – one that I’ve greatly admired over the years,” says Chen. “It’s an enormous privilege to have this chance to build on the ground-breaking, pioneering work that the institute and its staff have done, and to draw on the many well-known strengths of the Dutch cultural and creative communities and their extensive international links in tackling critical questions about our pasts, presents and futures.”

Judith van Kranendonk, Chair of Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Supervisory Board, is delighted with the appointment: “We highly value the extensive knowledge, experience and international reputation of Aric Chen in the fields of architecture, design and digital culture,” she says. “In addition, his international, intercultural profile aligns with the internationalisation and interculturalisation of the fields that Het Nieuwe Instituut represents.” Van Kranendonk adds: “We are looking forward to the institute’s next steps and ongoing successful development. He and Josien Paulides will make a winning team.”

Josien Paulides, Business Director, says: “Since its establishment in 2013 and thanks to the leadership of Guus Beumer, Het Nieuwe Instituut has built a solid foundation and developed an innovative interdisciplinary working way. Earlier this year, it was rewarded with the status of a national heritage institution, with a positively received policy plan. This plan provides the framework for interweaving the institute's working method and continuing to develop a socially critical program based on knowledge about the national collection for architecture and urban planning. With this strong footing, we look forward to the exciting new directions ahead of us with Aric Chen.”

Aric Chen

Born and raised in the United States, and currently based in Shanghai, Chen is a curator, professor, writer and creative director who has served in multiple leadership roles. He comes to the institute with extensive international experience working within both historical and contemporary frameworks across the architecture and design fields and their intersections with other disciplines. His recent exhibitions include the current X is Not a Small Country: Unravelling the Post-Global Era, which opened 5 April at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (maat) in Lisbon; State of Extremes (2019-2020) at the Design Museum Holon in Israel; and Arata Isozaki: Third Space (2019) at the Oita Art Museum in Japan.

Currently, Chen serves as Professor and founding Director of the Curatorial Lab at the College of Design & Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai, where he and his team have worked to re-centre design histories while investigating evolving curatorial strategies within the context of contemporary China. He also serves as Curatorial Director of the Design Miami fairs in Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach, USA, where he has brought exhibitions and conversations around post-nature design and American identities into the fair.

From 2012 to 2019, Chen was the first Lead Curator for Design and Architecture, and later Curator At Large, at M+, the 65,000-square-metre, Herzog & de Meuron-designed museum for visual culture opening this year in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District. In this role, he oversaw the formation of the museum’s design and architecture team, programme, and permanent collection, including the acquisition of nearly 2,000 objects and over 20,000 archival items, among them the interior and façade of Shiro Kuromata’s Kiyotomo sushi bar (1988, Tokyo) and the Archigram Archive.

In addition to helping relaunch Beijing Design Week as its first Creative Director in 2011-2012, Chen has served on numerous boards and juries, and as adviser to the UABB Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, Gwangju Design Biennale, Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial (New York), and London Design Biennial. He is author of the book Brazil Modern (Monacelli, 2016), and as a journalist and critic previously based in New York, he was a frequent contributor to publications including The New York Times, Metropolis, Architectural Record, Wallpaper* and Fantastic Man, while serving as Contributing Editor to Dutch, Surface, I.D., Fast Company and other magazines.

Appointment Details

Chen will join Het Nieuwe Instituut for one day a week from 1 May. He will move to Rotterdam and start full-time from 1 September 2021. As part of his transition to Het Nieuwe Instituut, he will complete his current term as Curatorial Director of Design Miami in November 2021, while his involvement in the Curatorial Lab at the College of Design & Innovation at Tongji University, Shanghai, will continue through spring 2022.

Het Nieuwe Instituut

Het Nieuwe Instituut (“The New Institute”) is the institute of architecture, design and digital culture based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Through its exhibitions, programmes, research and wide-reaching national and international collaborations, the institute engages thinkers, designers, makers and diverse audiences to critically reflect on the urgent issues confronting both how we interpret the past, and the ways in which we will enact the future. Established in 2013 from the merger of three predecessor organizations— the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Premsela and Virtueel Platform—the institute manages the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning and commissions the Dutch contributions to international biennials, including the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.