people / graduate students / Winnie Wong

graduate students

Winnie Wong

PhD (History & Theory of Art), MIT
Assistant Professor
7309 Dwinelle
W 3-4
Research Interests
Labor and Creativity
Contemporary Art
Intellectual Property
China Studies
Consumer Cultures



My research is concerned with the history and present of artistic authorship, with a focus on interactions between China and the West. My theoretical interests revolve around the critical distinctions of high and low, true and fake, art and commodity, originality and imitation, and, conceptual and manual labor, and thus my work focuses on objects and practices at the boundary of these categories. I have written on product placement in the Hollywood film industry, popular culture and public space in postcolonial Hong Kong, performance art and consumer rights activism in 1990s Beijing, and American trademark law and experience design. More recently, my work has focused on image-making practices at the heart of modern and contemporary encounters between China and the West.

My first book, Van Gogh On Demand: China and the Readymade (UChicago Press 2014), is a study of Dafen village, China, the world's largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting. The book examines conceptual art, propaganda, skill, craft and performance in Dafen, and evaluates the postmodern valorization of creativity and appropriation in globalist artistic discourses. I am currently completing a second book manuscript, on export painting in the period of world maritime trade centered in Guangzhou (Canton) from 1700 to 1842. This project examines the little known connections between the work of anonymous Canton painters and the practices of natural history, portraiture, photography, tea production, Gilbert Stuart, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, costumbrismo, and bobblehead dolls. I am also coediting a special issue of positions on visual culture and digital dissent, and another contributed volume on the urban history and anthropology of Shenzhen. At present, I am fascinated by architectural copies, the division of labor in genomics research, the Chinese (or American) Dream, and the limits of irony.

I am currently teaching an undergraduate course on China in the Western Imagination (Rhetoric 119), a primary texts course exploring descriptions of China from Marco Polo to Jules Itier. My graduate seminar this semester is on the Factory: before Marx and after Warhol (Rhetoric 250), on spatial conceptions of labor and value. In Fall 2014, I am teaching Theory of the Copy (Rhetoric 136), a course on fakes, forgeries, and the controversies they ignite, in addition to a methods course with Michael Mascuch on Visual Rhetoric (Rhetoric 250/114).

Prior to joining the Rhetoric department, I was a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, and obtained my PhD from the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT.


Van Gogh On Demand: China and the Readymade (University of Chicago Press, 2014)

"The Panda Man and the Anti-Counterfeiting Hero: Art, Activism, and Appropriation in Contemporary China," Journal of Visual Culture (April 2012)

"Ambience as Commodity: Experience Design and the Legal Expansion of 'Trade Dress,'" Future Anterior (May 2012)

"The Unskilled Migrant," Third Text Asia (Spring 2010)

"Framed Authors: Photography and Conceptual Art From Dafen Village," Yishu: Journal of Chinese Contemporary Art (July 2008)

Edited Volumes
Reconsidering the 2006 MIT Visualizing Cultures Controversy, coedited with Jing Wang, in press, 2015.

Learning from Shenzhen: China's Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Urban Model, coedited with Mary Ann O'Donnell and Jonathan Bach, in progress.

"Portability," Thresholds (Fall 2007)

Occasional Pieces
"On Architectural Copies," ArtForum (March 2014)

Review: Weiwei-isms by Ai Weiwei, The China Journal, 71 (January 2014)

"New Work: Liu Ding," Art World (June/July 2009)

"Die Geschichte von Big Beard" and "Die Geschichte von Peng Bide," Kinaland, ed. Gesine Danckwart, trans. Anja Goette (Blumenbar Verlag 2009)

"Xiao Xiong: Enter and Exit," Thresholds 34 (Fall 2007)

"The Catalog by Dung Kai-Cheung," exh. cat. Branded and On Display (Krannert Art Museum 2006)

"The Problem Solvers/Cine va Rezolva Problemele?," OMaGiu, ed. and trans. Mihnea Mircan (Fall 2006)


"Van Gogh on Demand: Valorizing the Copy in the Age of China," keynote for Reproducing the Original, University of Oregon, April 17, 2014.

"In a Van Gogh Workshop: The Craft of Signature Authorship," The Art of Appropriation, University of California, Davis, April 2, 2014.

"12 Frames per Hour, 15 Square Inches per Day: The Lives of Artists in Cameron Gray, Inc.," Mills College of Art, April 1, 2014.

"Artists, Wives, Censors," a conversation with Jane Debevoise, UC Berkeley, March 19, 2014.

"Other Birds, Other Flowers: On Early Natural History Painting in Canton," World History Association meeting, UC Berkeley, March 2, 2014.

"12 Frames per Hour, 15 Square Inches per Day: The Lives of Artists in Cameron Gray, Inc.," Living Time conference, UC Berkeley, February 21, 2014.


2012 William F. Milton Fund Research Grant
2010 ACLS Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship
2009 SSRC International Dissertation Research Fellowship
2008 CLIR Mellon Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities in Original Sources
2006 SSRC Pre-Dissertation Fellowship for International Collaboration
2005 MIT Presidential Fellowship
2002 MIT Thesis Award