TAMMY HONG (‘14) - The Art Detective


Tammy Hong sees herself as a “memory historian” and an “art detective” – a storyteller who investigates how the past shapes the present and how the present shapes the way we perceive the past. As a triple major B.A. graduate in art history, studio art, and history at Syracuse University, she’s highly passionate about cultural diplomacy and its power to foster cross-cultural understanding.

“I wholeheartedly believe in the combined potential of art and museums to shape the ways we perceive our present and our history. I think properly accentuating works of art by drawing attention to the monumental stories these artifacts have to tell can foster a sense of empathy and curiosity in museum visitors that would then encourage the exchange of ideas and strengthen cross-cultural relations. My goal is to become the memory historian worthy enough to tell these stories.”

Her current job, as she describes it, involves combing through artifacts to piece together stories about art supply manufacturers that are yet to be told. As the Andrew W. Mellon Research Assistant in Modern Materials at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., Tammy spends her days exploring the intersection of conservation science and art history, cataloging and researching artist materials housed in the Conservation Division.

“As an art historian and practicing artist, I enjoy analyzing works of art and artifacts through the perspective of its creator by focusing on the materiality and the application of a variety of mediums. Through my job, I am able to further investigate the relationships between artists and their medium,” she says.

Tammy is quickly making a name for herself in the art world; she recently made a splash with research on an 18th century Chinese tea album, highlighting elements of Chinese culture in the images that were often missing from Western scholarship on early Chinese-export art. She has also been a researcher, curatorial intern and guest curator at Syracuse University Art Galleries; worked in museums in New York, Italy and China; and even participated in the painting of a fresco in Florence. Studying abroad in Florence in spring 2017 was a defining experience of which she’s particularly proud. Tammy says as a shy person, this took her well beyond her comfort zone.

“I was originally supposed to be an intern at Santa Croce, where I would have done what I was most comfortable doing – sitting behind a desk and conducting research. As luck would have it, I ended up in the Duomo, where the acclaimed Renaissance artists Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti had left their mark. It was this job as a tour guide at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo where I became more and more engaged with the idea of storytelling,” she says.

“The uncertainty and fear that I initially felt as a tour guide gradually disappeared. As the semester went by, the history of Florence became a part of my personal narrative. When I was given the honor to craft an entire tour, my own experience living abroad became interwoven with my research on Renaissance artistic and cultural traditions.”

A keen athlete during her 10 years at AISG, Tammy says basketball taught her the importance of hard work, perseverance and determination. “This ‘athlete mentality’ is something that I still apply to my everyday life and is also what forms the core of not only my work ethic, but also who I am as a person.”

That discipline and fearlessness played a huge part in Tammy being named a 2018 Seinfeld Scholar (an award for those who have made outstanding contributions to the beauty of the world) at Syracuse. Her advisor Romita Ray, associate professor of art history, praised Tammy as a talented artist who thinks like a forensic scientist; no doubt even bigger things lie ahead for this rising star!


Still-Life (Copied after Felix Vallotton) 2016, Masterwork copy, by Tammy Hong
Self-Portrait 2016, Awareness Series Part 3 of 3, by Tammy Hong

Live, 2019, The Silence is SO Freakin’ Loud, Diptych Part 1 of 2, by Tammy Hong


* Photo of Tammy Hong by Dana Cooke, Maxwell Perspective, Winter 2018



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