Matthew Wong (1984–2019) achieved resounding critical acclaim during his short yet prolific career. In just a few years, he created a visual language uniquely his own. Opening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) on July 1, 2023, Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances is the first museum retrospective and first U.S. museum exhibition devoted to the self-taught painter. Featuring rarely seen early works to later iconic paintings, this exhibition of approximately 40 works offers the first formal account of the full scope of Wong’s career, with a particular focus on his vibrant and psychologically charged landscapes.
Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances is on view at the MFA through February 18, 2024. The exhibition is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art.
“We’re honored to introduce Boston audiences to Matthew Wong’s work.” Reto Thüring, Beal Family Chair of Contemporary Art, said. “His work is especially resonant within the context of the MFA’s stellar global collection. Here, Wong’s skillful and highly personal interpretations of other artists’ works from different cultural spheres becomes evident, reflecting the artist’s own transnational life journey.”
Wong’s career spanned just six years between 2013, when he began painting and drawing in earnest, and his death due to suicide in 2019, at the age of 35. In that time, he became known for evocative landscape paintings in a wide range of styles—from vibrant, panoramic vistas to cool mountain views delineated by long brushstrokes and washes. In their non-specificity and universality of place, Wong’s landscapes reflect his own transnationality, having spent most of his life between Canada and Hong Kong.
His expansive worldview also manifests in the range of references found in his work, from 17th-century Qing period ink paintings to Post-Impressionism and 20th- and 21st-century works by Gustav Klimt, Yayoi Kusama and others.
Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances traces the arc of Wong’s practice, bringing together an extensive selection of his work in oil, ink, watercolor and gouache, illustrating the depth and range of his work. The exhibition is organized in two parts that cover Wong’s artistic production from 2013 to 2019: the first half focuses on the first three years of his painting activities while he was living in Hong Kong and working in his studio in China; the second half hones in on his mature years as an artist, a period of accelerated growth beginning in 2016, when he moved back to Canada.
In his final years, he shifted from colorful, uncanny terrains of incessant patterns and sophisticated mark-making to slow, cool monochromes depicting universal subjects: the sunset, the journey home, the view outside a window.
Seen together, the range of works reflects Wong’s persistent pursuit to capture humanity’s relationship to the world beyond the physical realm.