Bard Graduate Center (BGC) is pleased to welcome Mei Mei Rado (BGC PhD ’18) to its faculty. Dr. Rado is an art historian specializing in textile and dress history, with a focus on China and France from the eighteenth through the early twentieth century. Her research and teaching interests also include late imperial Chinese visual and material cultures, eighteenth-century French decorative arts, late Edo and Meiji-period Japanese textiles, and intercultural exchanges in the early modern periods. “Rado brings extraordinary intellectual energy and seriousness to the study of dress, textiles and fashion,” said Dean Peter N. Miller. “She also firmly establishes East Asia as a center of curricular and research strength. But her interest in cross-cultural communication adds still further depth to something BGC does very well.” Dr. Rado stated, “The stimulating intellectual milieu and object-centered approaches at BGC have profoundly shaped my academic work. I am thrilled to return to my alma mater in a new role to inspire future generations of scholars and to encourage further innovations in dress and textile studies.”

Most recently, Dr. Rado served as associate curator of costumes and textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where she contributed to the reinstallation planning of its new David Geffen Galleries and helped build a fine and extensive collection of modern Chinese fashion, the first of this kind in North American art museums. Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art (formerly Freer / Sackler Galleries); a pre-doctoral fellow in the Department of European Sculptures and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and a residency research fellow in the Division of Textiles at the Palace Museum, Beijing. She holds an MA from the University of Chicago and a BA from Nanjing University.

Dr. Rado’s forthcoming book, The Empire’s New Cloth: Western Textiles at the Eighteenth-Century Qing Court, examines the forgotten history of European textiles at the Qing court and Qing imperial products after European models. It recounts a nuanced, multipolar story from both cultural ends, showing how objects, styles, and images traveled in multiple directions replete with reinvented meanings. Currently, she is developing two new projects. The first, in collaboration with European and American institutions, surveys Edo-period Japanese textile fragments collected by major European collectors in the late nineteenth century and their roles in the Japonisme movement and Japan’s arts and crafts reform. The second investigates the issue of light in Euro-American fashion from the early modern period to now. It parses how changing experiences and understandings of light have shaped fashion’s conditions of display, compositional and pictorial sources, conceptual and discursive frameworks, and symbolic implications. Dr. Rado has won a number of prestigious research grants, including from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Drawing on her previous experience working on important costume and textile collections and major exhibitions, including China: Through the Looking Glass (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015) and Interwoven Globe: Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013), Dr. Rado plans to incorporate curatorial practice in her work and teaching at BGC.

Rado takes the baton from Michele Majer, who recently retired after 28 years on the BGC faculty. Majer said, “It’s very meaningful for me that Mei Mei Rado is taking over the position because we have worked together. Her geographic scope is far larger than mine because she knows Eastern fashion history, which I really don’t, and she has those languages. I know how interested she is in what students are working on and what a good mentor she will be.”

Of Majer, Rado said, “As a doctoral student at BGC, I learned from Michele a solid object-based knowledge of textiles and garments, and I was greatly inspired by her sensitivity to literature and visual materials.” Rado looks forward to collaborating with other members of the BGC faculty in developing courses and public humanities programs. She continued, “BGC’s mission to study the past through tangible things resonates with my own commitment to advancing the field of dress and textile history by linking a deep understanding of materials and making with interpretive paths informed by multiple cultural perspectives. I believe this compelling combination of skills will empower students to meet contemporary global challenges with diverse historical visions and cultural insights.”