A PDF version of the press release is available for download. [English | Chinese]


[New York, NY] March 7, 2016 — The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is pleased to announce two major exhibitions opening in 2016: Stage Design by Ming Cho Lee, on view from April 28 through September 11, 2016, and Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America, on view from October 6, 2016 through March 26, 2017.

Stage Design by Ming Cho Lee is a retrospective exhibition of celebrated and influential set designer Ming Cho Lee. The exhibition explores the evolution of his work in theater, opera, and dance, displaying the preparatory materials for his set designs alongside documentation of the performances, and chronicling the evolution of his practices, from his groundbreaking, abstract set designs of the 1960s and 1970s, to his more recent hard-edge treatments. Over 40 original maquettes will be on view for the first time in New York since the 1990s.


“Ming Cho Lee has paved the way for generations of set designers; MOCA is honored to bring this retrospective to New York City—the center of the global theater community,” shared MOCA President, Nancy Yao Maasbach. “This exhibition aligns with our tradition of highlighting and contextualizing the work of pioneering Chinese cultural producers, while presenting an unmatched body of work.”


For over forty-five years, Ming Cho Lee has served on the faculty at Yale School of Drama, including as the co-chair of the design department. As a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 2002 and The Tony Award® for Lifetime Achievement in 2013, Ming Cho Lee is one of the most acclaimed living set designers in the world.


This exhibition was developed by Ming Cho Lee and Betsy Lee and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G and Lawrence A. Fleischman Executive Director; Barbara Stratyner, Judy R. and Alfred A. Resenberg Curator of Exhibitions, with Caitlin Whittington, Designer. The 1995 exhibition was developed by Robert Marx, then Executive Director and was designed and installed by The Library’s Shelby Cullom Davis Museum: Donald Vlack, Designer, Humberto Hernandez, Anthony Walcott, Herbert Ruiz, and René Ronda.


Since its development in 1995, the exhibition has traveled to Taiwan and China. Stage Designs by Ming Cho Lee was also on view in 2013 at Yale University in a jointly sponsored exhibition by Yale School of Architecture, the Yale School of Drama, and Yale College.


MING CHO LEE was born in Shanghai, China, in 1930; his father, Lee Tsu Fa, graduated from Yale in 1919. As a teenager Lee studied Chinese landscape painting; and in 1949, he came to the United States to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles. Initially interested in the art department, Lee found himself drawn to the theater, where he turned his talents to stage design.

Lee has designed sets for the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Martha Graham, Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (Taipei), the Public Theatre (New York Shakespeare Festival), major opera houses around the world, including Covent Garden (London), and most of the major regional theaters in the United States, in particular the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

His aesthetics and ideas, which include a passionate belief that art should be politically and socially engaging, continue to impact virtually every aspect of theater production and creation, a legacy perpetuated by his students and colleagues.

Fall 2016


Chinese food takes center stage when Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America opens at MOCA on October 6, 2016. Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy invites the audience into a conversation with 30 Chinese and Asian American chefs about the meaning of Chinese food as a platform for experimentation, a test of authenticity, a means of immigrant survival, and a microcosm of Chinese culture. In 2004, MOCA’s exhibit, “Have You Eaten Yet?” told the history of Chinese restaurants in America through a collection of menus, travel diaries, photographs, and other ephemera.


The exhibit will weave together the complex story of Chinese food in America through the oral histories of pioneering Asian chefs such as Martin Yan, Ken Hom, Ming Tsai and Anita Lo; new restauranteurs like Peter and Lisa Chang, Eddie Huang, Jason Wang, and Danny Bowien; and persevering home cooks like Ni Biying.


In Chinese, the saying Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy refers not only to the delicate balance of flavors that define Chinese cooking but also the vicissitudes of life. Set in an immersive multimedia installation, the tapestry of tales that emerge is rich with immigration experiences, food memories, favorite dishes, and cooking inspirations that define the culinary—and personal—identities of these chefs, drawing visitors into a conversation about how food defines Chinese in America and each of us.


“Food is at the heart of Chinese culture, and in America the very definition of Chinese food is constantly contested in home and restaurant kitchens across the country” said Herb Tam, Curator and Director of Exhibitions at MOCA. “This exhibition is really an elaborate dinner table conversation with some of our most exciting chefs about how we define Chinese food and how Chinese food defines us.”


Featured Chefs:

Danny Bowien
(New York, NY)
Anita Lo
(New York, NY)
Jason Wang
(New York, NY)

Peter and Lisa Chang
(Rockville, MD)

Leonard Liao
(Jackson Heights, NY)

Doron Wong
(New York, NY)
Chris Cheung
(Brooklyn, NY)
Ni Biying
(New York, NY)
Tommy Wong
(Mandeville, LA)

 Philip Chiang
(Los Angeles, CA)

Cara Stadler
(Portland, ME)
Jonathan Wu
(New York, NY)
Susanna Foo
(Radnor, PA)
Wilson Tang
(New York, NY)
Cori Xiong and Heng Chen
(Houston, TX)
Jeff 'Tao' Gao
(Boulder, CO)
Mike and Yvonne Thompson
(Pounding Mill, VA)
Martin Yan
(San Mateo, CA)
Ken Hom, OBE
(Bangkok, Paris, Rio de Janeiro)
Kimmie Lee Tie
(Raleigh, NC)
Ho-Chin and Ellen Yang
(Everson, WA)

Eddie Huang
(New York, NY)

Michael Tong
(New York, NY)

Chris Yeo
(San Jose, CA)

Vivian Ku
(Los Angeles, CA)
Ming Tsai
(Wellesley, MA)
Grace Young
(New York, NY)


Featuring Ceramics by: Heidi Lau and Lu Zhang


About the Curators


AUDRA ANG started at The Associated Press as a reporter in Seattle and worked on the national editing desk in New York before being posted in 2002 to China, where she spent seven years as a Beijing-based correspondent. She is the author of To the People, Food is Heaven: Stories of Food and Life in a Changing China. Ang grew up in Singapore and now lives in Durham, North Carolina.


KIAN LAM KHO is a food writer, consultant, and founder of the Chinese cooking blog Red Cook. Red Cook was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award in 2011. Kho teaches Chinese cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education, Brooklyn Kitchen, and Haven’s Kitchen. His cookbook, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking is the culmination of years of research on Chinese cooking techniques and their implementing in the home kitchen.


HERB TAM is the Curator and Director of Exhibitions at MOCA. He recently co-curated “Waves of Identity: 35 Years of Archiving,” an exhibition that explored the construction of Chinese American identity through MOCA’s archival materials. In 2012, he curated “America through a Chinese Lens,” which surveyed photographs of America by contemporary artists and non-professional photographers of Chinese descent. Tam was previously the Associate Curator at Exit Art and the Acting Associate Curator at the Queens Museum of Art.

Additional Programs


During the run of the exhibitions, MOCA will offer a series of related events, public programs, family programs, walking tours, and gallery tours. A schedule of guided tours of Set Design by Ming Cho Lee and Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America will be available on the museum website. Visitors can join MOCACREATE drop-in art workshops every first and third Saturday of the month, from 1 – 4 p.m.


Please check the museum's website at for updates and information on upcoming programs. For press requests and images, please email


Stage Design by Ming Cho Lee and related programs are made possible from public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by The Starr Foundation.


Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America and related programs are made possible from public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by The Starr Foundation.