Meet Sarah Sze’s incredible, extended social circle
Pulitzer prize winning husband? Tick! Author Zadie Smith and poet Nick Laird as dinner guests? Tick! China’s ambassador to the United States as ancestral forebear? Tick! Isn't it time you got to know her better?
Sarah Sze’s sculptures might draw on the contents of 99c stores, yet the rarified ways she assembles her pieces – which can include everything from newspaper cuttings to paperclips to whole SUVs – can be a little daunting.
However, we shouldn’t ignore simple, social cues when trying to interpret her art. As she explains in our new Contemporary Artist Series book dedicated to Sze, “I move into a specific place as I might move into a home." Indeed, her room-sized sculptures sometimes draw on her social circle; as Sze says, “my work always benefits from company,”
Whose company? Well, in a recent Vogue profile, the artist reveals quite a bit about her friends and family. Followers of this fantastic US artist might be aware that Sze is married to the medical researcher, cancer physician and Pulitzer Prize winner, Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor Of All Maladies. The pair began dating in 2003, each fascinated by the other’s professional interests; they’re now the proud parents of two young daughters.
What’s more, the artist socializes with fellow high-achievers; Sze and Mukherjee regularly invite over such dinner party guests as the art historian and Phaidon author Hal Foster, the award-winning British novelist Zadie Smith and her husband, the poet and fellow author and poet Nick Laird.
Quite a social circle. However, gallery goers might be less familiar with her forebears’ achievements. “Sarah’s great-grandfather was the first Chinese student to go to Cornell University,” the magazine explains. “He became China’s minister to Britain and then ambassador to the United States. Her father, Chia-Ming Sze, was born in Shanghai; his family fled China when he was four, and resettled in the United States. He became an architect and married Judy Mossman, an Anglo-Scottish-Irish schoolteacher.”
It was Sze’s parents who instilled a sense of excellence. “My father always said, ‘You can do whatever you want, but you have to do it extremely well,’” she tells Vogue’s contributing editor Dodie Kazanjian.
All this high-minded activity sometimes leads to a few crossed wires; as she admits towards the end of the piece, the artist forgot to tell her husband about her trip to LA to install her works in a current MOCA exhibition right up until the evening before she was due to fly. Yet, with all that brilliance, a little scheduling complication easily forgiven.