Karen Tam


Through her sculptures and installation work where she recreates spaces such as the Chinese restaurant, opium dens, Chinatown curio shops, early Chinese Canadian artist studios, and other sites of cultural encounters, Karen Tam looks at how the corporeal experience of space allows one to understand its history and community. A deep engagement with archival and collections research has led her to question whose histories get to be collected and told, and to interrogate the narratives that have been constructed around the Chinese diaspora. She asks: “How do we remember, represent, support, and simultaneously deny the erasures of our stories, spaces, and community? If there are minimal traces of the existence of an individual or organization, what are ways that this life can be made visible again?” By actively bringing to light overlooked aspects of Chinese Canadian communities and culture through her artwork, her intent is to create counterpoints to accepted canons, official histories, public archives and collections.


Karen Tam is a Montreal-based artist whose research focuses on the constructions and imaginations of “ethnic” spaces through installations, sculptures, textiles, and drawing. Since 2000, she has exhibited her work and participated in residencies in North America, Europe, including Victoria and Alberta Museum (UK), He Xiangning Art Museum (China), Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Canada), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Canada), McCord Museum (Canada) and Deutsche Börse Residency at the Frankfurter Kunstverein (Germany). Karen Tam was awarded the 2021 Prix Giverny Capital. She was long-listed for the 2010 and 2016 Sobey Art Awards.

Karen Tam holds an MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a PhD in Cultural Studies (Goldsmiths, University of London). Her work is exhibited in museums and corporate collections such as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Global Affairs Canada (Embassy of Canada in London), Hydro-Québec Art Collection, La Caisse de dépôt du Québec, Collection of the Royal Bank of Canada, TD Group, Microsoft Art Collection, and in private collections in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.