Scholar in Residence Melody Rod-ari

a woman with black hair and a blue top smiles at the camera

In July and August Melody Rod-ari will be undertaking a three-week residency in Sydney, as the inaugural “Scholar in Residence” of the Sydney Asian Art Series, a partnership between the University’s Power Institute and VisAsia at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.


Melody is Associate Professor and Chair of Art History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. During her residency, Melody will share her expertise with students at the University, and with the curatorial staff at the Art Gallery of NSW, and conduct research in the archives and collections of the University and Art Gallery. Melody will also deliver a public lecture at the Art Gallery

The residency is an exciting new addition to the Sydney Asian Art Series, a long-running partnership between the Power Institute and VisAsia at the Art Gallery of NSW that invites leading researchers from across the world to share their work on a critical issue in early, modern and contemporary Asian art. 

Since 2017, the Series has accrued an international reputation as one of the leading platforms for sharing ideas about Asian art. While the Series has to date hosted twenty-four separate guests, and almost fifty lectures, seminars or workshops, this is the first time the Series has been able to support an extended stay for a scholar to work with staff and students in Sydney.

In 2023, the Power Institute and VisAsia recommitted to the Series under the banner of a bold new research agenda, entitled “Cūra: Collection, Community, Care”. Over three years, the Series will gather together leading scholars on collecting histories, object provenance, shifting notions of custodianship, and the role of researchers and curators as agents of care for artworks and their communities.  

Convenor of the Series Olivier Krischer said: "As museums, curators and researchers everywhere reconsider their roles and values, the themes of collection, community and care are especially timely. So it's very exciting to welcome a colleague with Melody's experience and interests to further these issues with colleagues and collections here in Sydney."

Melody Rod-ari is Associate Professor and Chair of Art History at Loyola Marymount University, and is the 2023 Sydney Asian Art Series Scholar in Residence.

Melody brings considerable expertise to the Series theme. In addition to her research on Buddhist visual culture in Thailand, she has written extensively on the history of collecting South and Southeast Asian art in the United States. In her public lecture at the Art Gallery, Melody will address the conflict surrounding artifacts from Ban Chiang, a prehistoric civilisation located in modern Thailand. In 2008, Federal agents raided several Californian institutions, seizing their Ban Chiang holdings as “stolen property”, raising important questions about who should have access to and control of these objects.

In addition to her research work, Melody is the Southeast Asia editor for Smarthistory, an online center for public art history that presents free videos and essays on various topics relating to art and visual culture. The website’s global network of writers and readers has, to date, had limited reach in Australia—an opportunity that Melody’s visit promises to address.

“It is an honor to be collaborating with the faculty, curators, staff and students of the University of Sydney and VisAsia at Art Gallery of New South Wales,” said Melody. “It is my hope to highlight the important collections of the University and Art Gallery on the Smarthistory platform, so that it can be integrated into a broader undergraduate art history curriculum.”

“VisAsia and the Power Institute share a mission” said Mark Ledbury, Director of the Power Institute. “That is: to foster and spread the best ideas in Asian art and visual culture. We’re so delighted that Melody Rod-ari will help us open a new chapter in this ongoing endeavour.”

The Australian Institute of Asian Culture and Visual Arts (VisAsia) was established in 1999. It works collaboratively with the Art Gallery of New South Wales to bring a diverse range of traditional and contemporary Asian art to the Australian public and the Art Gallery’s international visitors.