Wall of Fame: which celebrity?

The notion of celebrity takes on a complex and evolving meaning depending on geographical and temporal contexts. While certain individuals are revered and celebrated in a specific country or region, they may go largely unnoticed elsewhere. This raises fascinating questions about the construction of celebrity and how it is perceived and valued in different cultures.

During the era of the Sino-International Library in Geneva, numerous renowned Chinese personalities visited Switzerland, enjoying considerable recognition and admiration in their home country. However, their celebrity status did not necessarily translate in the same way in Switzerland, where they could pass relatively unnoticed. The example of actress Hu Die is emblematic of this process. While on tour in Russia and Europe, the Chinese star stopped in Geneva and visited the Sino-International Library in 1935. Welcomed with honors by her fellow Chinese nationals residing in Switzerland, her film “The Two Sisters” was only screened privately at the Alhambra cinema, and no lines were dedicated to her in the columns of local newspapers.

This disparity highlights the nuances of celebrity, underscoring both its relativity and ephemeral nature. What was considered celebrity yesterday may not be so today, and the standards of fame vary from place to place. Thus, the exhibition invites reflection on the malleable and contingent nature of fame, and on how it is shaped by cultural, historical, and social factors.


Edwards, Louise, and Elaine Jeffreys, eds. Celebrity in China. Hong Kong University Press, 2010.

Gully Patti, Sisters of Heaven: China’s barnstorming aviatrixes: modernity, feminism, and popular imagination in Asia and the West, Long River Press, San Francisco, 2008.

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