Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An expert looks into impact of Asian values on the region’s art

‘The Potential of Asian Thought: Contemporary Art Symposium 1994’, a gathering organized by the Japan Foundation, continues to function as a model for regional exchange. This foundational seminar involved several practitioners from China, including curator Li Xianting and a then-young artist named Cai Guoqiang. It was a critical moment, according to art expert Biljana Ciric, in the history of intellectual exchange fostered by the idea of a shared set of specifically Asian values, and its influence continued throughout the ’90s in the context of larger political shifts such as the end of the Cold War and the rise of Asian economies.

Exhibitions that preface the globalization of art, such as the Third Havana Biennial and Magiciens de la Terre (both 1989), both of which attempted to connect disparate parts of the region, were products of political and cultural policies that began in 1979 with the exhibition Modern Asian Art—India, China, and Japan at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan (though at the time, the country had already been providing economic aid and investment in ASEAN countries for over a decade).

In 1999, the museum, which houses one of the most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary art from the region, established the Asia Triennial, which it continues to host to this day. And in 1993, Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane followed in these footsteps by founding the Asia Pacific Triennial, which soon became the most ambitious regionally focused exhibition series of its kind, with an impact discernible in, for example, the 2013 Singapore Biennial.

While Japan’s regional cultural activity closely reflects its political and economic interests in Southeast Asia, China’s exists in a state of conflict with that of the United States. And while huaren—people of the Chinese Diaspora—dominate the economies of most South Asian countries, China itself remains relatively inactive in terms of broader regional cultural exchange, except when promoting traditional Chinese identity. Though Chinese contemporary artists were featured in all the aforementioned exhibitions (no politically responsible curator could reasonably exclude them), the sporadic nature of their participation did nothing to cultivate interest within China in discourse with its neighbors. Conversely, collectors from Southeast Asia compete to buy Chinese artworks as status symbols.

(Essay courtesy:

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