On February 16, 2013, more than 4,000 people turned up at Singapore’s Speakers’ Corner, a small patch of greenery nestled in the city’s downtown that has, since 2008, been the only space where demonstrations can be lawfully held within the city-state.
I want to buy art, I do not have time, I have money, I want the best, the market knows best. The irrationality of the art market, especially the neophyte Indian contemporary one that hit its high in 2008, was fabulously driven by the hypothesis that a higher price reflects a higher quality artist. So I do not need to inform myself let alone go see the work, just the size and price will do, thank you! The lifecycle of an artwork was upended from Creation > Exhibition > Understanding > Appreciation > Sale to one
where works were being sold before they were even created.
Recollecting the 2001 “Space Traffic” conference
I enjoy seeing really old things—photos, clothes, buildings—as there’s sufficient distance for them to feel exotic, and a general impression that everything just looked nicer then. However, when it comes to subjects that are more personal or are very familiar, nostalgia is not so interesting. For me, the reason to look back is to see how much something has changed, not how good it was.
Mohammed Kazem was eight years old when he fell from a boat into the Gulf, his shouts overpowered by the motor and his frame battered by its turbid wake. He watched the stern disappear from view and listened to the rhythmic wash of the waves. It was quiet. After half an hour, the faint droning of a motor neared and the search party found him gasping for life.
In early March, seven influential figures, each laboring at diverse but vital coalfaces across the Asian art scene, gathered in Spring Workshop on the south side of Hong Kong Island. The possibilities offered by current and future models of the art institution were explored, and the nature of their contributions to and dependence on wider ecosystems—within both the arts and society—was questioned. During the daylong event, valuable insights were also transmitted on Skype by Hou Hanru and the indefatigable Shahidul Alam, the latter trapped on the wrong side of the gates at Singapore’s Changi Airport. In the following pages we offer a taste of the day’s disputes, deliberations, dialogues and more.
In her 2008 report “Waqif Art Center Invigorates Qatari Art Scene,” Maymanah Farhat struck an optimistic note. Five years on, the future of independent initiatives in the Gulf is not as promising.
Throughout Pakistan’s turbulent political history, academic institutions have provided places of refuge for artists, nurturing and protecting creativity in times of ideological upheaval. It was therefore appropriate that in 1997, on the occasion of the nation’s 50-year anniversary of independence, British royalty elected to visit the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore. Previously known as the Mayo School of Arts, the NCA was one of four industrial craft schools set up by the British in the Indian subcontinent during the colonial era.
Montien Boonma (1953–2000) was regarded as one of Asia’s most prolific and controversial artists during the emergence of the contemporary Asian art scene in the 1990s. Frequently tagged as a “Buddhist artist,” Boonma defied the canonical teachings of Buddhist art through his experimentation with ephemeral materials (ash, herbs, clay, wax) and artisanal techniques (lost-wax casting, molding and natural pigmentation). By making art a healing process to suppress grief and suffering, Boonma created installations that required viewers to concentrate intensely on their senses of touch, smell, sight and sound.
Julian Dashper (1960–2009) was a conceptual artist from New Zealand who made work about the ways we receive and process sensory experiences, as well as the ways we insist on formalizing aesthetic experiences through the institutional mechanism we call the art world. Buzz (2001), for example, is a recording of a fluorescent Dan Flavin sculpture. By eliminating the visual element and foregrounding ambient noise, Buzz reveals something that no one ever talks about regarding these over-discussed, glowing altars to Western art in the second half of the 20th century. Buzz feels like it should be a one-liner, but it refuses to be funny. The sound of electricity is elemental and true, as much a fact of Flavin’s pieces as their prestige and value to museums of modern art the world over.
It is surprising how seldom the work of Michael Lin has been compared to that of the Pop artists of the 1960s. Yet one can surmise why Lin, who was born in Tokyo, raised in Taiwan and educated in the United States, and whose career took off in the late 1990s, has avoided the label. Who would want to be lumped in with hordes of pop-culture obsessed, 25-year-old Chinese art-school grads, or thought to be aping a style half a century old?
For his first solo exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City, “One Planet” at Galerie Quynh, Vietnamese artist Nguyen Manh Hung presented a bold and humorous selection of new, three-dimensional works. The show was a testament to the aesthetic maturity of the Hanoi-born surrealist, whose playful, irony-laden work has been turning heads in the contemporary art scene of Vietnam, while also earning praise internationally.
All eyes were on Sharjah, as the highly anticipated 11th edition of the Sharjah Biennial (SB11), long famed as a repository for dialogic and ideational exchange, opened to the public in early March.
He’s the most outspoken Chinese dissident, he’s China’s best-known artist. Under intense scrutiny from all sides, Ai Weiwei is constantly inventing new ways to live, work and communicate—all with mischevious glee and subversive intent.
The art market has traditionally been composed of three primary players: art collectors seeking to purchase works for personal collections, museums and cultural institutions acquiring works for the benefit of the viewing public, and art dealers seeking to build and manage their inventories.
His works look like artifacts from alien civilizations, emanating a signature red glow that suggests they may even possess their own sentience. How a legendary sculptor gives life to monumental installations while taking himself out of the creative process.