Fortunately for all, artists and curators are forging ahead with their endeavors this summer, undeterred by the world’s inscrutable natural forces and financial woes. Though anxiety about the art market continues to dominate conversations at international art fairs and auction houses, undue attention to money-matters—however fascinating as a phenomenon—clearly distracts from the art itself.
As July and August are quiet months for the business side of the art world, ArtAsiaPacific takes the opportunity to refocus attention on the artists themselves. This summer is also China’s moment in the international limelight, for the Beijing Olympics coincides with an ever-growing interest in Chinese culture and, in particular, contemporary art. With the grandiose spectacle of the Olympic Games in sight, ArtAsiaPacific No. 59 looks at artists from around the world whose oversized work and ambitions are triumphant, majestic and yet deeply personal.
The present issue concentrates on artists whose work is monumental in both form and content. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s curator Christine Starkman looks at the massive installations and sculptures of Do-Ho Suh—from the tiny figurines, chronicling the plight of the individual in the face of enormous social forces, to his most recent architectural series of scaled-down recreations of his home in Korea colliding with a former home in New England.
Likewise, the personal and political come together with an astonishing formal elegance in the sculptures of Mona Hatoum. AAP managing editor HG Masters examines Hatoum’s oeuvre and explains how this Palestinian artist, born in Beirut and forced into exile in London by the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, began her career as a performance artist before moving onto large-scale installations and objects. The Turner Prize-nominee’s precise articulations of historical and cultural divisions stem from the emotional scars of civil war and religious-based conflict.
Devika Singh writes on the films of Delhi-based Amar Kanwar, a participant in the past two documenta exhibitions, as he looks at the historic human tensions generated from differences between cultures. Features editor Andrew Maerkle puzzles through one of Japan’s best-kept secrets, Makoto Aida. This iconoclast, whose work brims over with convoluted political positions and misogyny, constantly creates un-resolvable contradictions. Maerkle examines Aida’s popularity among younger artists and asks why he has never had a major retrospective in his native Japan. Finally, Angie Baecker and Graham Webster ruminate on a pre-Olympian Beijing and the current state of its of its exploding art scene.
Drawing on the thread of monumental projects, Australia desk editor George Alexander profiles Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s ambitious Biennale of Sydney, “Revolutions – Forms that Turn,” the first event of the Art Compass suite of mega-festivals in Asia later this year. Ian Driscoll meets Arne Glimcher to discuss his legendary PaceWildenstein gallery and their ambitious move to Beijing’s 798 district. And Harvard historian Cecelia Levin provides an overview of Indonesian modernism.
In a Special Section, AAP presents curators’ texts for the non-commercial Best of Discovery exhibition to be presented at ShContemporary 08 in Shanghai this September. Now in its sophomore year, Best of Discovery will feature over 30 artists from across Asia. For Where I Work, contributing editor Erin Gleeson introduces Svay Ken, a Cambodian autodidact who started his painting career at age 60 and hasn’t looked back. In addition, a special Projects in the Making examines what might be a life-long endeavor for conceptual artist Zheng Guogu and his real-life recreation of his favorite computer game, Age of Empires, in a small village outside Yangjiang. And returning to real life, Swiss collector Uli Sigg argues against a proposed boycott of contemporary Chinese art fired up by the political debates surrounding the Olympic games, while senior editor Don Cohn sees potential for cultural growth for the Middle Kingdom in the 21st century.
Bearing in mind the ideals of the Olympics, where nations come together and the victors are rewarded a crown of olive leaves, ArtAsiaPacific similarly celebrates the achievements of artists who constantly strive for dialogue, hope and peace.