Novembers have a tendency to make us reflective. The mind can run in many directions. The most immediate topics to emerge from such ruminations might be: Who will soon be the new leaders of China and the next president of the United States? And what does that mean for the world, not to mention the contentious issue of the South China Sea?
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy toward art and culture was indomitable from the start. The definition of arts in primary and secondary school curricula was, and remains, limited to calligraphy, still-life drawing and graphic-design fundamentals.
In recent decades, visual art has helped to shape public discourses on social, political and educational issues while reflecting on identity and the process toward democracy in many Asian countries. In Indonesia, for instance, during Suharto’s regime (1968–98), art was essentially political. In a subtle way, by exploring around the edges of freedom of expression, art was often oppositional and in protest.
French curator Jean-Hubert Martin is still best known for his 1989 exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre” at Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou. Posited as a response to the 1984 blockbuster exhibition “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, “Magiciens” presented around 50 artists from so-called artistic centers alongside 50 artists from the “margins”—largely Asia, Africa and Latin America. Rather than consign tribal and non-Western religious art as fascinating exoticisms shut off to the present, Martin wanted to show things made by living artists from the art world’s blind spots—including works by Native American medicine men, Tibetan monks, Aboriginal elders and African tribal chieftains—and to have these treated as contemporary art.
Cultural activist and performance artist Carlos Celdran is “a man who is trying to change the way you look at Manila—one step at a time,” as he puts it on Walk This Way, a blog about his city walking tours. For almost a decade, he has been attracting a growing audience to daily tours that reflect on the Manila of the past and, he hopes, provide a vision for the city’s future.
In late August, Alfredo Aquilizan was standing in the middle of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) gallery in Sydney, surrounded by what looked like a miniature city after a hurricane had swept through. Small model houses made from cardboard boxes were scattered haphazardly across the concrete floor. Some had been crushed and discarded; others were piled into broken and twisted heaps, their tiny picket fences—made from kebab sticks—strewn everywhere. A few houses appeared to have survived the storm intact. Alfredo, with detectable melancholy, surveyed the devastation, snapping away with his Leica camera, recording the wreckage.
Could we be entering a new phase of Asian cosmopolitanism in contemporary art? Certainly the extent of large-scale, pan-Asian curatorial activity this year has been dizzying, with the inclusion of West Asian artists in East Asian art contexts and vice versa on an unprecedented scale.
Exhibitions of art photography have burgeoned in Thailand thanks to Kathmandu Photo Gallery, which has consistently shown curatorial enterprise since opening in Bangkok in 2006 under the directorship of Manit Sriwanichpoom, himself an established photographer.
Palestinian artist Khalil Rabah’s solo exhibition “Review” was a reassessment and reformulation of three ongoing projects, spanning sculpture, installation, painting, printed material and archival practices.
Assembled almost entirely from the British Museum’s own collections, “Modern Chinese Ink Paintings” was a worthwhile attempt to introduce the evolution of “national painting” in the 20th century to a wider audience in London.
InnoCentre in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong,
is a recent government initiative that aims to provide low-cost spaces for creative types, fostering design and innovation.
As several cities compete for the position of “Asia’s art-market hub,” one of the strategies adopted by the aspirants has been the introduction of freeport areas. These districts offer storage facilities and logistics management for art and other collectibles.