NALINI MALANISplitting the Other (Panel 2), 2006-07, acrylic, ink, enamel on acrylic sheet, 203.5 × 103.5 cm. Courtesy the artist. 

How We Got Here

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

In May, we launched ArtAsiaPacific’s special 20th birthday issue, which, instead of looking back on our past, gazed ahead to the next 20 years. However, since we started planning our celebratory issue well over a year ago, we couldn’t help but discuss the important artistic legacies that have shaped contemporary art in Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. For our July/August edition, we consider both these seminal figures, as well as the younger generation of artists who are the protagonists in the cultural histories of Asia. 

The Features section begins with an in-depth look at the work of Koki Tanaka, who is representing Japan at this year’s Venice Biennale. Gabriel Ritter, assistant curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Art, examines Tanaka’s humorously absurd practice, which explores performative collaborations as well as the relationship between objects and actions. Ritter describes his work as falling in the art-historical lineage of postwar art movements such as Mono-ha in Japan and Arte Povera in Italy, with a “shared interest in exploring the physicality and formal qualities of quotidian objects through processes of encounter and repetition.”

For our cover feature, AAP contributing editor Jyoti Dhar sits down with Nalini Malani, an innovator in the realms of digital media as well as a strong advocate for female artists in India’s largely patriarchal art world. Dhar mines Malani’s prolific career that spans the new era of India’s independence from British colonial rule, during which she has probed the sectarian and communal violence that has long plagued her home country. 

We also honor the legacy of another 20th-century master, Zao Wou-ki, who passed away in April this year. In this special feature, AAP looks at unique aspects of Zao’s life and practice. Beijing-based independent curator Tiffany Wai-Ying Beres reflects on the influence of Chinese ink-painting on Zao’s own form of abstraction, while veteran Hong Kong gallerist and early Zao supporter Alice King recalls her friendship with the artist over the course of more than half a century. 

Our yearlong project to mark AAP’s anniversary, 20/20, attempts to pinpoint unconventional artworks and concepts from 1993 to the present. Among the four exhibitions discussed in this issue, director and head curator of the forthcoming Palestinian Museum, Jack Persekian, introduces Mona Hatoum’s 1996 Present Tense, inspired by a map of the Oslo Accords, while curator Jang-Un Kim shares his recollections of the late conceptualist Yiso Bahc’s 2001 solo exhibition at Seoul’s Alternative Space Pool. 

For Where I Work, AAP editor-at-large HG Masters heads to Bali where he pops into the home-cum-studio compound of mischief-making Neo-Geo artist Ashley Bickerton. 

In Profiles, Olivier Krischer contemplates the narrative paintings of Gulammohammed Sheikh, while contributing editor Michael Young meets the self-assured Indonesian-Chinese collector Budi Tek, who discusses his personal style of collecting and his plans for his second private museum, this time on prime Shanghainese soil. Managing editor John Jervis visits the modest studio of up-and-coming Ho Sin Tung, a Hong Kong artist who creates meticulous drawings of insects, maps and movies, invented or otherwise.

Among Essays, assistant editor Noelle Bodick ruminates on the joys of being lost in the labyrinthine exhibition spaces at Sharjah’s recent biennial, while guest contributor Wei-Ling Woo writes a tribute to Shomei Tomatsu, one of the world’s greatest photographers, whose finest work chronicles the survivors of the atomic bomb that fell on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. 

Rounding out the issue, for the Point we invite longtime champion of Southeast Asian contemporary art Valentine Willie to discuss the impact of auction houses on the region’s artists. Times Museum curator Ruijun Shen files a Dispatch from Guangzhou, and explains why the southern metropolis may be turning into the best place for artists to work in China. Our book review by China specialist Lee Ambrozy embraces another opportunity to look back, evaluating the long-awaited survey of the country’s art from the 1840s on, The Art of Modern China, by Julia F. Andrews and Kuiyu Shen.

Hong Kong lawyer Antony Dapiran pens Fine Print, discussing the dilemmas that plague artists who seek droit de suite, or resale royalties, particularly those living ones who might benefit from such legislation more than the estates of deceased artists. Finally, in One on One, Isabel Aquilizan, from the Filipino husband-and-wife duo Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, explains her admiration for Antonio Calma, a painter of souvenir landscapes, writing that Calma has “made us take a second look at what the visual arts actually are, and examine our own works further and, by extension, examine our lives.”