Page from Theatre, Issue 5, showing stills from CHUANG LING’s film Life Continued, 1966. Photo by Ann Woo for ArtAsiaPacific

Remember When?

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

How did the final weeks of spring become a dizzying two months of shopping? With the back-to-back fairs of Frieze New York, Art Basel in Hong Kong and Art Basel in Basel, and the front-to-front auctions for modern and contemporary wares in New York, Hong Kong and London, it is not entirely surprising to feel a little lost, confused and even a bit weary—, and wary, about why we love what we love. For art lovers floating aimlessly across oceans and around anonymous convention centers, this issue of ArtAsiaPacific introduces artists and collectors, some under the radar, others simply overlooked, who are doing something wonderful and unconventional. 

Our cover feature delves into a little known yet fascinating period of radical art in Taiwan. In So, We Performed: Theatre and the Taiwanese Avant-Garde, 1965, Lesley Ma, M+’s ink art curator, introduces a group of young writers, photographers and filmmakers who produced Theatre, the first Chinese-language magazine dedicated to experimental time-based art. Ma explains, “The Theatre generation of artists was the first to consciously and confidently develop a new aesthetic that discarded the need to label itself as representative of Chinese identity, and instead turn their attention to their lives and experiences in Taiwan.”

Also working in the mid-20th century, with paint, wood, aluminum, brass, clay, fiberglass and her environment, Saloua Raouda Choucair was a Lebanese early modernist. Dubai desk editor Kevin Jones pens an absorbing rumination on Choucair’s artistic contributions and why this pioneer of abstraction and public sculpture was marginalized and forgotten by art historians, critics and curators. Closer to home, artist Leung Chi Wo tells the story of his hero, Josh Hon, a popular but largely unknown painter and performance artist working in Hong Kong in the 1980s. As part of a project commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Centre in 2012, Leung compiled a list of local artists working since the late 1970s who were no longer active. He recalls, “I took the list to artists and curators who had been around over the last 30 years to see if they remembered any of the names. And Hon was the only one recognized immediately by all of them.” This roused Leung to not only investigate Hon’s legacy in the local art community, but also to search for the artist, who left Hong Kong in the 1990s during the exodus after events at Tiananmen in 1989 and before the 1997 handover of the British colony to the Chinese government. 

Rounding out the features, Western and Central Asia editor Sara Raza sits down with up-and-coming artists Batool al-Shomrani, Sarah Abu Abdallah, Heba Abed and Basmah Felemban to discuss their work and the burgeoning art scene—much of it either breaking away from or pushing forward traditional art forms—in Saudi Arabia. 

To coincide with the commercial art events in May and June, we are launching a special profiles section on collectors. Here we chat with Jakarta’s Poppy Hadiman Setiawan, Leo Shih from Taiwan, Sydney’s Patrick Corrigan and Adrian Jones, who collects Vietnamese modern and contemporary art, about their visions of assembling collections that historically represent a country’s art scene. Managing editor John Jervis meets William Lim in Hong Kong and contributing editor Jyoti Dhar interviews Feroze Gujral in New Delhi, patrons who are nurturing young artists and experimental practices in their respective hometowns. We also introduce our new special column “Inside Burger Collection,” which looks at different ways this Hong Kong-based private collection—with its emphasis on Euro-American, Indian and Asian art—is able to support artists, from making acquisitions to producing pop-up exhibitions and publishing artists’ previously private preparatory materials in their annual Torrent publication. 

In our artist profiles, Manila desk editor Marlyne Sahakian looks at the work of artist-curator Gary Ross Pastrana, assistant editor Sylvia Tsai travels to Singapore’s Institute of Critical Zoologists to meet Robert Zhao Renhui, the artist behind the zany projects blurring the boundaries of art and science, and in Los Angeles, assistant editor Ming Lin takes us behind the scenes of Chinese-American Wu Tsang’s documentaries, performances and “full body quotations,” all of which spotlight fringe communities. 

In Essays, guest contributor Macushla Robinson looks at a number of subtle artistic practices taking place in China today, such as Hu Xiaoyuan’s delicate minimalist assemblages, while Jyoti Dhar considers Dhaka Art Summit’s hybrid art fair-biennial model, and the opportunities it affords Bangladesh’s artists. 

For this issue’s Where I Work, contributing editor Michael Young travels to Shanghai, where he meets Xu Zhen, the busy artist and CEO of MadeIn Company. Dispatch takes us to Sydney with Museum of Contemporary Art Australia senior curator Rachel Kent who explains how the city’s many non- and for-profit art organizations, including the Biennale of Sydney, enliven the cultural scene there. In the Point, artist Cheo Chai-Hiang revisits a 1989 article “Will the Gifted Blossom,” by Dr. Neville Ellis, a former education officer for Singapore’s Ministry of Education, to discuss whether the city-state’s policy on art education has borne fruit. For One on One, Nadim Abbas, who will design the Absolut Art Bar at this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong, attributes his impetus for becoming an artist to a childhood diet of anime and comics, particularly those by Yoshihiro Togashi. Abbas—along with many of the collectors profiled here—reminds us that boredom, perhaps in the guise of wandering in a vast air fair, can occasionally lead us to unexpected discoveries.