Two decades old, twenty years young

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

An art magazine is a business, if viewed solely by the bottom line. But it also represents a community, a persona and, at its best, a stimulating presence in the lives of all who produce it and read it. These days, 20 years is still baby-faced for a human being, but considerably more wrinkled for a magazine, which must defy aging by a constant transfusion of talent, inspiration and support from our contributors, readers and advertisers. How then to celebrate this milestone?

For this festive occasion, the editorial and design teams have concocted a rejuvenating injection of Special Features. In early March, ArtAsiaPacific convened in Hong Kong a small group of museum directors, curators, writers, collectors and gallerists from around the region. They discussed the changes that have taken place in the Asian cultural infrastructure over the past two decades, while also ruminating on present challenges and how to solve them. Excerpts from their lively exchange—including cameo appearances on Skype from both an itinerant curator who was weekending in Tel Aviv and a Dhaka-based photographer-activist marooned in the Singapore airport—are reprinted here, and a full version will be posted on our website. 

In another effort to look back and peer forward, for a section entitled Time Capsule, we invited four past contributors to offer commentary, follow-ups and addendums to articles they had previously published in AAP. Times have changed, as have our writers and their subjects, but as these pieces reveal, the authors’ engagements with their original concerns have only deepened over the years. In three Photo Essays, we travel back in time to the art scenes of the 1990s and 2000s in Istanbul, Karachi & Lahore and Yogyakarta, presenting the artists, curators and movers-and-shakers through the lenses of those who lived there and then. Additionally, we have reprised Influential & Emerging, a section introduced in the magazine’s 15th anniversary issue—except this time we’ve asked eight past and current editors at AAP to draw connections between artists’ practices otherwise divided by time and place. 

We are also launching a special yearlong feature called 20/20, in which our contributors pinpoint important—that is, seminal but perhaps noncanonical—art projects made or mounted during each of the years of the magazine’s history, 1993 to the present. These projects mark larger moments of beginning or ending, discovery or maturity—moments that altered how we look at an artist’s practice, or our artistic communities.

Additionally, our long-running column Where I Work gets the VIP treatment. In Beijing, cinematographer Christopher Doyle and writer Andrew Cohen visited the closely watched Caochangdi residence and studio compound of China’s best-humored artist, dissident, prankster and now heavy-metal rocker, Ai Weiwei. From Tokyo, journalist Edan Corkill and photographer Yuriko Nakao peeked into the vibrant mind and studio of Yayoi Kusama and discussed with her the radiantly eccentric paintings that she is making there.

In Profiles, we look at three artists who will be featured at the Venice Biennale in late May, as well as the dynamic collector-cum-patron Monique Burger—whose “Quadrilogy” exhibition series, curated by Daniel Kurjaković, will open in Hong Kong in May. Assistant editor Noelle Bodick visited Mohammed Kazem in Dubai as he was preparing works for the UAE Pavilion at Venice. Reviews editor Hanae Ko sat down with Kimsooja in her studio in Long Island City, New York, to discuss her proposed transformation of the Korea Pavilion, while editor-at-large HG Masters caught up with video artist Ali Kazma in Istanbul as he was in the middle of producing a new cycle of works for the Turkey Pavilion.

In Essays, we focus on historical moments and contemporary trends. Doug Hall, former director of the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, recalls the early years of the Asia Pacific Triennial more than two decades ago, while from Hong Kong, Para/Site co-founder Leung Chi Wo recounts the “Space Traffic” conference in 2001 that brought together many of the then-fledgling nonprofits around the region. Susan Gibb observes how Australian museums are rethinking the purpose and display of their permanent collections, while Xhingyu Chen looks at the potential (and potential pitfalls) of the recently opened, privately run Long Museum in Shanghai.

In the rest of the magazine, we offer glimpses of the upcoming Venice Biennale and its national pavilions in Previews. New-media artist Shilpa Gupta explains her admiration for the paintings of Sudhir Patwardhan in One on One. For our Dispatch column, the voluble artist Heman Chong and contributing editor Ho Rui An team up to offer criticism of Singapore’s centralized arts policy. 

In the expanded Reviews section, we travel from Sydney to Seoul, stopping in Brisbane, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taipei. In West Asia, we attend exhibitions in Istanbul and Kuwait City before taking a close look at the 11th edition of the Sharjah Biennial. Managing editor John Jervis visits the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Light from the Middle East,” while reviews editor Hanae Ko contemplates the legacy of the Gutai movement while strolling up (and down) the Guggenheim’s spiral ramp. In this issue’s Book Review, instead of picking apart the latest artist monographs, senior editor Don J. Cohn nominates three books on China and Chinese culture that he considers must-haves for any aspiring or veteran Sinologist (caution: one of the books is 1,100-plus pages, without illustrations).

If the magazine looks a little different to our loyal, attentive readers, it’s not only because we are now 20 years young. Art director Danielle Huthart, photo editor Ann Woo and designer Beryl Kwan have given AAP’s look a freshening-up that allows words and images alike a little more room to breathe. In case you were wondering, the ornate Hong Kong confection on the cover was as delicious to eat as it was marvelous to behold.

Admittedly, we are concerned with appearances—this is an art magazine, after all—but we are equally concerned about our core mission, which after 20 years remains the same: to remind the world that contemporary art’s most lustrous pearls are to be found hugging the shores not of the Atlantic, but rather around the Pacific and Indian oceans, and to remind ourselves that no joy exceeds that of inviting the world to join us for a dip in search of them. After all, as many Hong Kong residents would attest, a daily swim in the sea is the key to longevity.