Seen Through Another Prism

Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

An all-knowing Big Brother has revealed what we really talked about most in 2013.

Around the world, whether in Istanbul, Dubai, Christchurch or Seoul—but not Beijing, Damascus, Tehran or Pyongyang—we chatted about our relationships, what recipe we just tried, the cute habits of a new pet and quitting a presumably bad habit, or several. We gossiped about our friends, enemies and “frenemies.” We also talked about the new Pope Francis, the royal baby George, about horrific floods and typhoons the world over—not to mention occasionally dipping into tawdry topics such as the ubiquitous dance phenomenon of “twerking,” courtesy of Miley Cyrus. This is the world according to Facebook, thanks to the 1.19 billion users who freely tap their data into the voracious media giant.

The editors at ArtAsiaPacific also data-hoard, but on topics that are presumably a little more uplifting and revealing about art—namely, its social and aesthetic value. And instead of immediately handing this information over to third parties such as the United States’ National Security Agency or Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, we offer this cultural compendium known as the Almanac to whoever is curious about the artists and their artworks, the openings and closings of 2013, and about what we are looking forward to most in 2014, across the 67 countries that AAP calls home territory.

So what did art people from our turf discuss most? New museums, naturally, but also how to save parks from demolition, what to do about faltering art institutions and how to make cities more the way people want them. Then there was the passing of beloved mentors, visionary gallerists and erudite scholars—and the many fine memories of their contributions to the world. Of course, there was also talk of money—lots of money. Who in the world bought that Zeng Fanzhi painting for USD 23.1 million? Or that Francis Bacon triptych for USD 142 million? Could it be the same person, or perhaps the same family? And then there’s always talk about the future. So, what art fairs will you be adding to your itinerary this year—Manila, Dhaka, Amman or Osaka? And, did you hear who is curating the next biennial in . . . ?

Our Almanac is now in its ninth edition, and each time we have invited distinguished art-world figures to consider the major cultural events of the past year and the year to come. Aida Mahmudova, artist and founder of Yarat Contemporary Art Space in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Mella Jaarmsa, artist and co-founder of Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, are each very proud to find their respective country’s art communities launching vital new initiatives—whether participating in the Venice Biennale or expanding the scope of homegrown events. From geographically distant perspectives, the Sharjah Art Foundation’s president Sheikha Hoor al-Qasimi and Samoan interdisciplinary artist Shigeyuki Kihara reveal details of their busy schedules, as cultural ambassador and artist respectively, recalling many of the year’s best moments on their global tours of their own art worlds. Chinese-Indonesian collector Budi Tek, who will be unveiling the second branch of his Yuz Museum—this time in Shanghai—in 2014, discusses the need for a higher standard of professionalism in China in an age of museum building. And from Kolkata, Prateek Raja of Experimenter gallery points out the continuing dynamism of India’s art scene in spite of, or perhaps because of, a market slowdown.

The construction team building this edition of the Almanac is led by Istanbul-based HG Masters, with the dedicated assistance of John Jervis, Hanae Ko, Don J. Cohn, Sylvia Tsai, Katherine Tong, Ming Lin, Chloe Mandryk and Michael Lacoy. We are particularly grateful to our many contributors and desk editors around the world who serve as cultural interpreters, actively mining their local networks and sharing their personal knowledge. We are also indebted to the many individuals and organizations that share their enthusiasm, insights and resources with us.

The handsome design of the Almanac is overseen by art director Danielle Huthart, together with designer Jen Kwok, photo editor Ann Woo and design intern Gaga Tzan. They polished the Almanac’s design while coming up with a glowing new cover and eye-catching layouts for our Five Plus One section, which highlights the substantial accomplishments of Richard Bell, Lee Mingwei, Shilpa Gupta, Shinro Ohtake, Sopheap Pich and Simon Fujiwara, and for our Books section, which presents the 12 books that have given us the greatest pleasure this year.

From balloon art in Hong Kong (including a giant yellow rubber duck bobbing in the harbor) to Hüseyin Çetinel’s feel-good project of beautifying his hometown, Istanbul, Imran Qureshi’s expansive yet miniaturist mural painted on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the endless towers of light cast into Sharjah’s night sky by Ryoji Ikeda, the Almanac not only presents the hard data on the most dynamic nodes in today’s art scene, but also reveals that this creative world is a real-time, face-to-face, interactive social network on an exhilarating scale.