Installation view of ’s Contact, 2019, mixed media, 230 × 700 × 800 cm, at Roppongi Crossing 2019: “Connexions,” Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. Photo by Kioku Keizo. Courtesy Mori Art Museum. 

Unfinished Business

Also available in:  Chinese

Now in its 15th edition, ArtAsiaPacific’s Almanac tracks the diverse cultural landscape from Asia and the Pacific to the Middle East. Every year, the editors and the contributors swap notes on what has happened over the course of the last 12 months, as well as what is in store for the year ahead, to create a detailed overview of contemporary art from 53 countries. Over time and within each edition, the Almanac is an archive between two covers of the region’s creativity. 

The Almanac would not be possible without the generosity of ArtAsiaPacific Foundation’s supporters. We are tremendously grateful to our major sponsors: Burger Collection, Kukje Gallery, Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation, CL3 Architects, the Private Museum and its founding director Daniel Teo, Mapletree, and Stefan Rihs. We also extend our thanks to the art patrons, institutions, and galleries who are committed to assisting us in this enormous annual endeavor. 

This unique, ambitious project records the ebbs and flows of fascinating but often neglected art scenes. The Almanac would not have come together without the dedication of our designers and editors, and the many contributors and their sources, whom we cannot thank enough for sharing their knowledge and candid perspectives. We are also very grateful to Clara Cheung, Li Zhenhua, Han Nefkens, Tom Tandio, and Jason Wee for taking the time to reflect on the year in art during their busy itineraries. Most importantly, the artists and arts organizations deserve special, boundless thanks for giving us a reason to look, think, research, and write.

Within these pages are hard statistics, such as figures for government funding for the arts, the number of museums dedicated to contemporary art, and a country’s population and GDP per capita. These details are included alongside individual country reports that describe the developments in specific art scenes, and the reflections of significant art figures who offer their own observations, visions, and perspectives on art and how it can help bring about change in society. 

In the front of the book, readers will find a compilation of the news that dominated headlines in 2019. Allegations of censorship were hotly debated in Japan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and China. Scandals about arts patrons’ sources of wealth embroiled major institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, protests in Lebanon, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Iraq, India, and Indonesia disrupted arts activities and prompted practitioners to take action in varied ways. In our Cultural Currency section, we review the activities of the art market, from the auctions to the art fairs, as blue-chip modernists and neo-pop artists made record-breaking sales. 

As we do in every edition of the Almanac, the editors turn a spotlight on six artists whose practices stood out in 2019. We revisit the major festivals of the year, from Venice to Sharjah and Singapore, and select exhibitions that provoked contemplation about a range of timely issues. We also preview ten shows that are worth looking ahead to in 2020. Together, these components provide a more accurate, comprehensive approach to navigating a maturing, yet constantly changing, arts ecology. 

Our task every year is to make a record, take account, and synthesize the many notable artistic phenomenona that are shaping so many unique but interconnected global communities. The precarious and sometimes chaotic state of the world at the end of the decade is captured in elements of art director Heesun Seo’s makeover of the Almanac’s pages and cover design. Yet the reshuffling and shifting of the world has also produced many new openings and opportunities for the creative fields. We hope that readers will be as absorbed, challenged, and inspired as they discover the many worlds found in the Almanac

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