ArtAsiaPacific Almanac 2017
Last year felt like one big systems glitch. Much of the news, particularly from the political realm, was mind-boggling. To say the least, it was a year of upheaval and social discontent. While many countries feel the need to gaze inward and retreat from the interconnected world, there are still advocates who believe in pluralism. Some of the most vocal opponents against an increasingly xenophobic atmosphere are artists and curators who champion the free exchange of ideas and viewpoints.
In ArtAsiaPacific‘s 12th edition of the annual Almanac, questions of where the world is heading have dominated public conversation. Unlike in any other volume, the art world figures whom we invited to reflect on the year that just passed, and what 2017 might look like, all expressed the need to resist the current political climate. From New Delhi, Ram Rahman, acclaimed photographer and founding member of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, writes of dark shadows that the Indian government casts over the world’s largest democracy. In Bangkok, Gridthiya Gaweewong, the artistic director of the Jim Thompson Art Center, explains how she counters the increasingly nationalistic discourse in Thailand. Bige Örer, the director of the Istanbul Biennial, ponders strategies and tactics for surviving in an unstable, isolated environment. Shanghai Himalayas Museum director Yongwoo Lee considers the present state of biennials, and notes that some 300 were formed over the last two decades, a period of dynamic artistic exchange. From New York, Yukie Kamiya, the director of the Japan Society Gallery, discusses what it means to maintain diversity in arts institutions in the US, despite an incoming president who campaigned, and won, on a platform of fear and intolerance.
Fortunately, there wasn’t only bad news in 2016. The year also ushered in many exciting happenings, which are detailed within the pages of ArtAsiaPacific‘s Almanac, an enormous effort that uncovers all the activity of 53 countries—including Bhutan, Brunei, Jordan, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and Uzbekistan. Despite an embarrassing political scandal at the highest level, South Korea had an energetic year, hosting many homegrown biennials. Hong Kong got a sneak peek of M+’s growing art holdings in two exhibitions: one a survey of contemporary Chinese art comprised of Uli Sigg’s donations to the museum, and the other a fascinating mix of design objects from across Asia. West Asia witnessed the launch of the Palestinian Museum in May and welcomed the third edition of the Qalandiya International in October. In Pakistan, final preparations are being made for the inaugural Lahore Biennale.
What else? Our editors profiled Samson Young, a trailblazing sound artist who wowed the crowds at Art Basel in Basel in 2016, and is set for a breakout year as he represents Hong Kong at the 57th Venice Biennale. We reviewed 12 books, including a volume of poetry by Cristiana de Marchi paired with documentary photographs of the late Hassan Sharif‘s early artistic practice, the Asia Society’s monograph that accompanied Zao Wou-ki‘s first museum retrospective in the United States, a playfully designed collection of interviews with artists from Metro Manila, and art historian Reiko Tomii‘s endeavor to inscribe Japanese postwar art movements into global art history. Despite any angst one might have experienced this year, you’ll be encouraged by the atmosphere of creativity and collaboration within the many art scenes profiled in the Almanac.
The Almanac is a unique endeavor that systematically maps all the artistic activity occurring across the region—from countries, both big and small, with or without arts funding or an art market—to cast light on the evolution of these creative communities in a transformative time. It also offers a forecast of things to come as we step into 2017.
Select articles are now online in Chinese and Arabic.
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