ArtAsiaPacific Almanac 2018


January 4, 2018
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Even before we had signed off on the final proofs for this year’s Almanac, it occurred to us that real closure was impossible. The world we track is constantly changing, and as our cover and the design concept for the 2018 Almanac reveals, it is an unfinished symphony of shifting layers, a fantasia of patterns, shapes and colors.

For more than a decade, ArtAsiaPacific has published an annual compendium of the year in art. Offering a record of the art world—from across Asia and the Pacific to the Middle East—helps to create a more nuanced understanding of the evolving, and sometimes fragile, creative ecology of the present. This 13th edition of the Almanac would not be possible without the generosity of all our supporters. We are tremendously grateful to our associate sponsor, the Sharjah Art Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Burger Collection, Mapletree, SAHA Association and the Frank F. Yang Art and Education Foundation. We also thank all patrons, art institutions and galleries, not to mention our tireless contributors, who believe in the importance of this challenging endeavor.

In Reflections, we invited six influential figures to comment on the year in art. Yayoi Kusama, from Tokyo, revels in a dizzying 12 months of retrospectives of her work. Hong Kong’s Patrick Sun, founder of the Sunpride Foundation, pens a moving analysis of the development of queer representation in institutions, including his own organization’s ground-breaking exhibition Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei. Independent curator Natasha Ginwala meditates on her involvement in various projects such as Contour Biennale 8 and Documenta 14, and urges those in the art world to realize that “we are starved for poetry that can speak to our times neither with sensationalism nor blocked by (self-) censorship.” One of Australia’s most generous art patrons, Simon Mordant, weighs up the countless artworks he has seen in exhibitions over the last 12 months in Sydney, New York, Münster, Kassel and Venice. Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi, the founder of Barjeel Art Foundation in the UAE, commends the increased interest in art from West Asia. Lastly, Aaron Seeto, director of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, removes his hard hat after the highly anticipated opening of Jakarta’s first private art institution in November, and shares his perspective on the significance of the museum for the region.

In Five Plus One, AAP’s editors selected five artists and collectives who have contributed to the major conversations and exhibitions of the last 12 months, along with one poised for a transformative year ahead. These include Karachi-born, London-based Rasheed Araeen, largely considered the father of British minimalism; the 400-member Japanese new-media group teamLab; New Zealand’s video and film artist Lisa Reihana; Beijing conceptualist Song Dong; Indonesian endurance performance artist Melati Suryodarmo; and the Philippines’ emerging video artist Martha Atienza.

We also highlight significant museum and gallery exhibitions, and review anthologies and monographs released in 2017. In our News section, we documented the year’s controversies and censorship, including the neutering of three artworks in New York Guggenheim’s Chinese survey exhibition, and the landslide movement against sexism and sexual harassment that has seen the downfall of male figures in the art world.

Artists have long dwelt on these issues, even though it’s hard to distinguish life imitating art from art imitating life. The time capsule we have compiled in these pages provides snapshots that, for an instant, freeze the flux, encouraging us to contemplate how both life and art are evolving, for better or worse.

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