ArtAsiaPacific Almanac 2015
Although a decade has passed since we published the first edition of the ArtAsiaPacific Almanac, the work continues to present new challenges and pleasures. Over the years, we have tracked all the players in the field: artists, curators, collectors, galleries, art fairs and auction houses. We also mourned the loss of mentors and others who helped shape a cultural landscape that nurtures experimentation and tolerates diversity when it was—and in some cases continues to be—prohibitive to do so. Many of these courageous pioneers encouraged us in our endeavor to create the Almanac, year after year; some through thoughtful contributions, others privately in conversation as we did our homework.
While the editors grumble about the information overflow that threatens to submerge us, piecing together theAlmanac reminds us of just how little factual information is available in many parts of the world, and why theAlmanac remains essential. Sometimes the lack of art-related data is due to fledgling infrastructure. In other places, where free speech is perceived as a societal menace, censors scrub information on certain artworks and artists from the internet. Thus we continue to rely on the goodwill of artists, curators and scholars in such places, who share their knowledge with us in person or via Skype, WeChat, and email. These efforts illustrate the role publications can play in documenting the artistic histories unfolding in far-flung parts of the world today.
In each edition of the Almanac, now in its tenth year, we provide annual reports about the 67 countries in the region—including Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tonga and Vietnam, among others—and track a year’s worth of controversy, scandal, career moves, awards and other major headline news.
We also invite influential art-world figures to reflect on the major cultural events of the past year and the year to come. Ute Meta Bauer, curator and founding director of the Center for Contemporary Art in Singapore, and Aaron Cezar, Director of London’s Delfina Foundation, both show how neighboring, like-minded, yet distinctive art communities can generate momentum through convergence. Elsewhere, art scenes can remain stubbornly segregated and marginalized, often fighting for recognition—a situation that Japanese artist and artistic director of the Yokohama Triennale, Yasumasa Morimura, and Australian artist Tony Albert write about poignantly. In their reflections, arts patron Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal from the United Arab Emirates and Jitish Kallat, Mumbai-based artist and Kochi-Muziris Biennale artistic director, speak from the perspective of homegrown pride, particularly the collective efforts to realize something that appears almost insurmountable.
The “Five Plus One” section, in which our editors select five artists who have made a significant impact in 2014 and one who promises to do so in 2015, features profiles of artists as varied in outlook as Xu Bing, Gülsün Karamustafa, FX Harsono, Sheela Gowda, Simryn Gill and Ei Arakawa. The editors also pick the ten best gallery and museum shows of the year, the exhibitions on our radar in 2015, and 12 of our favorite books.
The Almanac was initiated at a time when many contemporary art scenes across Asia had first shown their potential growth. Ten years later, it seems that some of these scenes, especially in India, China and Turkey, have achieved mid-career status, while contemporary art in Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand continues to build on more solid foundations, and new prospects are germinating in places such as the Philippines, Oman and Azerbaijan. It is our task to keep up with the emerging developments, with a broad perspective on those who are due for retrospectives. Because of the constant evolution of these various art scenes, our desire to play an active role remains the same as when the Almanac started in 2005.
Select articles now online in Arabic and Chinese.