No matter where you live, exhibition openings in the final months of the year come thick and fast. One meets the same old faces in familiar surroundings, catching up on gossip from the off-season, enjoying the work of established artists, rarely venturing into fresh territory. As the season begins, however, this issue of ArtAsiaPacific focuses on much that is new.
Myanmar celebrated its coming-out party this year. The lifting of both censorship and sanctions facilitated the beginning of global investment; arguably the most powerful human-rights figure alive today was released from house arrest and elected to parliament; and the attention of the world’s media was drawn to the complexities of Myanmar’s social strata, divided as they are by religion, language and wealth.
. . . the advent of a significant market for Asian and Chinese contemporary has finally given these art worlds a proper place in popular and critical discourse.
Ingrid Dudek, “Fast and Furious: Building Critical Taste in Asian Auctions,” ArtAsiaPacific, no. 85, p. 41.
There is something charmingly old-fashioned about Birdhead, the young Shanghai-based photographic duo of Ji Weiyu and Song Tao (born in 1980 and 1979, respectively), as exemplified by their approach to technology. Their sobriquet was coined by chance in 2004 when, as they struggled with a computer, it randomly generated the name. And they still don’t have a website. “Three times we have tried to make one,” they say, “and each time we have failed.”
Lida Abdul came to international attention in 2005 when she represented Afghanistan at the 51st Venice Biennale, the only time the country has had a national pavilion. Forced to flee her native country in the wake of the Soviet invasion of 1979, Abdul was unable to return until after the American invasion of 2001. The three film works she presented at Venice resulted from her confrontation, after two decades’ absence, with the abundance of graves and ruins she found there.
It is difficult to pinpoint when the renewed interest in Etel Adnan’s work began. By the time curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev invited the Lebanese-American artist and writer to participate in Documenta 13 in June 2012, after coming across a show of her paintings and drawings at Beirut’s Sfeir-Semler gallery in 2010, a local celebration of her extensive career was well underway.
Courtesy of Liao Guohe, a scatological cast occupied the exhibition space of Boers-Li Gallery in late August of this year. There were fat, balding men—accompanied by their pure-blonde lovers, an elephant and frog, a cockerel, policemen and a teddy bear with a pop gun—with block heads and crude cars for shoes, extended tongues with roughly written slogans on them, holding airplanes or embracing on swings, as well as squirting and spitting, in a satirical jamboree.
When I first saw Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour’s film Nation Estate, at Paris’ Anne de Villepoix gallery in 2012, I got into a fight over it. While I championed the film’s exuberant use of clichés as a sardonic strategy, my gallery-hopping companion brushed it off as heavy-handed symbolism set in an overpolished blockbuster aesthetic.
I make quite a spectacle as I arrive at Do-Ho Suh’s studio, crashing in straight from Gatwick Airport with a behemoth of a suitcase. Never the light traveler, I have carted a hefty load of homemade supplies halfway across the globe, hoping they will see me through the coming months in London. It’s a fitting preamble to the visit: Suh, born in Seoul, formerly based in New York, but now in London and working across all three cities, once remarked, “I want to carry my house, my home, with me all the time, like a snail.”
It has long been known that the art market can be fertile ground for persons to “launder” or “wash” cash derived from criminal activity. However, recent charges of money laundering brought by authorities in the United States against certain art dealers and collectors have sparked a renewed focus among art market participants on why and how the art world lends itself so readily to such transactions.