Asia Art Archive online: landmark moment for contemporary Asian art scholarship

Not just for Hong Kongers, Asia Art Archive’s collection is now open to an international audience, accessible through a custom designed website.

Asia Art Archive (AAA) launched a beta version of its online collection on 5 June 2012. The initial upload of over 3,000 items includes four important archives of Filipino, Chinese and Indian contemporary art, as well as AAA’s own primary audio-visual materials.

Interior of Asia Art Archive's Hong Kong centre.

After a decade of research and digitisation, AAA has opened its extensive collection of contemporary Asian art primary and secondary materials to the general public via the Internet. Though only around 3,000 items are currently available online, the organisation will now direct most of its resources toward uploading the remaining collection in phases. In total, AAA’s collection contains over 300,000 digital items.

The archive fills a very apparent blind spot in contemporary Asian art communities. As AAA Founder Claire Hsu told The New York Times,

There is this sense of urgency, this rush to save materials that are not being kept, not being preserved properly. Most of the primary source material has never been made public before. This is the first time that they will be free and accessible. We believe in preservation through accessibility.

In contrast to Western contemporary art institutions, there are very few Asian organisations dedicated to preserving these important historical documents. AAA’s initial release includes four major collections (PDF download):

  • “Another Life: The Digitised Personal Archive of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram”, two major curators and art historians of contemporary Indian art.
  • “The Chabet Archive – Covering Fifty Years of the Artist’s Materials” of Filipino art from the 1960s onward.
  • “Materials of the Future: Documenting Contemporary Chinese Art from 1980-1990” which contains the personal collections of Chinese contemporary artists Mao Xuhui, Zhang Peili and Zhang Xiaogang.
  • AAA’s in-house collection of audio-visual material including performance art, artist talks and lectures since 2003.

The release has also opened the door for AAA to collaborate with several other Asian and international institutions to expand their operations. They have already announced a partnership with the Indonesian Visual Art Archive. In addition, ARTStor, the image database used by many US universities, which approached AAA to supplement their extensive Western visual art archive.

With the launch of their online collection, AAA also announced the first edition of Field Notes, a free, tri-annual, bilingual e-journal. In light of these major expansions, AAA is poised to become Asia’s most comprehensive source of academic materials for contemporary Asian art to date.

PR/KN

Related Topics: contemporary art non-profits, contemporary art research, resources, art and the Internet

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