Art Now! Volume 4: A contemporary art compendium – book review

East Asian art takes the spotlight in contemporary art compendium Art Now! 4.

Art Now! 4, an encyclopaedic look at contemporary art in 2013, turns the spotlight on East Asia, bringing readers a “pocket guide” to the art and artists of China, Japan and Korea.

"Art Now! 4", Taschen's contemporary art compendium, 2013. Image courtesy Taschen.

“Art Now! 4”, Taschen’s contemporary art compendium, 2013. Image courtesy Taschen.

2013 marks twenty years since China’s first appearance at the Venice Biennale. In that initial year of 1993, fourteen artists participated in the art world’s most famous and most geopolitically fraught biennial. Twenty years later, the seven Chinese artists featured in the national pavilion are accompanied in Venice by “an estimated 2,000 Chinese art workers,” according to Ning Hui writing in Tea Leaf Nation. There were fourteen Chinese collateral exhibits across Venice, with one featuring works by some 150 Chinese artists. Ai Weiwei, who has never represented China in Venice, this year showed his installation Bang in the German pavilion. China’s 2013 Venice Biennale pavilion, “Transfiguration”, was chosen, as curator Wang Chunchen told China Daily, to emphasise “things that are changing; it is the portrayal of China’s social development during the last 30 years of reform and opening up.”

Ai Weiwei, 'WeiweiCam', 2012, four cameras streaming to www.weiweicam.com. Image courtesy the artist.

Ai Weiwei, ‘WeiweiCam’, 2012, four cameras streaming to www.weiweicam.com. Image courtesy the artist.

Asia: “the focus of the global art world”

The fourth volume of art publisher Taschen’s “Art Now” series acknowledges the global rise of both Chinese and Asian art by focusing for the first time on East Asia. Taking readers on what the introduction describes as “a tour of the art world today,” Art Now! 4 combines essays on contemporary art in China, Japan and Korea with profiles of over 100 contemporary artists. By spotlighting developments in East Asian art scenes, the compendium aims to “present the scenes and places that in recent years have increasingly become the focus of the global art world, where new markets, such as Hong Kong, and now also Singapore, take on key roles.”

Art Now! and the Asian contingent 

Among the 100 plus artist profiles, which come complete with high resolution images and memorable quotes from artists (such as Cai Guo-Qiang’s description of his work as “a timespace tunnel”), ten Asian artists are highlighted.

Haegue Yang, 'Acoustics of Karma', 2011, single shaft clothing rack (chrome) on casters with round top, frosted light bulbs, cable, cord, rope, globe, bells, metal rings, pine cones, coins, yarn, keys, papier mâché, watercolour, lacquer. Photo by Nozomi Tomoeda. Image courtesy Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Haegue Yang, ‘Acoustics of Karma’, 2011, single shaft clothing rack (chrome) on casters with round top, frosted light bulbs, cable, cord, rope, globe, bells, metal rings, pine cones, coins, yarn, keys, papier mâché, watercolour, lacquer. Photo by Nozomi Tomoeda. Image courtesy Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Supplementary essays provide East Asian context. Independent critic and curator Karen Smith discusses contemporary art in Beijing and Shanghai, examining and looking through the lens of the past 30 years. Colin Chinnery, Artistic Director of contemporary art institution Wuhan Art Terminus (WH.A.T), compares art historical developments across China, South Korea and Japan. Curators Sunjung Kim (Seoul) and Kataoka Mami (Tokyo) discuss innovative art practice in their respective countries.

MadeIn Company's fabric studio, Shanghai, 2012. Image courtesy Karen Smith and Liu Heung Shing.

MadeIn Company’s fabric studio, Shanghai, 2012. Image courtesy Karen Smith and Liu Heung Shing.

Art Now 4 also contains a “pocket guide” to contemporary art, including information on the main Asian art centres and a glossary to help non-experts differentiate between situationism, actionism and other art historical terms.

Cassandra Naji 

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Related Topics: Asian art, art media, book reviews

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Comments

Art Now! Volume 4: A contemporary art compendium – book review — 1 Comment

  1. I was amazed at the Chinese contemporary art presented in “Art Now”. This book definitely broadened my awareness in Asian and especially Chinese art!

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