Which cities in Asia will lead the avant-garde in contemporary art? A recent book predicts the future.
Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes (released at the end of September 2013) highlights twelve art cities of the future, with Asian cities comprising five of the twelve slots. What ties the twelve cities together is their unique avant-garde scenes and their experimental, internationally aware yet locally sensitive art.
Published by Phaidon Press, Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes by Antawan I. Byrd and Reid Shier, features twelve curators who selected eight artists to “represent the avant-garde of a specific city,” according to the book’s introduction. The selected artists are experimental and globally-minded as they participate in international mega-exhibitions like biennials, yet these artists are devoted to their specific locales, helping to define their art scenes.
In the age of globalisation, it is notable that such a book focuses on the local rather than the global, which shows that the trend in the avant-garde art world is shifting, as artists are paying more attention to their local milieus.
Art Radar gives a brief overview of the five Asian cities listed in the book whose artists, curators and institutions all work together to create a strong and thriving art scene for their specific cities.
As one of the most populated cities in the world with 23.2 million people, Delhi is India’s cultural centre. Delhi is home to a wide range of art institutions such as art museums, galleries, and art schools, including The National Gallery of Modern Art, KHOJ International Artists’ Association, The School of Arts and Aesthetics (JNU), Exhibit320 and Talwar Gallery.
Art fairs boost local art scenes, so it is no surprise that the India Art Fair takes place in Delhi. In addition to the art fair, there is a thriving area for contemporary art. Known as the Lado Sarai, it is an art district filled with art galleries located in the southwestern part of New Delhi. Indian artists who have participated on the international stage, such as Shambhavi Singh, Princess Pea and Amar Kanwar, call Delhi home.
An article in The New York Times published on 16 August 2013 claims that Istanbul “has truly come into its own as a contemporary art hub.” The flourishing art centre has the Istanbul Biennial and several art fairs: Contemporary Istanbul, Istanbul Art Fair and ArtInternational. The city includes a wide range of museums, galleries and art schools such as the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Plato Art Space, Rampa Gallery, SALT, Pilot and Galerist to name a few.
Singapore’s government pours a lot of money into the city-state’s art and culture sector. A report published in 2012 by the National Arts Council states: “Government funding for arts and culture has increased steadily from USD230.2 mil in 2005 to USD437.2 mil in 2011.” As of June 2013, Singapore’s population numbered 5.4 million, so in relation to its population the arts funding helps to support its bustling art scene.
Singapore’s infrastructure is also conducive to the growth of the art scene, as it is home to the Singapore Freeport, a state-of-the-art art storage facility. Institutions include the Singapore Biennale, Affordable Art Fair, Singapore Art Fair, LASALLE College of the Arts, and exhibition venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, the National Art Gallery (slated to open in 2015) and The Substation.
Artists with international art reputations include Heman Chong, Lim Tzay Chuen, Ho Tzu Nyen, Lee Wen and Donna Ong live and work in Singapore, and have exhibited in major exhibitions like the Venice Biennale and Singapore Biennale.
Lebanon’s capital city Beirut is located on the Mediterranean coast and has an estimated population of 1.9 million. Beirut has a wide range of art institutions such as the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut Art Center and art schools such as Ashkal Alwan (The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, founded in 1994) and Lebanese American University School of Arts & Sciences.
Beirut does not have a biennale like some of the other cities, but it does have the Beirut Art Fair and an artist residency, Zico House. Artists such as Walid Raad, Ziad Antar and Marwa Arsanios have gained notable attention abroad, while still keeping their roots in Beirut.
Beirut is also a magnet for Syrian artists who are relocating to this new art centre, according to an article in the Gulf News. Gallery owner Mark Hachem is quoted in the article as saying, “The influx of Syrian artists is enriching the art scene in Lebanon. It’s creating something new, some new movement. You can see the Lebanese artists influenced by the Syrian reality and vice versa.”
Seoul is the second most populated city in the world (24.4 million) with a density of 17,288 people per square km. As a result, it is also Korea’s thriving arts and cultural centre and home to the Seoul Arts Center, Seoul Institute of the Arts, Alternative Space Loop, National Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nam June Paik Art Center.
Media City Seoul is a biennial of new media art established in 2000; the eighth edition is scheduled for 2014. Artists who live and work in Seoul, but who became well-known by participating in international biennales, include Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Do-ho Suh, Gimhongsok and Choi Jeong-Hwa.
Please let us know in the comments section below which Asian city or cities you think will be the big art centres of the future.
- Turkey’s art in troubled times: Istanbul gallerists’ view from the ground – September 2013 – Istanbul gallerists describe today’s contemporary art scene in Turkey
- Inaugural ArtInternational in Istanbul – September 2013 – an eleventh hour change of name did little to dampen exhibitor enthusiasm for Istanbul’s newest art fair
- Lado Sarai: New Delhi’s “new high street of art” – AFP – February 2012 – New Delhi creates a new art district
- Galleries say debut Art Stage Singapore brings diversity ART HK lacks – January 2011 – ART HK’s international turn could give Art Stage Singapore an opening to redefine itself as the most Asia-centric art fair
- Beirut finally has a permanent, non-commercial arts centre – March 2009 – Beirut finally has a permanent, non-commercial arts centre
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