The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative aims to open the museum to cross-cultural exchange on a vast scale. The inaugural region will be South and Southeast Asia, expanding their Asian Art Program under the mantle of Singapore-based curator June Yap.

The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Design by Johnson Banks, © Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, New York.

Phase one of the ambitious Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative will focus on contemporary art from South and Southeast Asia. This part of the project will build off of the foundations laid by the museum’s Asia Art Program, first established in 2006. According to Curatorial Director Joan Young, the Asia Art Program “promotes the research, acquisition, exhibition and education of Asian art within an evolving transnational model of modern and contemporary art history that is both integrative and contextual.”

The Guggenheim’s engagement with the South and Southeast region goes back even further than this programme, including exhibitions from seminal artists Rirkrit Tiravanija and Anish Kapoor. Currently on view is “Being Singular Plural“, the museum’s first group show devoted exclusively to Indian artists.

To lead the initiative, Singapore-based curator June Yap has been selected as the inaugural curator-in-residence. She was chosen by the museum for her experience and expertise in the region’s contemporary art world, having previously worked in the curatorial departments of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore, and the Singapore Art Museum, as well as a four-year stint as an independent curator, where she most recently curated the Singapore Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, an exhibition of works by Ho Tzu Nyen.

While Yap has just begun to work with the museum, she is already working with Guggenheim staff to identify art from the region that will further the dialogue between the East and the West. Potential countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The exhibition will open in winter 2013 in New York before traveling to two other international venues.

June Yap, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, South and Southeast Asia. Photograph by David Heald, © Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation, NY.

Organised in conjunction with Swiss bank UBS, the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative aims to further incorporate non-western art discourses into their collection and exhibition program. Over a five-year period, the museum will invite three curators to complete overlapping residencies at the Guggenheim in New York, one from South and Southeast Asia, one from Latin America, and one from the Middle East and North Africa.

The curators-in-residence will work with the Guggenheim staff to organise an exhibition of new and recent artwork from the region that embodies some of its current cultural practices and aesthetic discourses. The exhibitions will first open at the Guggenheim in New York before traveling to a museum in the focus region as well as one major city elsewhere. The artworks in the exhibition will also enter into the museum’s permanent collection.

The shows will also be supplemented with extensive educational programs with aims tailored to the audience of each of the exhibition locations. This targeted cultural exchange aims to bridge the gap between the local art histories and the lack of international awareness of these discourses. The museum programming will also be supplemented by online materials to reach out to viewers from a range of ages and backgrounds.

The initiative’s scope and diversity of programming is perhaps only matched by its ambition, to be one of the globe’s most forward-thinking, internationalised art institutions. “To a great degree, our view of art history remains western-centric,” said Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong. “Through this collaboration with UBS, we hope to challenge that view, and extend the art world to the real world’s horizon.”


Related Topics: globalisation of art, curatorial practiceart in New York, museum collections, touring exhibitions

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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