The Edge of Asia

September marked the second anniversary of the Asian Art Report, curiously when I was at the utmost extreme edge of Asia – Istanbul – that city that span continents and described as the clichéd meeting point of East and West. I will talk about the ‘Asian’ side of Istanbul in this month’s Focal Point and where eyes were point for its 10th Istanbul Biennial.
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September marked the second anniversary of the Asian Art Report, curiously when I was at the utmost extreme edge of Asia – Istanbul – that city that span continents and described as the clichéd meeting point of East and West. I will talk about the ‘Asian’ side of Istanbul in this month’s Focal Point and where eyes were point for its 10th Istanbul Biennial.

This is the last AAR for the year. Looking ahead 2008 is going to be an exciting year for Asia with the marketing campaign “Art Compass” connecting five biennales in September – Sydney, Singapore, Gwangju, Yokohama and Shanghai and of course the Olympics in Beijing it will be another exciting year of looking at contemporary art practice in this dynamic region. I am still chasing dates on Bangladesh’s 13th Asian Art Biennial, supposedly in February and the 12th Indian Triennial also launching activities in the new year. But I am getting ahead of myself – lets take a look at what is happening October through November! Welcome to the Asian Art Report.

Gina Fairley


Much was made of Hou Hanru’s title for the 10th Istanbul Biennial: “Not only possible but also necessary: Optimism in the Age of Global War”. With few surprises it was an extremely political biennial, but did it managed to pull itself above the prescriptive clichés of art in our time of conflict and that other one – biennale sensation?

Istanbul is a vital and exciting art scene spotted around this rather ramshackled, rolling city – it charms you in every way possible. For me what evolved as the greater highlight and embracing of ‘optimism’ was the standard of exhibitions presented by local galleries to coincide with the biennial. Of particular not was a new space RODEO in a converted tabacco factory – you walked into the ground floor gallery tared with bitumen (; Also opening during the opening festivities was santralistanbul a converted powerstation connected to a university – they presented 50-years of Turkish art and their opening was complete with rock concert and paparazzi helicopters ( another exciting venue was Platform which focuses on art production in the Middle East and Balkans (; Istanbul Modern is of course a seminal contemporary art institution located in a former biennial venue on the dockside ( It presented a survey exhibition looking at the past nine biennials to mark its 20-year history and giving the event that historical anchor. Such a quick wrap up can’t go by without mentioning the edgy/political alternative space Hafriyat and longest-running, Apartment project; and top commercial galleries Nev ( who also opened a new space, Galerist who showed the Turkish super-star Haluk Akakce and Dirimart ( – I won’t wax on about these other places but will leave you to take yourself on your own wonderful discovery tour of contemporary Turkish art (if you are feeling lazy you can also pick up the November issue of Art Monthly Australia or the next issue of Eyeline for a complete review by me!).

Anyhow back to the biennial – generally, opinions were mixed. Key to Hou’s biennial is how it connected with site. Of the three primary venues this work to varying degrees: the Atatürk Cultural Centre (AKM) a Republican Modernist icon in the vein of Le Corbusier’s United Nation’s building in New York connected with the architecture of this venue implicitly working with its pitfalls as a ‘white cube’. It was dominated by photography and this is where I believe Hou Hanru gets it right – sensitive to those utopian vision and their parallel dreams between site and image of site. Others criticised photography a poor choice give the light-bleeds from the buildings façade.

The second primary venue, the Istanbul Textile Traders’ Market (IMC), he used a sub- “World Factory”, playing off the in-justices of third world industry/ labour forces and first world consumerism. Sadly the projects did elevate the venue above its current function as a conglomerate of shops. Projects heavy with documentation and too much video left you burnt out and discombobulated. What was a perfect site for ‘connecting’ became more about disconnection.

The third and largest venue was Antrepo No. 3. – your typical dockside/warehouse biennale site. And it had all the biennale staged dialogues. Here the ‘connections’ were over worked to the point of sledge-hammer rhetoric – playing out the socio-political [slash] religious tensions plagued by today’s media. Lining up AES+F Last Riot (a version shown at Venice), with Hamra Abbas, Michael Rakowitz (who will be in the 2008 Biennale of Sydney) and Huang Yong Ping’s minaret from Haghia Sophia positioned as a missile – yikes! Sadly, these works shouted as a group – individually they were very accomplished works.

Why do we need to play out such obvious tensions? Curator Okwui Enwezor makes the comment in his catalogue essay for Istanbul, “Millennialism is the picture of the nineties” and its anticipated utopia has not been fulfilled in the 21st century”. The individual works at Antrepo tackle these failures of the 21st century, however, their placement creates too much ‘bounce’ or sensation. I have said this in my other articles on the 10th Istanbul Biennial, but I think it is an important point to make – it is the quieter works that spoke the loudest and hold the greater optimism at the end of the day. Works such as Malaysian artist Wong Hoy Cheong, Allora & Calzadilla’s stunning film and similarly, Kutlug Ataman’s film Testimony; or Buthayna Ali’s jawi inscribed rubber swings and even just the clean simple one-liner of Ken Lum’s installation and Davenport, Aghasyan and Faust’s photos at AKM – these are the pieces to look for.

Hou Hanru has shown us that a post-globalisation dialogue is necessary. Together with Okwui Enwezor’s suggestion of our failure in the light of Millennialism, it is vital that we continue to explore the very complex issues that Hou Hanru has raises in his 10th Istanbul Biennial – perhaps there is optimism in our self-effacing world afterall?

To view images on the Istanbul Biennial visit or alternatively their website

This month I am not going to point out a ‘cool’ website that I have come across but rather a fantastic resource – a site that kind of fits with this issue and its focus on the Istanbul Biennial. It is the Asian Art Archives “All You Want To Know About International Art Biennials” and online project that “aims to chart and map the modes, development and diversities of international biennials and triennials world-wide, with the intention of highlighting those in which Asian artists have participated since the 1990s.”

They also have a previous online project that you should also check out “Archiving the contemporary: documenting Asian art today yesterday & tomorrow”


La Salle Slipping?
While Singapore’s private art school La Salle is sporting an incredible new building in downtown Singapore it is grappling to settle into the new site, cancelling its scheduled September conference, ironically titled “Do You Believe in Art Institutions?” and the controversial ‘resignation’ of its three top men Robert Ely (President and Chief Executive), Richard Berry (Vice President) and Alan Lourens (Vice President Academic), speculated over ‘funds management’. La Salle’s Earl Lu Gallery under ICA Director Eugene Tan has a strong reputation for presenting contemporary art projects, but programming remains in a hiatus until the galleries are finished. The upside is change always proposes a clean slate for fresh futures.

Twiggs in the jungle
Tony Twigg was in Singapore for the month of October with his work featured at ARTSingapore and a solo exhibition at TASKU “Expanded discs”. Twigg explores a new form – a circle that has been segmented and stretched creating an active bounce between negative and positive as you move across his timber constructions – they are extremely active works. Showing until end November. Twigg also completed a major private commission working with one of Singapore’s leading architects. For more visit

Out of Mould
Galerie Petronas (Kuala Lumpur) has taken a confident position in presenting its current exhibition. A show of all female artists it was criticised by some still caught in the eddies of gender politics, to the point some artists declined inclusion in the exhibition. But what curator Shireen Naziree has given Malaysian audiences is an extremely dynamic and exciting picture of contemporary art practice. This is about artists that are pushing ahead in finding a new expression for Malaysian art – that they happen to be women is coincidental. Making new work for this sensational show are Hayati Mokhtar with her film ‘Penawar’, Yee I-Lann suite of four digital prints “Kinabalu Series” and Umi Baizurah’s ceramic installation of hybrid toys, plus also included seminal work by Shoosie Sulaiman, Nur Hanim, Nadia Bamadhaj among others. Showing until 2 December.

Patisatustudio – home as art site
Located at Bandar Puncak Alam, outside the city of KL on the way to Kuala Selangor, artist couple Ahmad Shukri Mohamed & Umi Baziurah recently launched their studio come project space – a space to mentor younger artists and advocate for environmental issues – what could be called an ‘art ecosystem’. Shukri has been documenting the endangered tapir. Both successful artists in their own medium, I managed to visit the space last month and was totally heartened by their generosity of this altruistic project. Umi’s ceramics were shown in the abovementioned Petronas show and at Jendella Art Space in Singapore during October. Visit

Jiang Shuo – Monument of Time
The Austria-based Chinese artist Jiang Shuo will be showing a number of recent works from her internationally acclaimed ‘Red Guard’ series at Hong Kong’s Plum Blossoms Gallery. A popular theme for Chinese artists today, these works typically are loaded with irony and a dose of contemporary commentary. Showing until 1 November.

Lewis & Jones do Singapore
Ruark Lewis and Jonathan Jones were in Singapore during September as part of the Run-Artist-Run, an Asialink artist exchange between the alternative space p-10 and 1/2doz in Sydney. They presented the inaugural exhibition in p-10’s new space Post Museum in Little India, an extremely exciting development for this curatorial/research-based project. Lewis & Jones project An Index of Kindness transcribes events and objects observed during their stay with a series of site-specific installations and performances that considers the importance of language. Jones currently has an exciting at gbk Gallery at Sydney’s Danks Street Complex.

Time is in a perpetual state of flux – obvious. We tend to get so caught in the present – our days filled up that we barely stop to think where we are going. This exhibition Tomorrow draws together 32 international artists to critic the ‘power’ that forms our future. Cocurated by Amercian dynamo David A. Ross and Dan Cameron with local Sunjung Kim the exhibition spans the diverse fields of painting, installation, photography, media art and performance and will be presented across two venues Kumho Museum of Art and Artsonje Center, Seoul. Showing Oct 2007 – 2 Dec 2007 visit

Singapore Round up
Eric Chan’s paintings have always been popular with their blurred, romantic floral still-lives. This exhibition differs only in subject matter taking on a nostalgic rendering of portraits of old masters – Another Place Another Time at Substation. In contrast to Chan’s dark paintings, Vincent Leow’s stainless steel sculptures are all bling. Cast in China in an edition of 8, two were presented at Singapore’s Pavillon at Venice. Andy’s Pranks showed at Soobin Art during October and will tour to Beijing later in the year. And Milenko Prvacki is also flying high – well his art is – selected for the interior and marketing designs for Singapore’s long awaited Airbus launched this month. Milenko represented Singapore in Sydney’s last Biennale.

As you know, The Substation supports emerging artists, experimental works and performance art. As part of SeptFest they invited 4 Singapore-based artists to create and present new performance works or works-in-progress. The first two performances by Andree Weschler and Ho Tzu Nyen I managed to catch when I was in Singapore. Weschler used the colour of a broken eye to stain a white slip she was wearing and Ho Tzu Nyen’s piece The House of Memory was a extremely poignant film presentation which spoke of the ‘erasure of memory’ with global gentrification and its historic parallels. For more visit

Copied Right … Right, FAKE!
“Copied Right” is presented by Hong Kong’s Para/Site Art Space and is part of the programme of October Contemporary. It challenges the relationship between originals and reproductions by exhibiting contemporary art and consumer goods – a kind of philosophy and economy of the fake that is rampant in Asia. A large collection of replica watches will be on view as part of the exhibition. It runs until 5 November 2007 for more visit Among the participating artists are Pierre Bismuth, Christian Jankowski, Sarah Lai, Hiram To, Robert Watts, Doris Wong, David Clarke and the watches.

Wei-ling’s annual 18
Wei-ling Gallery’s annual “18@8” exhibition opens October taking a look at 18 artists shaping the contemporary Malaysian art scene. The best way to get a read on this exhibition is to take a look – During my recent travel to Malaysia I managed to catch Ivan Lam’s solo exhibition at Weiling Gallery (mentioned in AAR#18) – just to reiterate – fantastic exhibition!

And Indonesia offshore…
Shanghai BizArt Art Center presented “The Past- The Forgotten Time” this month. Six Indonesian artists add their spin on Indonesian history. This exhibition represents a variety of perspectives focusing on the struggle of “Becoming Indonesia” during the period between 1930 and 1960. Showing until 11 November visit

And at Sydney’s UTS Gallery this month the focus was also on Indonesia political past… and present with their exhibition “Sisa: re-use, collaboration and cultural activism from Indonesia” opening 6 November through 7 December. Sisa is the Indonesian word for ‘remains’ or ‘leftovers’ – but the line of this stellar exhibition is far from left-overs including S. Teddy D., Ade Darmawan, Taring Pad, Irennius Pungky and Tanam Untuk Kehidupan among others – don’t miss it.

Is that terrazzo?
For his young age Justin Lim is making waves with a major solo exhibition at TAKSU Kuala Lumpur during September, the conclusion of an extended residency with TARP – TAKSU Artist Residency Program launched this year. Lim’s exhibition “Agents, Actions & Consequences” explores various definitions of abstraction from a Pollack-esq terrazzo penchant for drips to floating trapezoids and torsos adding a surreal tension. For more

Darwin fosters Asian connections
24 hr art has a history of projects connecting with its close neighbour Asia. During Sept-Oct they showed two exhibitions that looked over the back fence “Changes video art from China” curated by Binghui Huangfu and including Zhou Tao, Tang Maohong, Song Dong and Wang Jianwei and in 24 hr screen room an Independent video project from Manila “Jump Cut (to Darwin).

Long March Project 5 Year Retrospective
What more needs to be said… opening at the Long March Space Beijing on 1 November it surveys their project from 2002-2007.

Whitespace: DNA
I recently discovered this gallery – Whitespace – showing some fantastic contemporary work in Bangkok. Be sure to check out their website. Their exhibition this month “DND” is a solo by Imhathai Suwatthanasilp in which she uses her own hair as the medium, meticulously tying and weaving it sculptural forms. Showing until 4 November, visit

Future Beats in Japanese Contemporary Art
“Roppongi Crossing 2007” is a series of exhibitions produced by the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo) started in 2004 and to this day is an important reference point for contemporary Japanese practice. For 2007 four curators worked with the theme “intersection” including 36 artists, naturally across mediums. It is impossible to sum up such an exhibition and sense of trends – so take a look at their website

It is a mix of emerging artists juxtaposed with artists that helped shape the scene today from the 1960s and 70s. Showing until 14 January 2008.

Heri Dono @ Sherman
Heri Dono’s name is synonymous with contemporary Indonesian art – and for a good reason! Take a look at his most recent body of work on show at Sherman Galleries in Sydney titled “Angels: Bang Bang” a mix of flapping, flying, fantastic figures and a strong body of paintings. Showing until 3 November visit

Singapore extremes
The Singapore Art Museum has curated yet another historically important exhibition “Art during the Emergency”. Understandly heavy on documentation, this is a fascinating period of Southeast Asian history – And at the polar extreme to SAM is Plastique Kinetic Worms. Their group exhibition WEST SPACE EAST includes work by Damiano Bertoli, Sue Dodd & Bianca Hester, showing until 10 November.

Eko Nugroho: In wonderland
Nugroho’s huge murals became a fixture of Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art with the APT5. His exhibition with Valentine Willie Fine Art (Kuala Lumpur) xxxxxxx Nugroho was in KL to give a talk on 29 September. His exhibition continues through 27 October and is followed by Putu Sutawijaya (31 Oct – 17 November) For more visit

Hot Pinoy Picks
Filipino international stars had shows this month: Manuel Ocampo’s exhibition “Guided by Sausage” opens at Finale Art Gallery in their Lao Centre space in Makati on 7 November and Brisbane-based Alfred and Isabel Aquilizan will return to Manila for their first major solo exhibition back in the Philippines since leaving late 2006. Titled “Waterworks” this new work will be on show at Galleria Duemila from 10 November. Visit their website for more And Bobby Nuestro has a solo exhibition “Controlled Spontaneity” at Artists-run Independent Art Space opening 26 October using paper and collage in this ethereal works; And the Lopez Memorial Museum has another interesting show, “Blur”, contribution to the annual museum consortium collaborative project, Zero In 6: Hybridity. Blur opens on 25 October and brings together the works of Jose Tence Ruiz, Lyra Abueg Garcellano, Santiago Bose, Nonoy Marcelo, Onib Olmedo, Ang Kiukok, and Cesar Legaspi in a visual exposition on interstices, expanded categories, and flux. for details. And the young Lyle Buencamino – winner of the Ateneo Art Award arrives in Melbourne 12 November for his residency at La Trobe.


Kapoor’s Svayambh
Anish Kapoor’s work made a huge impression at the APT5 earlier this year. His exhibition “Svayambh” (relating to a Sanskrit word meaning self-generated or auto-generated) relates to the momumental architecture of Haus der Kunst Munich. Two pieces: a wall-carved work and “Svayambh” a deep red, wax-like block that moves through the gallery along a set of tracks. Their press states: “Svayambh” passes through two doorways, which seemingly force the block through their restrictive frames making it leave behind smeary traces of its material: a mixture of Vaseline, paint and wax.” Showing until 20 January visit Kapoor also had a solo exhibition with Galleria Continua Beijing during September.

Miniatures with a big punch
Imran Qureshi’s fantastic contemporary miniatures are featured with a solo exhibition at Modern Art Oxford (UK) titled “Encounters” it will be showing until 16 December visit

London: Yan Peiming, Gu Dexin and Yang Jiechang
The Red Mansion Foundation announces the opening of its new premises on 46 Portland Place, London opening with the hit trio: Yan Pei Ming, Gu Dexin and Yang Jiechang. Consisting of Yan Pei Ming’s large format self-portraits, animation works exploring power and eroticism by Gu Dexin and a range of works by Yang Jiechang from video to porcelain and ink on silk. Yang is participating in this year’s Istanbul Biennial. Showing through 23 November visit

Zhang Huan: Altered States
Asia Society Museum presents the first-ever museum retrospective of Zhang Huan, including 55 major works produced over the past 15 years in Beijing, New York, and Shanghai including photographs and sculpture.

Huan is best-known for his controversial early works in performance art. In 1998, he moved to New York where he saw greater freedoms and established his international career with larger-scale performances that often involved the participation of scores of volunteers. Last year, Zhang Huan moved to Shanghai, abandoning performance art in favour of sculpture, installation art, and painting. The exhibition is organized around these three distinct phases of the artist’s work. (listing courtesy Asia Society Museum)

Showing through 20 January visit

India – the new China?
“Horn Please – Narratives in Contemporary Indian Art” looks at India and its recent rapid transformation, proliferation of technology and the social implications of change. This exhibition spans three decades from the 1980s to the present and is loosely constructed around four sections that look at narrative collisions, 21st century tales of ecological disaster and national crises; the challenge of interpreting the theme of marriage in these considerably turbulent times Narrating Collisions;; and a cute one Living in Alicetime. The project is curated by Bernhard Fibicher, curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts Bern and Suman Gopinath, independent curator and a partner at Colab Art & Architecture, Bangalore. Showing at the Kunstmuseum Bern until 6 January visit

Secret for Snow Leopard: Yutaka Sone
Yutaka Sone is a versatile artist who likes to work with different media. He makes installations, performance art, and films; he paints; and like a traditional sculptor carves hard marble and crystal. A common thread recognisable throughout Sone’s work is his willingness to take risks and experiment, which at times can make some works appear to be unfinished or in a state of flux. 

Sone’s work is deeply influenced by his experiences, particularly those he has had during various expeditions in the Himalayas and in the jungle — two very different environments which for him represent extremes of life.

In his work Sone fuses art with life, his vision informed by their infinite possibilities and a genuine desire to give tangible form to that which is quintessential in all things. This constant seeking for perfection is evident in all of his work.

In this exhibition, Sone shows several of his exquisitely carved marble pieces, some of which have never been shown before; a recreation of the jungle, a maquette-like architectural landscape that includes snow-capped mountains, rivers and tropical plants, all within the same self-contained world; and some twenty crystal snowflakes.

Yutaka Sone was born in 1965 in Shizuoka, Japan. He studied architecture at Tokyo Geijutsu University, but opted to become an artist. His work is held in public collections worldwide including: Art Institute of Chicago; Daros Collection, Zürich; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Kanazawa City Museum of Art, Kanazawa; Kunstmuseum Bern, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art. In 2003 the Tate acquired Highway Junction 110-105 (2002) with funds provided by the 2003 Outset Frieze Acquisitions Fund. The artist lives and works in Los Angeles. Showing until 16 December for more visit:


Call for papers
Deadline 14 November 2007-10-07

International Symposium on Electronic Arts 2008 is seeking both peer-reviewed individual papers and panel presentations. This year we are also encouraging artists to submit artist presentations where they can speak about the specific aesthetic, conceptual and technological aspects of their works. The submissions must address or be of relevance to at least one of the themes of ISEA2008. For more

Singapore’s Substation is calling artists
The Substation is open to proposals from visual artists for two exhibition slots of two weeks in the period 3 March – 3 April 2008. For more information

Penang Residency
ABN AMRO – Malihom Artist in Residence Program (“AiR”) of the Wawasan Open University (that is a mouthful!) is calling for artists for its second session: 5th July to 31st December 2008. It is a 6-month residency with accommodation and allowance. Take a look at their website for more Application deadline is 31 December 2007


Does it make you wonder?
The Singapore Biennale announced its theme for its 2008 event – “Wonder” – at a press launch during the opening of the 10th Istanbul Biennial. A tight one-word theme had a certain appeal, given the Hou Hanru’s Episcopal version for Istanbul, and while seeming simple, “Wonder” has the layering and complexity of definition that sets this to be an interesting exhibition. And with the return of Curator Fumio Nanjo, together with Filipina Joselina Cruz (formerly of Singapore Art Museum) and Perth-based Singaporean Matthew Ngui, this powerhouse will sure to get us thinking. Vernissage: 9 – 10 September 2008 For more

Borobudur for sale
The first Southeast Asian contemporary auction was held in Singapore on 28 October. Spearheaded by Malaysian veteran dealer Valentine Willie, a strong line-up of nearly 100 works went under the hammer, among those Simryn Gill who has had a sensational year. You can download the auction catalogue from VWFAs website – it is worth a look It follows the ‘auction season’ in New York and London with yet again a strong emphasis on contemporary Chinese and Indian art. Sotheby’s South Asia was on 21 September at their NY house
Contemporary Chinese at Sotheby’s HK on 7 October, Phillips London on 13 October.

Big Apple does Asian Fair
With the success of the Asian art market New York will host its inaugural Contemporary Asian Art Fair, 8-12 November. Featuring 80 exhibitors from over 10 countries, it will also host a lecture series. It will be interesting to see how this fair sit in comparison to the plethora of Asian-based fairs such as the high profile inaugural ShContemporary 07 (September) and ARTSingapore (October). For more


4A appoints new Director
After a rocky year Sydney’s Gallery 4a has a clear picture for the future. Artist / Curator Aaron Seeto was appointed this month, taking up the positing in January 2008. Aaron was curator at 4A from 2001-04 and recently curated the phenomenal exhibition “News from Islands” for Campbelltown Arts Centre.

…and GoMA advertised for a new Asia & Pacific Curator, applications closing October – a jewel of a position for the right person working with a glowing, and growing, collection in this fantastic new venue.

Victoria Lu has left Shanghai MOCA the institution’s second directorial departure in its two-year existence; and Salima Hashmi, champion of contemporary art in Pakistan gave a series of talks at the Asian Art Archive and is said to have found a backer for her own kunsthalle in Lahore.

Osage opened new space in Shanghai’s Hongkou District and also Singapore joining their string of impressive spaces in HK and Beijing. This are quickly become the contemporary art powerhouse in the region. Bookmark their website They opened in Singapore with the group exhibition “The New Literati”, the who’s who of contemporary Chinese art, showing through 6 January 2008. They also hosted the Hong Kong Performance Art Project 13-16 October

Dodiya talks…If you are in Hong Kong on 22 November be sure to attend the Asian Art Archive’s guest lecture “The Artist’s Studio: Contemporary Art Practice in India” given by Atul Dodiya. Bookings are obviously essential so email

Speaking of the AAA they are looking for a Head Librarian. This position has been open for a while and plays an integral role at this dynamic research organization. Excellent English and Chinese language is essential. For more information email to

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