Interest in contemporary art has been moving toward the East. This survey aims to shed light on the leading museums, curators, collectors, biennials and galleries in a region that is developing in leaps and bounds. An introductory response by Jim Supangkat, whose founding of the Indonesia New Art Movement in 1975 — today regarded as the beginning of contemporary art discourse in Indonesia — looks at the negotiations of difference between East and West, and the transitions between tradition, modernity and contemporaneity. The results of the survey reveal the expansion of the current Asian art market, the importance of the biennial, trends in collecting and the development of museum infrastructures.
1) What do you think are some of the differences between the contemporary art of your country and that of Asia in general or the West?
2) In your country do you think there is adequate information about contemporary art? Do the museums and private galleries do a good job of disseminating information?
3)What is the role of the art critic and curator in Asia? Do you have sufficient autonomy, or is it the galleries that make the choices and affirm the status of the artist?
4) Do private galleries and museums frequently ask for your collaboration?
Art theorist, critic and curator, Bandung, Indonesia
1) There is not much difference between contemporary art in my country, Indonesia, and other Asian countries in the sense of development. Art practices critical of modernism emerged in the ’70s in Asia. In Indonesia, it was indicated by the Indonesian New Art Movement, which generated controversy. The movement’s exhibition in 1975 presented works already in the form of installation, Socialist realist paintings and readymades — critics accused it of being experimental teenagerism. The movement disclosed statements that were basically against the influence of modernism in Indonesian art development. This kind of radicalism also emerged in Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines and Korea. Some studies today see these activities as early signs of contemporary art in Asia.
However, exhibitions followed by clear discussions on contemporary art discourses started to appear in Asia not earlier than the ’80s, juxtaposed with the spread of postmodern discourse. In the early ’90s, Japan and Australia started to identify these activities as contemporary art in Asia or Asia-Pacific through rapid regional exhibitions. Multiculturalism, the cultural politics of difference, identity politics, cultural studies and postcolonial studies were among the discourses explored in identifying contemporary art in Asia. Although these efforts did not result in a clear explanation of contemporary art in Asia, these discussions are still its basis.
Entering the year 2000, as we know, contemporary art activities all over the world were absorbed by the market. Here art fairs have become fora for seeing contemporary art development in general. In Asia, the domination of the market has resulted in a tendency to see trends in contemporary art using salable works as indicators. And in fact, by applying this policy Asian contemporary works entered the global art forum through art fairs. The discourse behind this, despite never being disclosed explicitly, is a “contemporaneity” that tends to see only global similarities in contemporary art.
In my view art fairs do not have the ability to judge works of art. In the case of Asian works, the outcome of this condition is art that merely embraces a kind of “globality.” These works are lacking in fundamental dimensions, for example philosophical thought. Still, this doesn’t mean that there are no good contemporary artworks developed in Asia.
To answer your question, I have my own vision when seeing differences between contemporary art works done by Asian artists and contemporary art works done by European and American artists. My vision is based on theoretical thinking. First, I have to reveal my opinion on what is contemporary art.
Contemporary art appeared following the great cultural debate that would bring forth the term “postmodern.” This debate started with an idea that saw culture as no longer present in “current” life because culture, in relation to tradition and ethnicity, brought signs of the past. This premise was soon heavily assaulted — leading to the fall of modernism. Numerous cultural research fields and cultural theories went up in arms against modernist premises. Cultural thoughts and theories stated that culture is not dead. They also argued that culture cannot be identified as “ethnic culture” and “traditional culture.”
Through their attempts to underline their convictions, inquiries emerged hinging upon two main points: contemporaneity and culture in a new perspective. These ideas, as well as the development of contemporary art, resulted from the aforementioned debates on contemporary culture. Here, art activities are believed to be cultural activities, inseparable from social activities and other cultural endeavors.
“Contemporaneity” (i.e. the quality of belonging to the same period of time or the quality of being current) invites questions that have a global scope. By observing various similarities resulting from globalization, there emerged an idea of a global society that lives in the same time period, or together within the current time. The questions became: Is contemporary culture actually global culture? Can contemporary art be called global art?
In my view we have to consider the possibility of negotiating differences in “contemporaneity” because of cultural matters. However, it is difficult to find thinking that explores this possibility in today’s contemporary art discourse. Thus the process of negotiations and re-negotiations haven’t started yet. For example, it is hard to find a space in art discourse that considers metaphysical thinking, even in today’s contemporary art theory. Meanwhile, in works done by Asian artists it is not difficult to find an understanding of reality engaged in its metaphysical dimension. These thoughts are the result of adopting certain philosophies — insights that have an individual and at the same time contextual basis. Despite the fact that their works do reflect contemporary art tendencies commonly found in Europe and America, the works of these Asian artists were very often seen by the global contemporary art world as an unreadable oddity.
2) With today’s communication systems it is not difficult to get information about contemporary art. Artists and curators in Indonesia gather information through the Internet and by networking with groups of artists and curators from all over the world. However, on the whole there is not a substantial knowledge of art discourse. Books on contemporary art are not accessible. It is too demanding for museums and private galleries to distribute information about contemporary art in Indonesia. There are only two public museums in Indonesia that deal with contemporary art. The National Gallery located in Jakarta has sufficient programming to introduce contemporary art. There are several private museums owned by wealthy collectors, but only one carries out a good program. Meanwhile the role of private galleries in dispensing information about contemporary art is very limited. Gallery owners in Indonesia are not promoters. Private galleries in Indonesia organize exhibitions mostly to sell works.
The difference in contemporary art atmospheres in Asian countries lies in the condition of the art infrastructure. In Japan, Singapore, Korea and China you can find sufficient art infrastructure. This shows the support of the art world by the public, by society and by government. In other countries the infrastructures are lacking. However, this doesn’t mean the mechanics of the art world system in these countries are not running. In Indonesia the art world public (most of them are art collectors) is quite active in discussing contemporary art.
3) Criticism in Indonesia is not functioning properly. Most criticism published in the mass media is written by amateurs whose knowledge of art is limited. Meanwhile the position of curators in contemporary art’s development is imperative. It is they who possess substantial knowledge about contemporary art. Since there are hardly any museums to work with in Indonesia, nearly all curators are independent. Theoretically, groups of curators in Indonesia have become an art institution. They cooperate with artists and private galleries in creating exhibitions, and through this collaboration they dispense information on contemporary art. Even the National Gallery, which doesn’t have curators due to complicated procedures in recruiting government employees, invites independent curators to conduct the National Gallery’s program. They work unpaid because the government doesn’t have funding for employing curators. As far as I know most of the independent curators in Indonesia have strong codes of ethics. They distance themselves from commercial purposes when curating exhibitions. Despite this, there are tensions in finding a balance between creating exhibitions and considering galleries’ demands. Most independent curators have autonomy in selecting artists and works.
4) Yes, I frequently work with private galleries. Over twenty years I have worked with nearly all the private galleries in Indonesia, and I valued their stance in respecting my boundaries.
I helped the government in planning the National Gallery in the late ’90s and I was involved in its realization in 2000. Like other independent curators, I continuously help the National Gallery.
Editor, journalist and art critic, Jakarta, Indonesia
1) I think the fundamental difference lies in the way art in Indonesia — and other countries in Asia — is socially and politically related to the lives and times of the people, drawing vibrancy from cultural, personal and social resources.
2) Of course the term “contemporary” is not yet clearly defined, but as I see it, contemporary for this part of the world is something fluid that needs parameters other than those usually applied in the West. In Indonesia, we do not have a system of museums that support the arts. Private galleries do their best, but there are only a very few that are thinking this through with innovative approaches. However, I would like to mention that young collectors have started initiatives to explore the matter.
3) In my opinion the role of the critic is to bring forward prevailing art trends and their critical messages. Curators have an important role in opening up the scope of the artist and the art world. For this, however, they may need time for research and reflection, which is hardly possible amid pressing economic needs. There is not just one party making the choices or affirming the status of the artist, but many.
1) How is your museum funded?
2) What is the orientation of your museum towards presenting contemporary art? Do you focus on Asian art, or do you have space reserved for important European and American art too?
3) Regarding acquisitions, do you purchase artworks directly from artists or through galleries and auction houses?
4) Do you have an annual budget for acquisitions and a separate one for exhibitions?
5) Who determines acquisitions? Do you have a museum board?
Acting director and chief curator, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art Doha, Qatar
1) Mathaf’s founder H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani began collecting art more than two decades ago. It was his personal mission to build a collection that would highlight the significance of Arab art and would become a public resource. He also collected books and periodicals and began an artist residency program, which created a wealth of archival materials documenting Arab artists and artwork. After building a core collection of thousands of paintings, sculptures and works on paper, H.E. Sheikh Hassan imparted the collection to H.H. Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, who in turn gifted it to the Qatar Foundation. As the Qatar Museums Authority is systematically developing the country’s museology, it was a natural partner to co-manage the collection. The museum opened to the public on December 30, 2010.
2) Mathaf’s mission is to present an Arab perspective on modern and contemporary art and to build connections between discourses — in the Arab world, within the broader pan-Asian region and internationally. This perspective ensures that the core of the collection is Arab art, yet looks outwards to other regions. The collection includes work by artists from every Arab country, representing major trends and sites of production in the region, and also features work by non-Arab artists. For example, our current exhibition, “Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab,” considers dynamics across Asia reflecting upon a personal and historic connection between China and the Arab world. There is substantial overlap between modern Arab art and European modern art, and it is part of Mathaf’s mission to explore and rediscover this overlap. Mathaf does and will continue to show and collect both contemporary and modern art. The earliest modern works in our collection are from the 1840s, and the most recent contemporary works bring us up to the present day.
3) Mathaf is committed to the thoughtful acquisition and maintenance of collections, and it pursues its acquisitions through a range of diverse approaches. Since the beginnings of the collection in the mid-1980s, Mathaf has been committed to commissioning work created in and linked to Doha.
4) The museum’s process for acquisition is independent from the curatorial decisions that shape Mathaf’s exhibitions. Mathaf also maintains a strong budgetary commitment to education development, including a wide range of programs and outreach to local schools and universities. The next step towards Mathaf’s Research Center will be unveiled in 2012.
5) An acquisitions committee made up of principals from Qatar Museums Authority and Mathaf. The committee also draws upon the opinions of a number of consultants, advisors and researchers.
Chief curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
1) The Mori Art Museum is a privately funded institution and is the brainchild of property developer Minoru Mori who, with his wife Yoshiko Mori, was committed to creating a contemporary art museum in Japan.
2) While we do focus on contemporary Japanese and Asian art, the Mori Art Museum is open to artistic production from all around the world — and of course including European and American artists. As for regional shows, we have focused on China, Africa, India and now art from Arab countries.
3) We do work with artists in producing our exhibition program, and our collection mostly comes out of those commissioned works.
4) Yes, we do. The budget for acquisitions is a separate one from exhibitions.
5) We have an internal collection
Tan Boon Hui
Director, Singapore Art Museum
1) The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) museum is state-funded and is managed by the National Heritage Board. This is supplemented by corporate sponsorship from private organizations help to support specific programs and exhibitions, such as Credit Suisse (the Credit Suisse: Innovation in Art series), Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation (the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize) and Deutsche Bank (the Deutsche Bank Art Bus Program). Ticketing for programs and special exhibitions is also an important source of funding.
2) Since 2009, SAM has been a museum of contemporary art, focusing in particular, on contemporary art from Southeast Asia. SAM has built up an important collection of significant contemporary art from Southeast Asia and the larger Asian region. It has established itself as a major platform in this region for identifying and validating trends and talents in artistic practice. As contemporary art appreciation is still in its early stages, SAM devotes a substantial part of its programming to audience development, particularly art education for the young. Non-Asian art is presented through special exhibitions and projects that aim to expose our visitors to the wider context of world art and culture.
3) From all these sources. In addition, as we deal with living artists, some acquisitions are made through commissions tied to specific exhibitions. This serves the dual purpose of encouraging artistic experimentation by artists as well as collections development.
4) Yes, our budgets for acquisitions and exhibitions are separate.
5) SAM curators identify and propose acquisitions which have to be endorsed by an acquisition committee before the acquisition can be made. The acquisition committee convenes separately from the museum board and is made up of independent curators and critics, as well as members from the corporate sector.
1) At a time of multiplying art biennials (there are over 100 in the world), many of which are rather similar, what do you think characterizes and distinguishes your biennial?
2) At a time of economic crisis like the present, have you had trouble sourcing funds? What is your available budget?
3) Is your budget determined by the state, institutions or does it come from private sponsorship?
4) Looking at the international scene, what other biennials act as a reference for you?
Alia Swastika & Suman Gopinath
Curators, Biennale Jogja XI (2011) Yogyakarta, Indonesia
1) AS: The Jogja Biennale offers a new perspective on internationalism. Rather than cover the whole world, this biennale focuses on the countries in the equator area. The idea of having only countries from the equator will bring a survey of similarities and differences between countries in the region, to encourage the establishment of alternative perspectives on globalism. On the other hand, this biennial, born in the country with the least infrastructure, also plays roles that are usually played by the museum. So the way the exhibition is organized and displayed will refer to the museum structure, including the educational part and the distribution of knowledge. Within its specific context, this biennial cannot be too experimental since it also has to become a source of knowledge for common people.
SG: I do agree that this is a time of multiplying art biennials, but I think this particular one is different. For a start, the concept for the series of five biennales, “The Equator,” sets it apart from the rest. As the title suggests, the series concentrates on countries that lie 23 degrees north and south of the equator. In this first edition, “Shadow Lines: Indonesia Meets India,” Indonesia and India are the two countries in focus — countries that share a common geography and to some extent a certain history as well. This biennial brings together works of 40 artists (25 from Indonesia and 15 from India) whose artistic practices have been informed by their postcolonial histories and the religious practices and economic and political structures of the countries they live in.
The theme of the biennale — “religiosity, spirituality and belief” — attempts to give the biennale a framework as well as tries to engage with very contemporary concerns that occupy both countries today — such as the growing radicalization of two countries that once shared a syncretic past (when Islam and Hinduism were not seen as irreconcilable faiths).
It tries to provide a critical perspective (through its discursive program) in an art world that is becoming increasingly taken over by the art market. The framework of the series, the size, the theme and content give this biennial a certain coherence, focus and energy, which I think distinguishes it from other large, “uncontained” biennales. And these are some of the very reasons why I accepted the invitation to co-curate the Indian section. After installing the biennale, the fact that strikes me most is that significant exhibitions are still possible today with limited resources and modest infrastructure.
2) The total budget is 160,000 USD, including the main exhibition, the fringe festival and organizational costs.
3) We have three main sources of funding: government bodies, collectors and private companies.
4) AS: My personal reference is the Istanbul Biennial, for its political movement, where I believe that artists still contribute to their society by offering different perspectives and interpretations of everyday realities.
Artistic Director, 2012 Taipei Biennial, Taiwan
1) The biennial format is particularly suited, among the institutionally sanctioned genres, to engage with the question of what artistic practice means today in the expanded field. It can be a tool to reflect on border regimes of different kinds in a territory that is seemingly unbounded — the territory of contemporary art. The field in which a biennial is an agent — through its ties with politics, economics, with the media, with its host city, etc. — is different from any other exhibition format. Its field is the social imaginary at large, because this is where it can make a difference. The shortcomings of the format can always also be a tool of critical analysis. The previous editions of the Taipei Biennial have pursued such an approach, and this is something that one can build upon.
Biennial locations and audiences, as well as their history, still keep them distinct from each other. The Taipei Biennial holds a particular place in this respect in East Asia. Its context — the contemporary art scene, civil society, Taiwan as a country — is significantly different from other Asian biennials, for instance in mainland China or Japan. In countries such as Korea and Taiwan, it is particularly obvious that the Cold War has not ended. History here is far more actual, open and uncertain, which is part of what we want to address in the 2012 Biennial.
The specificity of the location allows it to focus on particular issues in different ways. Taiwan is a place from which it is possible to think differently through the issue of Asian modernity — not merely the latest wave of capitalist modernization or hyper-modernization, but to question the premises of modernity in its historical, even cosmological layers. Particularly since these premises — the grounds on which the project “modernity” stands — are shifting at present in all respects. In this regard, we are in an earthquake zone here, too.
2-3) It is too early to speak about the budget. Decisions will be reached only by late December, but the budget provided by the Taipei City Government will not be below the amount provided for the last edition in 2010.
4) In the past few years, Istanbul has always been a reference. It continuously de-centered the Eurocentric optics and frames of reference.
1) At a time of crisis in the international art market, what is the current situation in your country?
2) Is your art market predominantly national or does it include other regions in Asia?
3) Are your collectors primarily interested in local or Western artists?
4) Do you take part in art fairs?
Director, Tomio Koyama, Tokyo
1) Japan is confronted with the international financial panic and the damage from the earthquake and the nuclear disaster afterwards. However, the Japanese art market itself was not so active even before these crises, so it did not experience massive damage. Even so, I have noticed that many galleries in Japan have started to focus on the international and not the domestic market these days. Eyes have especially shifted to Asian collectors.
2) Out of the total sales we make, 50% comes from the domestic market, 20% is from Europe and the US and the rest is from the Asian market.
3) Our clients are of course interested in local artists, but also Western artists. I especially see demand for popular Western artists.
4) We participate in the international art fairs. In 2012, in Asia, we will take place in Art Stage Singapore, Art HK and Art Taipei. In Europe, we will participate in Art Basel and Frieze London. In the US, we will go to Frieze New York and Art Basel Miami Beach.
Director, Long March Space, Beijing
1) The global financial crisis affects China and the Chinese art market. However, we also see many new and young collectors emerging that are curious, ready to learn and full of passion. We don’t see the crisis as an entirely bad thing; it gives everyone, including artists and collectors, a chance to cool down, to reflect.
2) Our market is quite international. Although based in Beijing with tight Chinese and Southeast Asian customer relations, we also conduct many international activities over the year. Our market also reaches Europe and North America. About 50% of our collectors are non-Chinese.
3) Long March Space mainly represents leading Chinese contemporary artists, so local artists are the major interest to our collectors. However, our clients also actively participate in different international art fairs and buy Western artists’ works. I think it’s very hard to put contemporary art into one single region; contemporary art itself is very international, and the forces around it also need to be international.
4) Yes we do. We have exhibited extensively in international art fairs including Art Basel, Basel Miami Beach and Frieze London, Art HK and SH Contemporary, as well as supporting Chinese art fairs such as Art Beijing and CIGE.
Director, Urs Meile, Beijing /Lucerne
1) For the time being in China, and generally in Asia, we don’t see any symptoms of a crisis. We still recognize a growing number of new collectors joining the contemporary art market.
2) Running a gallery in Switzerland and Beijing, China, we have an international clientele. Collectors from China and other Asian countries as well as collectors from Europe and the US are still very active and interested in Chinese contemporary art.
In Asia we see a growing interest in international contemporary art.
3) Chinese collectors are still primarily interested in Chinese art, but for about two years there has been a growing number of collectors from China and other Asian countries showing interest in international contemporary art.
4) We participate in Art HK, Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach and the VIP Art Fair. In 2012 we are thinking about participating again in SH Contemporary.
Director, Gagosian Hong Kong
1) Hong Kong and indeed Asia as a whole continue to weather this current period of economic uncertainty reasonably well. Art is still thought of as a store of value in the region, and exchange rate fluctuations now favor certain countries (Japan, Korea) even more than before. Most importantly, the notion of collecting as a lifestyle choice is still in its infancy in Asia. I expect demand for top-quality artworks to remain stable in the near term.
2) The market for Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong stretches across Asia to encompass a geography delineated by Japan to the north, Australia to the south and India to the west.
3) There is no prototypical collector at Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong. Some of our clients are new collectors who are buying their first major work. Others are extremely sophisticated and experienced collectors who are looking for something very specific.
Most collectors we see clearly have an interest in Western art, given that we represent primarily Western artists. But their collections as a whole will generally reflect a taste for Asian art as well. Collections in Asia tend to be more diverse than they are in the West.
4) Prior to opening our Hong Kong gallery in January 2011, Gagosian’s primary exhibition platform in Asia was Art HK. We will continue to participate in Art HK while at the same time selectively evaluating other Asian fairs. The channel is becoming increasingly important as a way of meeting collectors and generating awareness for the gallery and its artists.
Director, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Dehli
1) The art market in India is not quite so affected by the global crisis. This is primarily because the Indian economy on the whole is not as affected, and the art market, having very strong domestic support, is able to sustain its growth. Having said that, it’s important to note that collectors in India are now extremely conscious of quality and are price sensitive, which means that as long as it’s a strong work (of course by a good artist) and is being offered at a reasonable price, it will find a buyer.
2-3) The Indian art market has a very strong domestic base, but it also extends beyond the country and has buyers/investors in Asia and other parts of the world. Non-Indian residents are an important part of the buyer base, and more recently, there are international collectors (more from Europe than other parts of Asia) who acquire Indian art. On the other hand, there are very few galleries showing international artists, and very few collectors purchasing non-Indian artists. Our gallery has been making a conscious, serious investment in that direction, and trying to include at least one exhibition of an international artist in our annual calendar. We have shown Picasso, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Juul Kraijer and, most excitingly, our forthcoming exhibition of Yoko Ono, which will open in January 2012. Showing international artists is a challenge in India as most collectors are primarily interested and invested in Indian artists. However, the potential is huge, and as Indian art prices are now comparable to international artists and collectors are becoming more aware and educated about art from other parts of the world, growth is inevitable.
4) Yes we do. We have participated in fairs like Art Dubai, the Armory Show, India Art Fair, ARCO Madrid and Art HK.
Founder and Chairman, Kukje, Seoul
1) The situation in Korea is the same as that of the international art market. It’s not a good time right now.
2) Our art market goes beyond the national or the Asian market. I would say our art market is global.
3) Our collectors are mainly interested in blue-chip artists, but they are also very interested in Korean artists who have an international reputation.
4) Yes, we take part in many art fairs, including the Armory Show, TEFAF Maastricht, Art Basel, Art HK, Frieze, FIAC, Art Basel Miami Beach and art fairs in Korea such as KIAF.
Director, Pace Beijing
1) The local market is being affected more and more by obvious influences, and the direction of art and gallery operations has also had a great impact. The Chinese art market is still in the early stage of development, and these effects will adjust the attention of art and gallery operations towards more long-term development and representation.
2) Our market is very broad. Europe and Asia are both involved. The local market is cautiously developing.
3) The majority of our collectors are interested in local artists, but there are some that have started collecting work by Western artists.
4) We participate in various art fairs including Art Basel, Art HK and FIAC.
Director, ShanghART, Shanghai
1) It is okay. The art market in China is relatively new, things are developing, there are a lot of changes, ups and downs, but the general direction is toward establishing a real art market.
2) Our market is international.
3) International contemporary art
4) Yes, we take part in Art Basel, FIAC, Art Basel Miami Beach, Hong Kong, Singapore and all the fairs in China.
1) When did you start collecting?
2) Are your interests as a collector exclusively Asian or do you also collect Western artists?
3) Do you buy works directly from artists or solely from galleries?
4) Do you also buy works at international auctions?
5) Who do you think are the most interesting contemporary artists today?
6) Do you attend and purchase work at art fairs?
Belinda C. Lim
Business woman, Philippines and Indonesia
1) I started collecting after my university years and when I started working — that was in 1978.
2) I collect Asian art and also European painting. While I have purchased a number of European paintings, I have yet to specialize in one genre or period. I buy what I like and I tend to like a lot of different art! Art buying is a very instinctive, visceral experience for me. Of course there are patterns in my collecting — I’m drawn to figurative art and expressive, colorful palettes. But not simply decorative art. I am drawn to artwork that exposes me to different perspectives and ways of thinking.
3) In the Philippines, during the early days, I mainly bought directly from the artists, but recently I also buy from the galleries. But for European and Asian paintings I usually buy from the galleries.
4) I buy paintings at auctions such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
5) In the Philippines I collect contemporary artists such as Ronald Ventura, Nona Garcia, Rodel Tapaya. In Indonesia I like the work of Christine Ay Tjoe, Nyoman Masriadi. Internationally I like Billy Childish and Ellen Harvey.
6) A gallerist friend invited me to my first art fair many years ago. At first I was skeptical, but over the years, I’ve realized that art fairs are a good way for me to discover new art and educate myself about the international contemporary art market. In the past couple of years I’ve attended Art Basel, the Armory Show, Art HK and SH Contemporary.
Oei Hong Djien
Business man and founder of OHD Museum, Magelang, Indonesia
1) I started seriously collecting 30 years ago.
2) I am only collecting modern and contemporary Indonesian art, which could involve Western artists.
3) I buy from artists, galleries and dealers.
4) I rarely buy at international auctions.
5) The most interesting contemporary Indonesian artists are Nasirun, Entang Wiharso, Nyoman Masriadi and Jompet Kuswidananto.
6) Yes, at the last Art HK I bought a print by Christine Ay Tjoe.
Asian regional manager of a financial services company, Singapore
1) I’ve been collecting for more than ten years, but the last five or so is when things started getting out of control.
2) Being based in Singapore for the past 13 years, it’s been easier to develop relationships with artists, galleries and curators in Asia than elsewhere. So my collection is heavily weighted toward Southeast Asian artists. However, regardless of the geographic bias, I don’t collect work because it is “Asian,” but work that is compelling visually and intellectually intriguing. Some artists that I collect are Asian-Americans who are currently based in Asia. As they are working in Asia, they are generally classified as Asian artists although a great deal of their formative years and education was in the West. I don’t think it is fair to pigeonhole them into either geography, but rather to refer to them as contemporary artists.
3) I buy most works through galleries and only occasionally directly from the artists. A great thing about living in Singapore is being so close to so many interesting and exciting art centers such as Manila as well as Yogyakarta and Bandung in Indonesia. Although, you’re nearby but still not there, so it’s best to develop close relationships with galleries wh can assist and advise you. Unfortunately there aren’t many independent advisors or consultants who can assist in building a strong collection of Southeast Asian contemporary art, but that’s also the fun of being able to explore for yourself.
4) The auction houses play an unusually important role in contemporary Asian art — the international houses of Christie’s and Sotheby’s as well as regional houses such as Borobudur and Larasati. I have acquired works from all of them. I think the auction houses’ role is more significant due to the lack of a well-established art infrastructure. Although the situation is much better than in the past, there is a lack of contemporary art museums and independent critics in Southeast Asia. Interestingly, some bloggers are developing quite a following, creating a new platform for sharing opinions and awareness.
5) Some of the most important contemporary artists in Southeast Asia are the following: Cambodia: Sopheap Pich; the Philippines: Ronald Ventura, Geraldine Javier, Wawi Navarroza, Alfredo Esquillo Jr. and Nona Garcia; Vietnam: Dinh Q. Lê and Nguyen Trung; Thailand: Utai Nopsiri and Natee Utarit; Malaysia: Yee I-Lan; and Indonesia: the Jendela Group (Handiwirman Saputra, Yunizar, Jumaldi Alfi, Rudi Mantofani and Yusra Martunus), Agus Suwage, Nyoman Masriadi and Nasirun.
6) I have purchased items at two of the most important Asian Art Fairs: Art HK — which is now owned by Art Basel — and Art Stage Singapore. Both of these events are a lot of fun! I attended the Indian Art Summit last January but did not purchase anything. I have yet to make it to SH Contemporary.
Giancarlo Politi is the founder, editor and publisher of Flash Art International.
Lucy Rees is an editor at Flash Art International.