Leaders in Contemporary Asian Art Inaugurate Asian Art Council


Asian Art Council Meetings Convene September 20 and 21 at the Guggenheim Museum

(NEW YORK, NY – September 21, 2007) As part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian art initiative, the museum has established an Asian Art Council of 18 international experts representing eight countries, and whose inaugural meeting takes place on September 20 and 21. Under the leadership of Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator of Asian Art, the council members will convene for a roundtable seminar that addresses the central question of how Asian art can be most effectively integrated into the dominant Euro-American discourse of international modern and contemporary art; and practically, within the exhibition, collection, and education programs of mainstream international art museums like the Guggenheim. The meetings are not open to the public, but details of the future publication of the proceedings will be announced soon.

The inaugural meeting of the Asian Art Council has been funded by The W.L.S. Spencer Foundation with additional support from the Asian Cultural Council.

“The Guggenheim Foundation and Museum have a long history in Asia,” Mr. Krens noted. “In the Guggenheim’s worldview, Asia is critical, Asia is vital, and Asia is an exciting part of our future,” he continued. “The Asian Art Council and the museum’s Asian art initiative galvanize the Guggenheim’s long-term interest in Asia.”

“The Asian Art Council meetings come at a transformational moment for the emerging field of modern and contemporary Asian art as it rapidly gains international recognition,” noted Ms. Munroe. “The Guggenheim is uniquely positioned now to play a critical role in defining the relevance for Asian art within today’s curatorial establishment.”

The Asian Art Council, which will meet annually, serves as a curatorial “think tank” to map the intellectual course of modern and contemporary Asian art, and to debate key issues pertinent to its curatorial practice. Over the course of the three-day meetings a distinguished group of scholars, curators, museum directors, and artists will be assembled to participate, many of whom will travel from across Asia. The seminar program of September 20 and 21 will consist of six panels on key topics, followed by periods of discussion and debate. The panel topics are:

Day 1

• What is the mission of Asian art curators in the age of globalization?

• Asian art in context: A nation-based, inter-Asia, or international paradigm?

• Does contemporary Islamic art exist?

Day 2

• How is Asian art that draws from traditional techniques and cultural referents relevant to contemporary art and Western museum audiences?

• Exhibiting Asian Art –Alternative models and non-Western paradigms

• Collecting Asian Art –How are canons made?

Members of the Asian Art Council who have convened to address these questions in panel and roundtable form include: Arjun Appadurai, Senior Advisor for Global Initiatives at the New School, New York; Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Vishakha N. Desai, President, Asia Society, New York; Layla S. Diba, Independent Curator of Islamic Art, New York; David Elliott, Director, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art; Fan Di'an, Director, National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), Beijing; Doug Hall, author, academic, and former director, Queensland Art Museum; Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Hou Hanru, independent curator and writer, Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, Chair of Exhibition and Museum Studies, San Francisco Art Institute; David Joselit, Chair, Department of the History of Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; Geeta Kapur, critic and curator, New Delhi; Victoria Lu, Director, Moon River Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing, and Creative Director, Shanghai eARTS Festival, Shanghai; Pan Gongkai, President, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Apinan Poshyananda, Director-General of the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture at the Ministry of Culture, Thailand, Chair and Acting Director of the Office of Knowledge Management and Development under the Prime Minster’s Office, Thailand; Shahzia Sikander, artist, New York; Andrew Solomon, writer and cultural critic, New York; Wang Hui, Intellectual Historian, Tsinghua University, Beijing; Xu Bing, Artist, New York. Three members who are unable to attend the inaugural meeting are RaYoung Hong, Deputy Director, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Hongnam Kim, Director, National Museum of Korea; and Uli Sigg, collector, Switzerland.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Asia
Over the past decade, the Guggenheim’s engagement with Asia has included a wide range of special exhibitions, traveling exhibitions, and programs. In 1994, the Guggenheim presented Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky, the pioneering exhibition organized by Alexandra Munroe, at its SoHo branch. In 1998, the Guggenheim presented three landmark exhibitions at its New York and Bilbao museums that encompassed Chinese art: China: 5,000 Years – Innovation and Transformation in the Arts; Dawn: Early Chinese Cinema; and A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China. The Guggenheim has organized exhibitions from its permanent collections that have traveled extensively throughout Asia, including venues in Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, and Shanghai. The Guggenheim has also exhibited works by several important contemporary Asian artists, among them the Korean-born Nam June Paik, whose retrospective The Worlds of Nam June Paik was presented at the Guggenheim in 2000; Hiroshi Sugimoto, the Japanese conceptual photographer, subject of a major commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin and subject of a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in 2001. Since the inception in 1996 of the biennial Hugo Boss Prize, which is administered by the Guggenheim Foundation, the award finalists have included three Chinese artists: Cai Guo-Qiang (1996), Huang Yong Ping (1998), and Yang Fudong (2004); two Japanese artists: Yasumasa Morimura (1996) and Hachiya Kazuhiko (2002); two South Korean artists: Lee Bul (1998) and Koo Jeong-a (2002); as well as the 2004 winner, Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija (2004). In 2006, Alexandra Munroe was appointed the Guggenheim’s first Senior Curator of Asian Art. She is planning, with co-curator Thomas Krens, a major retrospective devoted to contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, presented at the Guggenheim from February 22 through May 28, 2008.

The establishment of the Asian Art Council furthers the Guggenheim Museum’s commitment to foster a sophisticated critical methodology for the study of modern and contemporary Asian art. This work will serve the museum’s immediate exhibition and collection programs in this area, but more importantly, it can and should stimulate thoughtful exchange among the international Asian art community at large. The council meetings are designed to explore these complexities, not to resolve them, but rather to clarify some radical new logics of art criticism, art history and curatorial practice.

September 21, 2007

Betsy Ennis
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Tel: 212 423 3840

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