1. Most Elegant Show – Liu Ye’s Story Telling at Prada Rongzhai, Shanghai
Housed in a quaint historic 1918 Shanghai mansion, thirty of Liu Ye’s paintings compose Story Telling.Rendering an elegant show, the works featured reflect the artist’s oeuvre coveringa span of twenty six years.Indicative of a fusion of eastern and western influences unique to his upbringing, the intimacy imbued through his works is enhanced by the nostalgic interiors. Kudos to curator Udo Kittelman and the artist for the bold and intelligent transformation of the historical space into an intimate salon where a sensual series of stories unfold.
2. Most Ambitious Venture – Bangkok Art Biennale
The highly anticipated inaugural edition of the Bangkok Art Biennale opened mid-October, amidst rumours of delay and infrastructural issues. Under curious speculation and the acute scrutiny of the art world, the biennale came into existence led by a star-studded committee of international advisors and an acclaimed curatorial team steered by Dr. Apinan Poshyananda.Sprawled across the city, over 200 artworks by 75 international and local artists, are located in various institutions include heritage sites, and remarkably even temples. This ambition extended to visitors who beat the heat and infamous Bangkok traffic to embark upon the rewarding art treasure hunt created by BAB.An impressive list of contributing artists include Marina Abramovic, Elmgreen & Dragset, Lee Bul, Natee Utarit, Paolo Canevari, Yayoi Kusama, Choi Jeong Hwa, and Yoshitomo Nara.
3. Most Transformative Artwork – Katharina Grosse’s Mumbling Mud for K11 Art Foundation Shanghai
November 2018 saw the opening of Mumbling Mud, a vibrant, immersive, site-specific spectacle of an installation by renowned artist Katharina Grosse, marking the occasion of K11 Art Foundation’s 10th anniversary.Emblazoned with colour and architectural tactility, this five part installation is located in the chi K11 art museum, Shanghai. Dramatically transforming the rather challenging underground space, Grosse’s signature touch culminates in the rendering of an artistic playground, emphasizing the power of art in expanding architectural possibilities.
4. Most (successfully) Persevering Event – Kochi Biennale
Despite being hard hit by damages caused by massive, devastating floods earlier this summer, in addition to a certain founding member being accused of sexual misconduct, the state of Kerala and the Kochi Biennale Foundation have successfully opened the fourth edition the Kochi Muziris Biennale, dismissing preambling fears and concerns.Led by acclaimed artist Anite Dube, the curatorial theme for exhibition, Possibilities of a Non-Alienated Life has given rise to many site specific artworks housed in unique heritage buildings such as old warehouses and residences, recalling Kochi’s rich and diverse history.An array of leading Indian and international participating artists include William Kentridge, Shirin Neshat, Akraam Zataari, Jitish Kallat, Tania Bruguera, Shilpa Gupta, Song Dong, and the Guerilla Girls.
5. Most Sensational Institutional Opening – Tai Kwun Hong Kong
Formerly the headquarters for the Hong Kong police, Tai Kwun has been transformed into a center for heritage and arts, by Herzog de Mueron and conservation specialists Purcell.It is perhaps one of the most significant architectural revitalisation and conservation undertakings in Asia.Featuring two new structures, one of which, JC Contemporary, modelled on an European kunsthalle is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art.The complex opened this past summer with a series of exhibitions including Dismantling the Scaffold, curated in collaboration with local collective/arts organization Spring Workshop and a solo exhibition by local artist Wing So Po.Making a commitment to bring quality international art and simultaneously provide a platform for local artists, the fine arts department of Tai Kwun, helmed by Tobias Berger, aims to revolutionize perceptions of contemporary art and allow the local art scene to develop.
6. Most Innovative and Pioneering Endeavour – Ghost: 2561
Helmed by young artist Korakrit Arunanondochai, Ghost:2561 is a video and performance art series, which coincided with the opening of the Bangkok Art Biennale.Thoughtfully curated, the presentation includes works by Ian Cheng, Jon Rafman, Raqs Media Collective, Rachel Rose, Hito Steyerl, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Samson Young, and boychild, among others, with installations and performances located in various spaces around Bangkok.Employing the notion of ghost as a medium for exploring shared global experiences, each piece chosen resonated in a local and international context, fulfilling the self imposed curatorial criteria while simultaneously pushing boundaries of contemporary art.Truly novel and innovative, the advent of Ghost: 2561 proved to be an unexpected highlight.
7. Most Historic Landmark Exhibition: Minimalism: Space. Light. Object at the National Gallery Singapore and ArtScience Museum, Singapore.
The first exhibition dedicated to minimalism in South East Asia opened in Singapore this November, featuring a dual presentation over two locations, the National Gallery Singapore and the ArtScience Museum.An incredibly comprehensive overview of minimalism, the exhibition features over 150 artworks, ranging from the more popularly known American pioneers of the movement – Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin to its modern undertakers Anish Kapoor, Ai Wei Wei, Elmgreen & Dragset.An exhibition directly challenging the discursive domination of the West from the outset, the show has successfully brought in an Asian perspective to reinterpret the preset ideas of minimalism by the juxtaposition of art from different regions.This is highlighted curatorially through the inclusion of works by Lee Ufan, Midori Takada, Kishio Suga, Keigo Yamamoto, Tatsuo Miyajima, and Sopheap Pich.
8. Biggest Shake Up: Reshuffling the Asian Art Fair Agenda
Earlier this year, the MCH group – more popularly known as the Art Basel’s parent company, pulled out their stakes in three regional art fairs: Art SG, India Art Fair and Art Dusseldorf.Art SG will still continue through the leadership of Magnus Renfrew, and seems to be the beacon for the Singapore art fair scene, as the future of Art Stage Singapore appears dubious at best.While this rather surprising turn of events can be perceived as declining interest in regional Asian art markets, the advent of Art SG, SEA Focus, and Taipei Dangdai indicate otherwise.Furthermore, the cancellation fo Art Stage Jakarta paved the way for the induction of Art Jakarta.With these new art fairs on the horizon, 2019 will be a telling year for regional Asian art markets.
9. Best Art Fair Experience – West Bund Art and Design
Characterized by an understated elegance, the vastly spacious, well lit halls of West Bund conjured an atmosphere ideal for discovering art. Prioritizing the visitor’s experience, the organizers rendered spacious booths and free spaces creating a desire to linger, unlike the congested and overwhelming format typical of many art fairs.Participating galleries such as Hauser & Wirth presented sophisticated, cohesively curated booths.While galleries such as Hanart Art TZ and David Zwirner displayed one single work (by Xu Longshen and Dan Flavin respectively) transforming their booths into stunning visual spectacles. The Xian Cheng section featured works seamlessly interwoven throughout the fair, such as Cerith Wyn Evan’s Neon Forms which were suspended beautifully from the high ceilings, took advantage of the refined minimalist interiors.All in all, West Bund proved to be our favourite art fair experience of the year.
10. Most Futuristic Endeavour: The Mori Digital Art Museum
Japanese art collective teamLab launched the world’s first digital art museum in Tokyo earlier this summer, known as the Mori Building Digital Art Museum.Highly immersive and interactive, fifty digital artworks by teamLab are spread over five zones covering the 10,000 sqm area.520 computers and 470 projectors power the works, using animated graphics to radically transform the physical space.Many are activated by viewer interaction, providing a distinctive visual art experience unique to teamLab, who undoubtedly have had an active and successful 2018.The literal and conceptual accessibility of their art as well as it’s transformative properties are clearly indicative of the increasing popularity of digital art forms and contemporary art realm’s rapid affinity to tech-related practices.