How well did Asian artists, collectors and curators do on ArtReview’s Power List 2017? Very well, it appears.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial Force
ArtReview’s Power List 2017 is out, and one thing is immediately clear: the value of ideas over big money. Whereas past editions have seen likes of power gallerists – who, no doubt, still command huge influences in the art world – and the ubiquitous Hans-Ulrich Obrist dominate the Top Ten, there are more than one fresh face at the top of the list this year, with German artist-activist Hito Steyerl taking the number 1 spot, followed by interventionist artist Pierre Huyghe and theorist Donna Haraway.
And this focus on big ideas is seen in the Asian power figures being featured. High up on the list is Chinese artist-activist Ai Wei Wei (13). The exile artist is known for works that address socio-political injustices; his latest, Good Fences Make Bad Neighbours, is a direct attack on Donald Trump’s anti-immigrants rhetoric. Having first debuted on the list in 2006, Hon Hanru (44) is the artistic director of MAXXI, consulting curator for the Guggenheim and curator of Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in Shenzhen. The Art and China after 1989, which he co-curated with Alexandra Munroe, at the Guggenheim, ruffled more than a few feathers when it opened in September.
As the founder of Shanghai-based ShanghART Gallery, one of the first spaces dedicated to showing Chinese contemporary art in the city since 1996, Lorenz Helbling is placed at no.51. He is largely regarded as the person who professionalized the gallery business in China and set a model for a whole new generation of young gallerists to follow. If Lee Ufan and Park Seo-Bo are the artistic faces of Dansaekhwa, then it owes its current boom to Hyun-Sook Lee (79). Since founding Kukje Gallery in 1982, Lee has dealt in the works of post-war Korean artists including Lee, Park and Ha Chong-Hyun, supported the careers of Kimsooja, Yeondoo Jung amongst others, and was instrumental in bringing the likes of Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly and Anselm Kiefer to the Korean audience during the 80s and 90s.
In the 1960s, Yayoi Kusama (55) became a fixture of the New York avant-garde & the Japanese-born artist remains influential to this day, with her polka dot-themed – inspired by a personal medical condition – pieces constantly commanding news headlines and long museum queues. A master of using everyday objects to challenge thinking of the abstract and ornamental, Haegue Yang (85) is everywhere. Aside from a solo at Cologne’s Museum Ludwig, she will be featured in the Liverpool Biennial and the Biennale of Sydney in 2018.
Aside from the above ‘old guard’, recent years have also seen the rise of a new crop of game changers who are disrupting the status quo, injecting new ideas into the global art ecology.
Standing at No.46 is Adrian Cheng who is well known for his commitment to arts that redefines the concept of art patronage. Under the K11 brand, he has set up artist in residencies, held exhibitions and talks, and encouraged a multi-disciplinary approach to the exchanging of ideas. The collector also sits on various boards, including the International Council of London’s TATE and New York’s Public Art Fund, and plays an active role in bringing the works of emerging Chinese artists to the international stage. In 2015, he signed a three-year partnership with Paris’ Centre Pompidou; and in 2017 comes .com/.cn exhibition co-presents with MoMA PS1 in Hong Kong and Shanghai, the first project jointly presented by the two institutions as part of an ongoing research partnership.
In a list that favours the intellect over the almighty dollar, it’s no surprise that Zhang Wei and Hu Fang (42) of China’s Vitamin Creative Space are so high up on the list. Integrating the visual arts, film and literature under one roof, Vitamin, with spaces in Guangzhou and Beijing, boasts inventive programming and an impressive roster of artists, including Danh Vo, Cao Fei and Olafur Eliasson. As further proof of their experimental streak, the duo opened Mirrored Gardens, the Sou Fujimoto-designed art complex proposed as an alternative ‘neo-agricultural’ and ‘non-intentional’ exhibiting and art-making venue in Guangzhou in 2015.
Claire Hsu (70) has come a long way from 2000, when she raised HK$1 million to set up Asia Art Archive (AAA). Aside from holding the most comprehensive Asian art library, AAA organises research grants, conferences, workshops and symposia, and recently launched Ideas, a new online arts journal. Selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2013, Hsu sits on the boards of Foundation for Arts Initiatives, Hong Kong’s M+ museum amongst others.
Second generation collectors Nadia and Rajeeg Samdani (93) are the masterminds behind the Dhaka Art Summit, which consistently brings the world’s most forward thinkers together, and the Samdani Art Foundation. 2018 will be a big year for the duo, as Dhaka Art Summit steps into its 4th year, coupled with the opening of a public art centre-cum-sculpture park in Sylhet.
Coming in at no. 99, Kiran Nadar opened the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in 2010. Billed as the first private museum in Indian dedicated to showing modern and contemporary art, KNMA has hosted shows by ‘The Progs’, and the country’s foremost video artists, but it was perhaps the Nasreen Mohamedi retrospective in 2013 that firmly put KNMA – and Nadar – on the global art map. With openings regularly attended by both dignitaries from both the Western and Eastern art worlds, KNMA also boasts an ambitious public programme, comprising symposiums and school workshops amongst others.
With the paradigm shift in the art world – including from the West to East – there are those who have risen up to the momentous task of contextualising Asian modern and contemporary art.
Suhanya Raffel and Doryun Chong (59), M+’s museum director and deputy director-cum-chief curator, are two such individuals. While the world waits with bated breath for the opening of Asia’s first museum dedicated to 20th and 21st century art, design, architecture and moving images, Raffel and Chong have been giving very palatable teasers for what’s to come, through exhibitions such as Canton Express and The Weight of Lightness.
As founders of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Riyas Komu and Bose Krishnamachari (84) have been praised for their bold programming, and are credited with bringing critical attention to the artists in Kerala. Separately, Krishnamachari’s Colour Code opened at Gallery G, Bangalore to critical acclaim in July, while Komu is curating Mattancherry, a two-month exhibition that re-examines the significance that the place has for the artists working there.
Sunjung Kim (72) has been a pivotal figure in bringing contemporary Korean art to global attention. The founder of Samuso Curatorial Office and director of Artsonje Centre added one more title to her belt earlier this year: the presidency of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation.
Known for her multi-disciplinary approach, Yuko Hasegawa (90) is chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. 2017 was a busy year for the veteran curator. Aside from curating the Moscow Biennale, where she ambitiously brought together 155 works from 52 artists, months, she was also the brains behind Japanorama, a survey of Japanese art from 1970 to the present at the Pompidou Metz.
Since opening in 2015, the National Gallery Singapore has been praised for its bold programming, thanks in no small part to director Eugene Tan (95), who has steered the ship with a deft hand. The Yayoi Kusama solo drew a record-breaking 235,000 visitors, and the museum is set to host the annual CiMAM conference for directors and curators of modern and contemporary art collections this month. Tan himself joined the advisory board of Bangkok Art Biennale earlier this year.
There is of course, the moneyed collector who is acting as a broker of deals between the East and West.
The founder of Domus collection, Richard Chang (71) is a trustee of London’s Royal Academy and vice chair for TATE’s International Council, and a member of its Asia Pacific Acquisitions committee.
Recently named presidency of the board of Performa, the collector is set to play a pivotal role in the 2018 edition of the biennale, which will look to China.
Making headlines for the acquisition of a HK$281 million Ming dynasty ceramic ‘chicken cup’ in 2014, power couple Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian (80) are fulfilling their dream of making million-dollar artwork accessible through the Long Museum. In 2015, they brought the Klaus Biesenbach-curated 15 Rooms to the museum’s West Bund location.
Naturally, the above list is by no means exhaustive. The Asian art scene is after all, a diverse and ever changing landscape, where new players are coming in all the time. One thing is certain though – as Asian collectors, academics and institutions continue to claim a bigger puzzle in the global art ecology, there will be an ever greater cross-pollination of ideas.