Shortlist: Exhibition as Art Historical Proposition

Patrick Flores, Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, University of the Philippines
September 2013


[This Shortlist is produced in conjunction with the symposium ‘Sites of Construction: Exhibitions and the Making of Recent Art History in Asia.’ Taking place from 21 to 23 October 2013, the symposium investigates the implications of exhibitions becoming the primary sites of art historical construction in the region. Organised in four sessions and punctuated by three keynote speeches, the three-day event brings together international scholars, curators, writers, and artists to explore the multiple roles exhibitions play. The present Shortlist, prepared by Patrick Flores, chair of the panel ‘Exhibition as Historical Proposition’ inquires into what historical narratives of modernity, the postcolonial condition, the global contemporary or cultural affinity, are recent exhibitions proposing.]

This list of exhibitions initiates us to efforts in the region to consolidate materials in the history of art, faceted from the tangents of modernity and the contemporary, within a space of reconsiderations of terms across the field: art, history, art history, region, exhibition, curator, art historian.

First it draws our attention to the breadth of this material through exhibitions that tend to survey the art of a particular locus largely through the procedure of art history. This disciplinary commitment may not be articulated, but the disposition is markedly art historical, regardless of how fraught the methodology may be when refunctioned within productive contingencies.

Second it reflects on this material through problematics that may be referenced by themes. The latter shape the exhibitionary logic, which in turn informs whatever history of art may be generated. It might also be asked if such a situation of art needs to be called art history at all, or if it should be solely confined to this disciplinary precinct. If all this labor, this seriality of exhibitions, cannot be collected under the auspice of art history, how should it be contemplated in time?

Third it leads us to the work of curation and the perspectives through which curators, following their own trajectories of practice and history as well as their relationships with institutions, perform the exhibitionary and art historical potential.

All these questions ask: How do the exhibitionary aesthetic and the discourse on a specific ecology or life world of art become art historical propositions and in the process create the critique of the art historical? How does the curatorial intervene in this schema? And how does the geography of the exhibition inform the production of the curatorial and the art historical?

Recommended Readings

Grano, Suzanne, ed., The First Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 1993
Kataoka, Mami, ed., Under Construction: New Dimensions of Asian Art, The Japan Foundation Asia Center, Tokyo, 2002
Mashadi, Ahmad, Telah Terbit (Out Now): Southeast Asian Contemporary Art Practices During the 1960s to 1980s, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2006
Piyadasa, Redza, Sulaiman Esa, Towards a Mystical Reality: A Documentation of Jointly Initiated Experiences, Malaysia, 1974 [not yet available]
Ushiroshoji, Masahiro, Toshiko Rawanchaikul, eds., The Birth of Modern Art in Southeast Asia: Artists and Movements, Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, 1997
Walis, Brian, ed., Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tensions, Asia Society Galleries, New York, 1996
Yasuko, Furuichi, ed., Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues—Report, The Japan Foundation, Tokyo, 2006