Exhibitions are where artworks meet their publics. In the context of Asia, however, in the absence of systematic public collections and substantial academic art history departments dedicated to 20th and 21st century art from the region, exhibitions are more than just sites of display and interaction. Exhibitions have become the primary sites of art historical construction for recent art from the region. AAA explores the impact of this phenomena through a major international symposium, and an accompanying programme of film screenings.
An exhibition is a juxtaposition of artworks that cam foster visual conversations and make new propositions. The selection of these works and their physical placement play an important role in how the works are read and the art historical narratives they tell. As important a role as catalogue texts that seek to explicate and unpack them or the digital footprint they leave through e-publications or special websites. Exhibitions also have to be championed, funded, marketed, toured and received. Examining the institutional, personal and sometimes national (or supranational) demands that support, guide and even initiate exhibitions, and the publics they seek to address, is crucial to understanding the work that exhibitions do.
Asia Art Archive has both recognised, and through its collection, reflected the importance of the role of exhibitions in Asia since its constitution. Exhibitions and their expanded traces—catalogues, invitations, reviews, photo-documentation, curatorial notes and correspondence—are the dominant category of records that we have assimilated over the 13 years of our existence. This symposium is part of this long-term engagement with, and an ongoing enquiry into, the role of exhibitions in the region.
Anchored around a series of influential exhibitions of art from China that took place in and around 1993, this symposium frames a broader enquiry into the role of exhibitions in the historicisation of recent art in Asia. The symposium is organised into four sessions led by leading international scholars: Iftikhar Dadi, Jane DeBevoise, Patrick D. Flores, and Joan Kee; and punctuated by keynote addresses from three leading critical thinkers: John Clark, Gao Shiming, and Irit Rogoff. Six 'Open Call' papers (selected from an impressive 114 submissions from curators and scholars round out what we hope will be an intellectual feast over two and a half days.
The symposium was preceded, and complemented, by a screening programme of nearly 20 documentary films over eight weeks—screened in partnership with Asia Society, Film Culture Centre, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Spring Workshop and Ying E Chi—that explored the part played by documentary films in carrying art historical narratives.
A programme of this scale and ambition would not have been possible without the substantial financial support of the Arts Capacity Development Funding Scheme of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, with additional funding from the Burger Collection. We are also grateful to the Hong Kong Arts Centre for collaborating with us in presenting the symposium, and for the AAA team for making it all happen. But above all we grateful to our participants for their willingness to share their time, energy and collective knowledge in a spirit of collegiality. We feel privileged to be part of this conversation.