Shortlist | Exhibition as Site

Iftikhar Dadi

Chair of the Department of Art, Cornell University




During the last three decades, exhibitions have played a leading role in the promotion of modern and contemporary art of Asia. In the continued absence of robust academic art history programmes across much of the region, the exhibition platform remains the primary vector shaping the "canon." And when compared to modernism, the canonicity of contemporary practice is arguably more challenging, as it is more varied in media and theme and can appear to be freer from the weight of history. Enormous resources now circulate in the art market and in the mounting of major exhibitions; is this process largely negative from an art historical view? Do most exhibitions merely rely on stereotypical curatorial agendas, repeat nation-state and area studies frameworks that preclude experimentation, neglect social and intellectual contexts, promote shallow spectacle, and overlook popular and subaltern works and practices? In its best sense, art historical canonicity must be understood not through trophies acquired by museums and collectors, but as an investigation of the deeper and larger aesthetic and social issues that exemplary works and practices illuminate. Can or does the exhibition also contribute to independent scholarship and the production of art historical value, beyond market instrumentalisation? Should the exhibition consciously explore neglected perspectives such as the fraught relationship between tradition, modernism, and contemporary art; the social and intellectual milieu in which the work is made and received; the importance of travel, diaspora, and cultural exchange; or the exploration of a coherent social or aesthetic concept? Should exhibitions no longer be conceived only as stand-alone events, but strive to foreground contributions to institution-building and archival development, and the promotion of scholarly work via symposia, workshops, websites, and well-researched catalogs, all of which can be valuable contributions to art historical value?

Note: This Shortlist was produced in conjunction with the symposium Sites of Construction: Exhibitions and the Making of Recent Art History in Asia, 21–23 October 2013. The symposium investigated 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 brought together international scholars, curators, writers, and artists to explore the multiple roles exhibitions play. The present Shortlist, prepared by Iftikhar Dadi, chair of the panel "Exhibition as Site" inquires into how and to what effect exhibitions and exhibition-makers have responded to institutional, geographic, and audience-related contexts.


Recommended Readings


Aquilino, Marie Jeannine, Beyond Shelter: Architecture and Human Dignity, Metropolis Books, New York, 2010 [English] REF.AQM

Belting, Hans, et al., eds., Global Contemporary and the Rise of New Art Worlds, Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, 2013 [English] REF.BEH3

Enwezor, Okwui, ed., The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945–1994, Prestel, Munich, 2001 [English] REF.ENO

Hassan, Salah, Iftikhar Dadi, Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, 2002 [English] EX.NET.UNE

Hernández, Felipe, et. al., Rethinking the Informal City: Critical Perspectives from Latin America, Berghahn Books, New York, 2010 [English] REF.HEF

Jain, Kajri, Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art, Duke University Press, Durham, 2007 [English] REF.JAK4

Kester, Grant, The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context, Duke University Press, Durham, 2011 [English] REF.KEG

Lantz, Maria, Jonatan Habib Engqvist, eds., Dharavi: Documenting Informalities, Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2009 [English] REF.ENJ

Ogg, Kirsty, ed., Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Steidl, Goettingen, Whitechapel Gallery, London, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, 2010 [English & German] EX.UNK.WTD

Staniszewski, Mary Anne, The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1998 [English] REF.STM4

Steeds, Lucy, Making Art Global (Part 2): ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ 1989, Afterall Books, London, 2013 [English] REF.STL2

Relevant content

Sites of Construction | Exhibition as Site

Sites of Construction | Exhibition as Site

Tue, 22 Oct 2013, 10 AM – 12 PM

Sites of Construction | Exhibitions and the making of recent art history in Asia

Sites of Construction | Exhibitions and the making of recent art history in Asia

Mon-Wed. 21-23 Oct 2013

Sites of Construction: Exhibitions and the Making of Recent Art History in Asia
Sites of Construction: Exhibitions and the Making of Recent Art History in Asia

Sites of Construction: Exhibitions and the Making of Recent Art History in Asia