London, Asia Research Award

This research award is part of London, Asia, a collaboration between Asia Art Archive (AAA) and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (PMC).

London, Asia posits London as a key, yet under-explored site in the construction of art historical narratives in Asia, and examines its influence through exhibitions, patronage, art writing, and art education. This project also reflects on how the growing field of modern and contemporary art history in Asia intersects with and challenges existing histories of British art.

London, Asia does not propose a comparative framework, but rather encourages new perspectives on historic and contemporary entanglements between London and Asia. By looking at examples of particular exhibitions, events, institutions, and individuals, this project asks broader methodological questions about the ways art histories of Britain and Asia are written, circulated, and negotiated. The project is envisaged as a series of interventions and conversations with no specific end point; rather, the intent is to open up and fuel generative engagement with an area that art historians, curators, and researchers have yet to examine in a systematic and critical way. For its three-year duration, London, Asia will explore exhibition and institutional histories (such as the British Council and the Commonwealth Institute), the role of art schools and pedagogy, and art writing.


The Research Award

The London, Asia Research Award is conducted via an annual open call. The successful grant holder is expected to visit both AAA (Hong Kong) & the PMC (London) to engage with the staff and research communities at both institutions. The award is an honorarium of US$10,000, which will be made in two payments: one at the beginning of the award, and one at the end. The project is to be completed in six months from the time the first award is given. The successful award holder will research a specific institution or institutional history—or a particularly pertinent time period within an institution’s history—relevant to the London, Asia project. The recipient will be required to submit a short, interim report six weeks into the project, and a 10,000-word report at the end of the award outlining their findings, along with relevant images and resources. Primary materials and documents collected, and research tools such as bibliographies and exhibition timelines compiled during the course of the research, may be shared via the AAA and PMC websites. We would also expect the successful grant holder to give a talk about their project at both AAA and the PMC.

Past events under London, Asia include Showing, Telling, Seeing: Exhibiting South Asia in Britain 1900–Now, a symposium organised by the PMC and AAA in collaboration with Tate Modern, and “From Ajanta (India) to Sydenham (South London),” a talk by PMC Deputy Research Director Sarah Turner.


The Research Grantees

London, Asia Research Award Grantee 2018

Ming Tiampo is a Professor of Art History, Co-director of the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis, and Director of the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture at Carleton University, Ottawa. Her research focuses on transnational, transcultural networks and artistic production in the postwar period, with a theoretical commitment to rethinking discourses of global modernism.

Tiampo will be conducting research on how the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, which welcomed students from all over the world since its inception in 1871, functioned as a crucible of encounter and a site for articulating “Global Asias.” Tiampo’s research will determine which students shared classrooms, investigate the lectures they attended, and theorise the pedagogical implications of the lectures. One case study revolves around the Asian and Asian diasporic artists who attended E. H. Gombrich’s lectures—such as Anwar Jalal Shemza and K. G. Subramanyan—and the other stories of art that might be told if their intellectual lives were researched in depth. Oral history interviews and archival research will be conducted to create a larger picture of the role UCL Slade played in their artistic careers, with particular attention to the ways peer groups created discursive cultures for themselves in that environment.

London, Asia Research Award Grantee 2017

Sarena Abdullah is the current Deputy Dean (Research, Postgraduate, and Linkages) at the School of the Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), and a Research Fellow at the USM Centre for Policy Research and International Studies. She was one of the Field Leaders for Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art (2015), a research project led by The Power Institute Foundation for Art & Visual Culture, The University of Sydney, and funded by the Getty Foundation. She is the author of Malaysian Art Since the 1990s: Postmodern Situation, published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 2018.

Abdullah’s project explores the artistic relationship between Malaysia and Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. Her research examines ways the London–Kuala Lumpur links formed, evolved, and were later supported in the postcolonial context of Malaya. She investigates how knowledge of modern art and the transfer of cultural ideas can be reconstructed through the interrelated networking of artists and art educators, between the colonial centre and its periphery, from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. This research includes a look at early art educators and Malaysian artists who attained their formal art education in Britain. A second part of this project focuses on international exhibitions hosted by the Malaysia National Visual Arts Gallery from the late 1950s to late 1970s, including those organised by the Commonwealth Institute, London.

Abdullah presents her findings in her AAA talk: “Soft Power in Post-independence Malaya: The Role of the National Arts Gallery and the Commonwealth Institute in Internationalising Arts.”