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ArtAsiaPacific Almanac 2018

For over 20 years, ArtAsiaPacific has been at the forefront of the powerful creative forces that shape contemporary art from Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East. Covering the latest in contemporary visual culture, ArtAsiaPacific is published in Hong Kong, with over 30 editorial desks worldwide. Our annual issue, the Almanac, is an alphabetical tour d'horizon of the 67-odd countries covered in ArtAsiaPacific, spanning Afghanistan to Vietnam. The Almanac also invites influential art world figures to comment on the major cutural events that have shaped the past 12 months. Now also available on the iPhone!

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SHAWON AKAND is an artist and curator based in Dhaka. He co-founded the Crack International Art Camp in Bangladesh, and is author of An Outline of Bangladesh Folk Art and Tendency of Modern Art in Bangladesh. POJAI AKRATANAKUL is the project director at Sansab Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok—a new museum set to open in 2020. PEDRO DE ALMEIDA is the program manager at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia, and editor of 4A Papers. YUSCHAV ARLY is a freelance illustrator based in Bali, Indonesia. He creates realistic digital portraits as part of cutting-edge campaigns for global brands. FRANCES ARNOLD, before recently relocating to Europe, spent eight years in Shanghai, China, where she covered the contemporary art scene, museums and regional art market. MIRNA BAMIEH is an artist from Jerusalem. She uses…

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unfinished business

Even before we had laid down our red pencils and signed off on the final proofs of this year’s Almanac, it occurred to us that real closure was impossible. As print editors around the world know all too well, proofreading can often feel futile, not just because human error is inevitable, but also because the world we track is constantly changing. As our cover and the design concept for the 2018 Almanac reveals, the world is an unfinished symphony of shifting layers, a fantasia of patterns, shapes and colors. For more than a decade, ArtAsiaPacific has published an annual compendium of the year in art from across Asia and the Pacific to the Middle East. Offering a record of the art world in 53 countries at a specific moment in time,…

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true believers

If you spend enough time hanging around—or working—in the art world, you are afforded glimpses into what it really takes to produce the artworks, exhibitions, biennials and art fairs that the public sees and that we cover in ArtAsiaPacific. Behind every still image of an artwork or exhibition printed in this edition of the Almanac, there was a team of people, whether in Istanbul or Hong Kong, Dubai or Shanghai, who made it happen. These people remain largely anonymous, out of the image caption, the reviews and the public’s eye. One instance in particular stands out in my memories of 2017. One mid-August evening, I had taken a taxi to thegate of the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, just north of Ramallah, and walked up to the hillside complex. I saw a…

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friends abroad

New York’s Swiss Institute ventures far beyond Switzerland The founding of New York’s Swiss Institute was an expression of national pride, much more about tearing down boundaries than upholding them. Its founders are an intrepid group of Swiss patrons based in New York, who were inspired by the fact that other nations had their own outposts—Deutsche Institute, Japan Society—for cultural exchange in the city. They thought to do the same, and share work that was being made in Switzerland with New York. The broad sweep of Swiss culture that constituted the early days of Swiss Institute reflects the heterogeneous programming and topics that audiences still expect from the US-based kunsthalle today: cinema, dance, music, literary events and, of course, visual art. The key difference between Swiss Institute and other like-minded institutions importing…

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heaven can wait

Many artists say they want audiences to interpret artworks for themselves, which is fine, until that certain viewer comes along and uncovers something objectionable that rattles the cage of their narrow worldview. It is often these same kind of viewers—whether security officials or freelancing collaborators of illiberal regimes—who are quick to yank frames off the walls, as was the case with an exhibition in June of Harit Srikhao’s photographic works in Bangkok. Thai soldiers stormed into Gallery Ver and confiscated three artworks, including the artist’s ironic depiction of 60-odd uniformed women wearing identical gold masks in front of a picture-frame-like archway to the skies. Was Srikhao’s depiction of Thai-smile-style mass conformity perhaps a little too spot-on? It was also hyperreality that drew religious-nationalist ire of the Turkish variety to a…

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states of urgency

Under governments with authoritarian tendencies, cultural figures have increasingly found themselves targets of both the state and emboldened rogue actors. In South Korea, as President Park Geun-hye was impeached on March 10 following scandals entailing corruption and cronyism, news surfaced that her administration had compiled a cultural blacklist with more than 9,000 names of artists and figures. Cho Yoon-sun, Park’s culture minister, was allegedly responsible for maintaining the list, while Kim Ki-choon, former chief of staff, had drawn up the original roster. The two were arrested in January with charges of abuse of power and coercion. In July, Cho was acquitted of the two charges, and was sentenced to one year in prison for lying under oath. Labeled as the main culprit, Kim was sentenced to three years. Five other…