See Asia through its artists

See Asia through its artists
June Yap (left) and Centre for Contemporary Arts director Ute Meta Bauer will reach out to the public through No Country: Contemporary Art For South And South-east Asia.

SINGAPORE - If you want to see what is happening with South and South-east Asian art, a travelling exhibition which makes its final stop in Singapore this month could be a good place to start.

The small scale show featuring 19 artworks by 16 emerging and established artists and collectives is an initiative by the famous Guggenheim Museum in New York to widen its Western-centric collection by featuring art from this part of the world.

It appointed Singaporean curator June Yap to pick the artworks which form part of the museum's permanent collection.

Yap, 40, who worked in the curatorial departments of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum, and has been an independent curator since 2008, spent three months travelling the region to visit the artists and select the works for the exhibition titled, No Country: Contemporary Art For South And South-east Asia.

The show, which debuted at the Guggenheim in New York last year and travelled to Hong Kong earlier this year, opens at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Gillman Barracks on Saturday. No Country is part of the the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, which aims to strengthen representation of art from different parts of the world.

The Singapore exhibition marks the debut of two works - Loss by Indian artist Sheela Gowda and Morning Glory by Sopheap Pich from Cambodia - not previously seen in the New York (Feb 22-May 22, 2013) Hong Kong shows.

The Hong Kong show featured 18 works by 13 artists, while the New York one had 27 works by 22 artists. In total, the Guggenheim acquired 36 works by 27 artists and collectives.

Yap tells Life! the idea behind this exhibition is to encourage cross-cultural dialogue about contemporary art and cultural practice. Reaching out to the public and running education programmes are key elements of the initiative, which is why the relatively new Centre for Contemporary Arts was picked as the venue over museums.

She says: "The centre lends to the project the possibility to extend its research and discursive aspects. Certainly, the established institutions in Singapore were considered. However, exhibition arrangements were most suitable with the centre."

Professor Ute Meta Bauer, 55, founding director of the centre, says that the show brings "a complex perspective on contemporary artistic production that addresses the diversity of South and South-east Asia".

Indeed, No Country demonstrates not just the vitality of art practices but also the dynamism of culture in the region.

Yap travelled to countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and India to gather art for the show. "What was important for me was to introduce critical practices from the region that would become part of the museum's collection and also works that provide impetus for further discussion relevant in the US and also in Asia," she says.

So she picked some of the most compelling and innovative artists in the region and South Asia.

Singapore's leading contemporary artist Tang Da Wu's installation work, Our Children, inspired by a Teochew parable, is shown alongside those of other regional heavyweights such as multi-disciplinary Indian artist Shilpa Gupta and Thailand's Navin Rawanchaikul, who represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 2011.

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