The First 100

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The editors have anticipated ArtAsiaPacific’s 100th issue for more than a year. In preparing for this milestone we went back to the inaugural issue, published in March 1993 in Sydney, to look for insight into the ideas and motivations behind the magazine, which Leon Paroissien, senior editorial advisor and director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, outlined in “Art and AsiaPacific: An Australian Introduction.” He framed it from Australia’s multicultural perspective—discussing the influx of immigrants, particularly from Europe and Asia in the second half of the 20th century, and the pragmatic economic policies of the 1990s, which linked Australia to her geographical neighbors to the north. Paroissien elaborated on a desire to articulate “a sense that countries in Asia have evolving and dynamic contemporary visual cultures.” Although this article was written 23 years ago, Paroissien’s editorial remains relevant today.

For AAP’s Special Feature, marking this landmark issue, we map the evolution of the art world by identifying five reoccurring terms, citing the first time the words appear and demonstrating how their meanings have evolved. Together with our editorial interns, Amelia Abramson, Carina Fischer, Jessica Lee, Lili Nishiyama, Terri Sit, Valencia Tong and Isabel Wahono, we mined the pages of the previous 99 issues, excluding the Almanacs. From among several hundreds of terms, we decided to hone in on five: archive, intervention, ecosystem, censorship and revival. Each reveals a micro-history of the art world over the past two decades.

We have also completed the task of digitizing all 100 issues. Although it may seem like a purely mechanical process in the digital age, to produce AAP’s first issues from the 1990s, images were snail-mailed as slides or transparencies, pages were laid out on a physical board and text was typeset letter by letter. It wasn’t until AAP 55 that we entered the cyber-age world of InDesign. Even files made in the early 2000s with a computer program called Quark remain frozen in a hard drive. But now subscribers can see the first appearance of “archive” or the most recent application of “revival,” as well as the entire set of magazine back issues by logging in and going to library.artasiapacific.com.

The Feature articles in AAP 100 illustrate how we have upheld the vision that Paroissien and the founding editors set out to achieve in 1993. We have identified artists representing three generations, all of whom for various reasons left their native countries, but remained closely connected to their cultures and eventually returned home. Video artist and art historian Stephen Jones takes us through the work of the late New Zealand artist Len Lye (1901–1980), known for his visionary films and kinetic sculptures. AAP Dubai desk editor Kevin Jones travels to Tehran to meet 37-year-old Shahpour Pouyan, to understand the cultural references behind his monumental sculptures and exquisite works on paper that comment on power. From Hong Kong, AAP associate editor Sylvia Tsai interviews Ho Chi Minh City-based artist Tiffany Chung, 47, to discuss a practice that involves meticulous research and explores political traumas, natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

Rounding out the Features section, Inside the Burger Collection takes a close look at two prolific painters—New York-based Ena Swansea and young German artist Dennis Scholl—who explore the different ways of approaching the historically revered practice, including embracing photography as source material or manipulating scale as a formal device.

In Essays, AAP Taiwan desk editor David Frazier considers the absence of a monolithic art-historical narrative for modern Chinese art, while independent art curator Annie Jael Kwan explores Tate Britain’s vexed blockbuster show “Artist and Empire,” which looks at art from the realm where the sun never set, and travels to the National Gallery Singapore in October. 

As to present-day goings-on, September kicks off the new season with a number of important biennials taking place across the region. In this issue we preview the most anticipated: Taipei, Singapore, Çanakkale in Turkey, the newly established Yinchuan Biennale in the remote Ningxia Hui region in China as well as Qalandiya International in Palestine and Anyang Public Art Project in Korea.

Also in this issue is a special supplement dedicated to three venerable Korean biennials that launch in September: Gwangju, Busan and Mediacity Seoul. AAP editor-at-large HG Masters sat down with the three artistic directors—Maria Lind, Yun Cheagab and Beck Jee-Sook, respectively—and records their visions for their respective shows. He also reports on his exclusive interview with Bartomeu Marí, the director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, who discusses his plans for the identity and direction of the museum.

In Profiles, we focus on emerging figures: interdisciplinary artist Yin-Ju Chen from Taiwan, Manila-based artist-curator Lena Cobangbang and performance artist Moe Satt from Myanmar. AAP also meets Korean film star Jung-Jae Lee in Seoul for a chat about his forays in art collecting.

Elsewhere in the issue, AAP contributing editor Michael Young travels to Shanghai, where he visits the studio of still-life artist Zhang Enli, and Hong Kong painter Firenze Lai explains her infatuation with the paintings of Francis Bacon in One on One. For The Point, installation artist Tayeba Begum Lipi looks back at two decades of art-making and explains how despite the “connectivity” that technology has bestowed upon the world, working as an artist in Bangladesh remains a remote and isolated pursuit. Evidently, many of the challenges that AAP has chronicled over its 100 issues persist. Art is a crossroads where the known and the unknown meet, reminding us that we still have plenty of work to do in the next 100 issues.