What is the State of Contemporary Art Across Southeast Asia?

Arts & Culture

July 12, 2018 | BY Dorynna Untivero

In today's growing cultural landscape, how does art figure in the mix of a modern society treading across history? Read on to find out how the ASEAN Association punctuates its 50th anniversary by facing this very question.

To bring to the fore the continuing challenge of representation, expression, and artistic production, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations punctuates its 50th year anniversary with a grandstanding art exhibition which will feature ten artists who will feature each ASEAN member state. 

Of the ordeal, NCCA Chairman Virgilio Almario iterates, "[t]here is much to gain in gathering the talents of the region in order to view not only their works but to also reflect on the realities each of them respond to.” He further emphasizes that “it is a proud moment that the Philippines initiates this celebration of ASEAN artists.” 

Taking place in the following venues: the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, University of the Philippines Vargas Museum, and the Yuchengco Museum, the exhibit is entitled Ties of History: Art in Southeast Asia is curated by noted art historian, scholar, and curator Patrick D. Flores. 

The exhibition’s artists from the region will gather in Manila to open the exhibition on August 8 (MET Manila), 9 (Yuchengco Museum), and 10 (Vargas Museum) with a series of programs for each venue. The opening reception of each venue starts at 5pm. The exhibition will be on view from August 10 to October 6, 2018.

Ties of History: Art in Southeast Asia is a survey of contemporary art, on the one hand. On the other, it is a diligent study of a particular practice. The project selects three works of each artist from the ASEAN countries to be exhibited in three institutions. This enables the exhibition to present a more in-depth look into the interests of the artist and allows the audience from different parts of the city to view the exhibition.

As Flores, who was recently appointed as Artistic Director of Singapore Biennale 2019, explains, “this undertaking...draws attention to the thoughtful and sensitive process of artistic transformation and maturity and tries to avoid the tendency of survey exhibitions to merely select the most popular or the most accessible.”

“It also reminds us that artistic practice is not fully formed but rather gleaned in the condition of constant forming. It is this constant forming that the project endeavors to curate,” he adds.

Senator Loren Legarda, one of the Philippines leading cultural advocates, expresses her pride with the recent developments in Philippine contemporary art: “Support for Philippine contemporary art is at its peak with our participation at the Venice Biennale for four consecutive years after a 51-year absence, with Dr. Flores as the first curator since our re-entry. This collaborative endeavor further puts the country at the center of contemporary art globally, not just in Asia. I invite our ASEAN neighbors to continue this art project annually or in the form of a biennial in the same manner by which we host political and economic affairs in ASEAN.”

The project is presented by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through the Dalubhasaan Para sa Edukasyon sa Sining at Kultura (DESK) with the support of the Office of Senator Loren Legarda.