Hou Hanru organizes ShContemporary 2010 panel on collecting asian contemporary art

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Collecting Asian Contemporary Art: What, When and How?

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9th September, 2010 — Shanghai Exhibition Centre, Shanghai

Contemporary art museums from around the world shall participate in a conference on the issues surrounding institutional collections of Asian contemporary art this September at ShContemporary 2010. Titled Collecting Asian Contemporary Art: What, When and How? the conference is being organized by Hou Hanru, the Chinese born curator and critic currently based inSan Francisco and Paris. Hou is Director of Exhibitions and Public Program, and Chair of Exhibition and Museum Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute. His latest curated projects include the 10th Biennale de Lyon and the 10th Istanbul Biennial.

Hou speaks to us on the ideas behind this conference and the important questions to be discussed:

“For the last two decades, contemporary art has become not only a global activity but has also significantly changed the cultural landscape and ways of living around the world. The contemporary art scene inAsia, thanks to its exceptionally rapid development and energetic creativity, has been largely considered as a new centre of the global art scene. Numerous cities across the region are holding major art events such as biennials and art fairs while hundreds of new museums, galleries and art foundations are being founded or are under construction. Along with its booming economy, the art market inAsiais a new Eldorado for the global art economy while some of its star artists are setting records for their high prices. Over the last ten years, we have seen the arrival of a newgeneration of private collectorsfocusing on Asian art in the various countries both inside and outside the Asian continent.

Ironically however, so far very few public museums have been able to build their Asian contemporary art collections in a systematic manner. Most of the museums are still in their earlier stages and lack both financial means and expertise to compete with the private sector although they have been making considerable efforts in organising punctual or regular events to make contemporary creations visible. In the meantime, the existing private collections are intermingled with highly uneven elements in terms of quality and professionalism. Indeed, collecting activities involve a large portion of speculation. The rationale, motivation and function of art collecting are becoming increasingly ambiguous, ambivalent and confusing. This has caused some major debates on the actual significance of contemporary art itself in both social and cultural contexts.

Obviously, the urgent question now is what and how to collect Asian contemporary art. This is a serious challenge that the whole art world faces and requires an answer for. This is particularly crucial for public institutions – including museums and art foundations.

For the last two years, economic crisis has affected the art market but interestingly, has not simply killed the market. Instead, it has brought some correcting effects on the speculative growth and installed a kind of warning device. In a way, this helps to build up a platform for reasonable and rational discussions and debates on the notions of the value of art, cultural memory, heritage and social change.

In this light, we are organizing a conference on the issue of collecting Asian contemporary artat the upcoming ShContemporary fair inShanghai– a seemingly contradictory but effective context for this kind of debate. Somehow, the pragmatic coexistence and interaction between the intellectual and commercial worlds can produce unexpectedly productive and interesting solutions.

With museum professionals and curatorial experts from both the East and the West, we will bring up provocative thoughts and proposals to deal with a wide range of questions, including the following:

What is a public institution today, in the age of commoditisation of art?

What is the special way to define the public and private in the context of the globalisingAsia?

How to collect, conserve and present contemporary art when it’s becoming increasingly diversified in terms of media, languages and materiality?

How do specific visions and strategies for collecting affect the missions of different museums, especially in the context of Asian contemporary art?

How can collecting contemporary art affect public policy when increasing attention is paid to the production of culture and art by public authorities?

What is the best economic model for collection of Asian contemporary art?

Why collect Asian contemporary art, in the end? And what would be an ideal museum for it?”

Established in 2007, ShContemporaryhas become an essential art fair in Asia. Its leading position inChina, focus on experimental ideas, and commitment to developing new collectors in the region, has made it an art fair with a clear vision for the future of the Asian market. The fourth edition will be held from 9th to 12th Septemberat the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. Preview and Vernissage on September 8th. For more information please visit: www.shcontemporary.info.