ANN: Lecture Series on Art in East and Southeast Asia (Online, 9, 23 Mar 2021)

Sunset over Victoria Harbour, SEN Ping (SHEN Ping, 1947-), 2016, watercolour on paper, 37.3 x 21.1 cm, Gift of SEN Ping, HKU.P.2017.2268

The University of Hong Kong’s Museum and Art Gallery is launching a lecture series on Art in East and SE Asia, inviting scholars and researchers from Denmark, France, Chicago, and Greater China to discuss the state of the art market and urban development, and museulization of Asian artefacts in the West.

Time: 8 p.m. (Hong Kong Time/ 6 a.m. Central Standard Time/ 1 p.m. Central European Time)
Duration: 1.5 hour
Venue: Online on Zoom.
Language: English
Cost: Free admission. Register session A here. Register session B here.

Session A
Date: Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Session A1—City of Art: State, market and the urban reinvention of Shanghai

The 11 km long West Bund in Shanghai is a formerly industrial harbor area which is currently redeveloped as an arts and culture area. It is home to several contemporary art museums (Long, Yuz, Power Station of Art) and art spaces. Coming at the heels of the well-studied booming market for modern and contemporary art, the subsequent emergence of contemporary art museums and kunsthalles suggests that this market is in search of a Chinese public, which is created through Shanghai’s urban make-over. My paper looks at this rapid urban transformation against the backdrop of state-market dynamics, urban regeneration, inter-urban competition (between Shanghai and Beijing) and the aspiration to become a global, cosmopolitan city – also in the cultural sphere. I will argue that this concentrated drive to become a global center for contemporary art came at the heels of the 2010 World Expo, which with the slogan “Better City – Better Life” signaled Shanghai’s aspirational status as the “next great world city” through public-private partnership. Yet, this combination of cosmopolitanism and commercialism harks back to Shanghai’s colonial history as an international concession city as well.

Oscar Salemink is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. Between 2001 and 2011 he worked at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, from 2005 as Professor of Social Anthropology, and from 1996 through 2001 he was responsible for Ford Foundation grant portfolios in social sciences and arts and culture in Thailand and Vietnam. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Amsterdam, based on research on Vietnam’s Central Highlands. He is currently working on global projects on heritage and contemporary arts. He published two monographs, ten edited volumes and eight themed issues of journals. Among his forthcoming books is Managing religion, sacralizing heritage: Validating, authenticating and managing religious heritage and Global Art in Local Artworlds: De-centering and Re-centering Europe in the Global Hierarchy of Value.

Session A2—The Rise of the Art Fair in Hong Kong

Since the 1990s, Hong Kong has risen to become Asia’s leading hub for the art trade. It makes an important case because it offers insights into the market emergence and globalization of the art market. This study is based on multi-sited fieldworks focusing on international art fairs held in Hong Kong since 2008 and archive research of fairs since 1992. It aims to unveil the roles played by Chinese artists, dealers, and collectors in fair sites, showing how changing exhibiting and dealing practices have revolutionized the way Chinese art was viewed, appreciated, consumed, and collected. Case studies derived from Hong Kong will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the recent developments in the contemporary art scene in Greater China and its integration into the international art market.

Shuo (Sue) Hua is Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hong Kong. She received her BA in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focus is 19th-21st century Chinese paintings and the commodification of visual arts in Greater China. Her dissertation was selected to the University of Chicago/Getty Dissertation Workshop in Chinese Art History (2019). Shuo is Lee Hysan visiting Ph.D. at the Global Art History, Cluster of Excellence: Asia and Europe in a Global Context, University of Heidelberg (2017). Before her Ph.D. research, she worked in the investment banking division at Credit Suisse (2012-15).

Session B
Date: Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Session B1—Kissinger’s Letters in an Art Museum? Danh Vo’s Historical Provocations on Display at the Guggenheim

Walking into Danish-Vietnamese artist Danh Vo’s 2018 solo retrospective exhibition at the Guggenheim museum in New York, visitors might not suspect that none of the works on display were made by the artist. Fragmented statues, hanging swaths of vinyl, handwritten manuscripts and wooden boxes could easily pass as the oeuvre of an interdisciplinary installation artist. Yet, the pieces on display were not fabricated, and instead carefully selected at auction, purchased and then artfully displayed in the museum by the artist. That in itself would not raise any eyebrows in the Post-Production and Post-Duchampian age of the artist as curator if the objects that Danh Vo collects were not so heavily loaded with historical symbolism. White house menus, Kennedy Administration chairs, chandeliers that hung above the Paris Peace Accords and catholic statues looted from Vietnamese churches are among the not so ordinary ready-mades on view. This paper will examine the how these historical documents function within an art museum, the role of the artist in provoking and engaging with both the institution and the public in macabre history lessons.

Nora A. Taylor is the Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her PhD from Cornell University and has taught at UCLA, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She was a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in 2014 and serves on the Academic Advisory Board at Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong. She is the author of Painters in Hanoi: An Ethnography of Vietnamese Art (Hawaii 2004 and NUS Press 2009) three edited volumes and numerous articles on Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian and Vietnamese Art. More recently she co-edited a special issue of the Art Journal titled “History as Figure of Thought in Contemporary Art in South and Southeast Asia,” Winter 2018.

Session B2—The musealization of the North Vietnamese propaganda poster: the consequences on the status and function of the object

The North Vietnamese propaganda poster emerged in 1945 during the rise of the Vietnamese independence movement against the French colonial regime. Following the recognition of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1954, it became an official state tool intended to convey the messages of the leaders to the population. The institutionalization of its production and distribution led to the proliferation of the prints and increased its visibility. Originally designed to be an ephemeral object, since the 1990s, the propaganda poster has entered private collections and State museums. This paper will examine the consequences of the transformation of the nature and function of the poster due to its museumizing, including the process of selection, acquisition and presentation.

Jade Thau is a graduate of the Ecole du Louvre in Arts and Archaeology of India and Southeast Asia, and of the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Vietnamese Studies. In 2018, she began a PhD thesis at Aix-Marseille University under the supervision of Philippe Le Failler and Nora Taylor. Her research focuses on the evolution of production methods and the place of the propaganda poster in North Vietnamese society from 1945 to the present day. She is the recipient of a European grant (2019), a scholarship from the EFEO and one from the Flora Blanchon Foundation, which will enable her to carry out her field research in various institutions in Vietnam as well as interview with local actors in the coming year.