The closely-guarded list of 22 artists in the major exhibition of South and Southeast Asian art at the Guggenheim is finally out, and it includes prominent Indian multidisciplinary artist Shilpa Gupta, Thai-Indian provocateur Navin Rawanchaikul, Filipino multidisciplinary artist Poklong Anading, Malaysian video and photography artist Wong Hoy Cheong, and even a London-based collective, Turner Prize-nominated The Otolith Group.
The show, titled “No Country” and opening on February 22, is a historic showing of art from that region in the museum. The Guggenheim will be acquiring the exhibited works together with other unexhibited pieces, though the Guggenheim declined to comment on the exact number of acquisitions.
“No Country” includes works across the range of painting, sculpture, photography, video, works on paper, and installation, many of which will be on view in the United States for the first time.
The show is curated by Singaporean curator June Yap, who tells ARTINFO that she wants to trace the relationships of exchange and influence between countries and get away from “any stereotypical representation of nationalities.” She adds: “As may be expected in any survey-ish exhibition, artworks are sometimes seen as a way to encounter nations, which they are not.”
As such, the show is not grouped by nationality, and instead seeks to complicate the notion of origins and borders. For example, in “Places Of Rebirth,” Chiang Mai, Thailand-born artist Rawanchaikul explores his Indian roots — his parents left Punjab during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition — in a vividly-coloured Bollywood poster. Another diasporic work is The Otolith Group’s “Communists Like Us,” a photo essay film featuring images from the family of one of the collective’s co-founders, Anjalika Sagar. The artist’s grandmother was an Indian diplomat who travelled to Mao’s China — her pictures of exchanges between Indian and Chinese politicians form the backdrop to an unfolding dialogue between two fictional characters.
Prior to her Guggenheim gig, Yap was an independent curator who has worked in institutions such as the Singapore Art Museum and the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore. She most recently curated a show by Singapore artist Ho Tzu Nyen in the Singapore Pavilion in the 2011 Venice Biennale; Nyen’s film, “The Cloud Of Knowing,” is also part of “No Country.”
Yap travelled for an intense period of three months to suss out artists in the region. Asked if she felt any pressure in her selection, given that the difficulties of representing such a culturally diverse geographical area, she says: “That’s the thing a lot of people ask. I don’t feel the pressure, personally. I have tried to look for a spread of countries and a cross-generation of artists. This project is not a comprehensive exhibition, and that’s the nature of exhibitions, really.”
“No Country” is expected to tour to venues in Hong Kong and Singapore after it closes in New York. The show is the first of three supported by the Guggenheim UBS Global Art Initiative, a program sponsored by banking and financial services group UBS to highlight regions that are under-represented in a Western-centric international art scene. The second and third parts of the project will focus on Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. UBS’ investment is estimated at $40 million, according to The New York Times.
“No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia” will run at the Guggenheim Museum from February 22 through May 22. For a full list of the participating artists, click here.