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Fri Feb 22, 2013, 09:34 PM


Acquired Tastes of Asian Art: ‘No Country,’ New Asian Art at the Guggenheim

The painting “What Do We Want” by Truong Tan, an artist in Vietnam, refers to his experiences as an openly gay man in a homophobic society.

The New York Times
February 21, 2013

Recently, and resoundingly, America’s big museums have shifted their collecting habits. Not only are they buying new art like mad, but a lot of that art also comes from outside the Western Hemisphere, particularly from Asia. The Guggenheim Museum, now embarked on a single-mindedly non-Western shopping spree, leads the pack.

After a decade or two of trying to colonize the planet with Guggenheim franchises the museum is now taking the easier route of bringing the world to New York through an acquisitions campaign supported by the Swiss bank UBS. Over the next five years, under the auspices of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, the museum will focus on buying art in three roughly defined geographic areas: South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Purchases will be scouted out by curators hired on two-year residencies and the results put on view in three exhibitions, the first of which, “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia,” is up and running. Organized by June Yap, an independent curator from Singapore, with help from Helen Hsu and Alexandra Munroe of the Guggenheim, it’s a smallish show of 22 artists and collectives, but it takes in an immense stretch of turf — the Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The title, adapted from a Yeats poem, is meant to warn us off seeing the art as either narrowly representative of various nations or as expressing the spirit of some exotic, never-never land Asia. Yet many of the strongest pieces speak quite specifically about the cultures from which they come, as, of course, does most “Western” art, even if we’re too close to it to see its determining contexts.

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/22/arts/design/no-country-new-asian-art-at-the-guggenheim.html

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