PRINT December 2018

Pauline J. Yao

Pacita Abad, Through the Looking Glass, 1996, oil, acrylic, sequins, and plastic buttons on stitched and padded canvas, 17' 4 1⁄8“ × 4' 11”.

1 PACITA ABAD (MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART AND DESIGN, MANILA; CURATED BY JOSELINA CRUZ AND PIO ABAD) Bursting with color and texture, Abad’s unique trapunto paintings—hand-stitched quilts painted with acrylics and oils and adorned with buttons and ribbons—are in a category all their own. The same can be said for Abad herself, a Filipina artist whose extended stays in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Thailand, and the United States during the 1970s and ’80s yielded a diverse and ever-evolving practice. Twenty-four of these intuitively composed and precisely crafted objects hung from MCAD’s ceiling in a breathtaking installation that cleverly played to the works’ strengths.

2 OPENING OF TAI KWUN AND TAI KWUN CONTEMPORARY (HONG KONG) The eight-year process to convert sixteen historic buildings—which formerly housed the Central Police Station and Victoria Prison—into an extensive center for heritage and contemporary art is among the largest restoration efforts Hong Kong has ever seen. Financial pressure is unavoidable for a project this vast (nearly eight and a half square miles) and with this hefty a price tag (approximately $485 million) that occupies prime real estate in the heart of Hong Kong island’s bustling business-and-commerce district. Thankfully, sandwiched within the compound’s ample offerings for food and retail sits a crown jewel: one of the city’s largest spaces built specifically for contemporary art, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

3 ABOLISHING TERM LIMITS FOR XI JINPING’S PRESIDENCY Of the many brazen moves made by the Chinese leadership over the past year—from rolling back family- planning mandates to allegedly disappearing a celebrity actress and the president of Interpol—the most alarming took place on March 11, when the National People’s Congress, China’s Communist Party–controlled legislature, voted almost unanimously (2,958 to two) to abolish presidential term limits, opening the way for Xi Jinping’s indefinite rule. One wonders what fortune awaits the two dissenting voices.

Cao Yu, Fountain, 2015, HD video, color, silent, 11 minutes.

4 CAO YU (URS MEILE, BEIJING) Cao’s breakout video Fountain, 2015, features the artist squirting her breast milk into the air in a manner that recalls Bruce Nauman’s iconic self-portrait. (It was nearly pulled from her 2015 graduation exhibition at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Art.) As if that weren’t enough, visitors to her first solo gallery presentation were confronted by a Vaseline-covered door handle and a sculpture consisting of a slab of raw meat pinched between two pieces of marble. Always cognizant that she cannot escape the label of “female artist,” let alone that of “Chinese female artist,” Cao takes a trenchant, exacting look at identity and history; her work reflects a sophistication beyond her years.

Ruben Östlund, The Square, 2017, 2K video, color, sound, 150 minutes. Center: Oleg (Terry Notary).

5 DINNER SCENE IN RUBEN ÖSTLUND’S THE SQUARE (2017) If Östlund’s satirical drama is remembered for one thing, it should be the dinner scene—a gripping, eight-minute sequence that begins as amusing entertainment and spirals into a brutal altercation. The film’s swipes at Minimalist and Conceptual art, overzealous PR executives, smug artists, and self-important white male curators are predictable, but this episode, with Terry Notary’s star turn as a scowling and swaggering ape, cuts to the core of human/animal behavior and the pitfalls of art-world complacency.

Patty Chang, Invocation for a Wandering Lake, Part I (Whale), 2015, HD video, color, sound, 12 minutes 49 seconds. Installation view, Queens Museum, New York, 2017. Photo: Hai Zhang.

6 PATTY CHANG (QUEENS MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY HITOMI IWASAKI) How to depict the shifting movements of a geographic body? Chang’s solo museum presentation in New York did not so much answer this question as provide points of departure: Her work wove together the images and stories of a dead whale in Newfoundland, a water-diversion project involving the Yangtze River, a bowl of pumped breast milk in an Uzbekistan diner, and Lop Nor, a lake in southeastern Xinjiang. A layered, diaristic narrative vaguely connects the dots, examining the flow of life in the natural landscape and exploring the limits of artistic representation.

Exhibition leaflet for “Inga Svala Thórsdóttir and Wu Shanzhuan: Quote! Quote! Quote!,” 2018, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong.

7 INGA SVALA THÓRSDÓTTIR and WU SHANZHUAN (HANART TZ GALLERY, HONG KONG) Inga Svala Thórsdóttir and Wu Shanzhuan had separate art careers before meeting in Iceland in 1990 and becoming formidable collaborators. This chockablock exhibition, which featured close to three hundred works dating from 1986 to the present, afforded viewers a rare chance to digest their solo conceptual output as well as the work they made together. The signs, symbols, and forms that govern their practice—and that act as their foundational principles for explaining meaning within the world—marry the droll and the philosophical.

Museum MACAN, 2018, Jakarta, Indonesia.

8 JAKARTA BIENNALE AND THE OPENING OF MUSEUM MACAN (JAKARTA, INDONESIA) Last year’s Jakarta Biennale did an excellent job of bringing together new art by contemporary talents—Arin Rungjang, Robert Zhao Renhui, Kiri Dalena, and Luc Tuymans among them—with minisurveys or restagings of historical works by seminal Indonesian figures such as Siti Adiyati, Semsar Siahaan, Hendrawan Riyanto, and Dolorosa Sinaga. While the Biennale finally afforded visitors a chance to see the breadth and depth of contemporary Indonesian art, the long-awaited opening of the privately funded but public-facing Museum MACAN went one step further, positioning those achievements in dialogue with global art history.

View of “Judy Freya Sibayan: Moving House,” 2018, Calle Wright, Manila. Photo: Geric Cruz.

9 JUDY FREYA SIBAYAN (CALLE WRIGHT, MANILA) The archival impulse was on full display in Sibayan’s semi-performative, site-specific “autobiographical installation,” in which she sifted through boxes from her home containing decades of critical art. The fact that the veteran Conceptual artist has never had a studio—her work circulated via exhibitions and exhibition making or was enshrined in performances, as she used her body to critique the institutions of art—transformed this innocent act of moving house into an enthralling and edifying “retrospective.”

10 “TOWARD A CONCRETE UTOPIA: ARCHITECTURE IN YUGOSLAVIA, 1948–1980” (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY MARTINO STIERLI AND VLADIMIR KULIĆ WITH ANNA KATS) It was hard not to be seduced by the surfeit of raw concrete and the hulking yet pleasing geometries of Yugoslavia’s modernist architectural treasures. What struck me most about this long-overdue examination was that, despite economic limitations and the dominance of Communist Bloc aesthetics, extraordinary creativity and diversity persisted—attributes that feel in conspicuously short supply even within today’s increasingly privatized milieu.

Pauline J. Yao is Lead Curator, Visual Art, at M+, the new museum for 20th- and 21st-century visual culture being built in Hong Kong. She recently cocurated “In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections” at the M+ Pavilion.