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Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Posts Tagged ‘Leeza Ahmady’

Excitement at Asian Contemporary Art Week despite recession – interview Leez Ahmady director ACAW

Posted by artradar on May 12, 2009


ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK NEW YORK 2009

Director Leeza Ahmady talks to Art Radar about some of the highlights of the Asian Contemporary Art Week in New York 2009 and tells us how excited she is that it has come together so well despite the recession.

This is the third part of a 3 part interview:

 

Back Seung Woo, Utopia #007, C print, 2008

Back Seung Woo, Utopia #007, C print, 2008

 

AR: Tell us a little about the specifics of the event.

LA: It is scheduled May 10 to May 18th for 8 days.

AR: Why did you choose 8 days in May? Any reasons?

LA: Usually we try to skip a year because we need that time to produce it but 2008 was such a big success in every way. We surpassed expectations. I was prepared to have about 30 institutions but we ended up with 47 and immediately after there was such a high and so many inquiries about whether we would do it again in 2009.

Because of the huge amount of work the team and participants had put into the event, we felt that we should continue the momentum even though the economic situation was just beginning to change. Some were beginning to be scared but everyone signed up. But since October things of course have changed dramatically and some venues did pull out.

But incredibly enough we have over 30 organisations  this year with many new and emerging participants. They are excited because of the history of the event and they want to be a part of it.

For example this year Tyler Rollins, which specialises in art from Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia is presenting an exhibition and Tyler is also organising a panel discussion to give some perspective on what is going on in Southeast Asia.

AR: Do you work with artists who are not represented by galleries?

LA: Yes we do. In 2006 we did a video programme in which 85 artists were nominated by experts from all around Asia and after a jury selection 30 were chosen and screened in different participating venues.

 In 2008 we created a programme called Artists in Conversation and artists went through the same process but this time they had the opportunity to pair up with a curator or critic. It was called ”up close and personal with the best of the best in Asian art”. That was our slogan.

This year we have a programme called Open Portfolios. About 20 artists or more are part of it, two are from Central Asia. Kyrgryz artists Muratbek Djumaliev and Gulnara Kasmalieva will have a screening and discussion of their video work at MOMA on May 18th.

We have an event in which Qiu Zhijie, one of China’s leading artists, talks with Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim Museum, at the China Institute May 12.

I am very excited about the Payal Choudhri event as she and her husband have one of the best modern art collections. They have agreed to hold a VIP event hosting one of our artists  Huma Bhabha from Pakistan in their home on May 12th.

We have all these exciting new venues and the question is how are they doing this? I am in disbelief about how this is coming together. I do end up talking a lot more about money than programming of course. Consortium members that participate and support the ACAW initiative include: Japan Society, China Institute, the Guggenheim Museum, Ethan Cohen Gallery, Bose Pacia, Art Projects International, and Sepia International. Other participants with wonderful programs this year are the Marlborough Gallery and MOMA. The Rubin Museum is hosting a special installation of art from Thailand.

AR: How are the events allocated over the days?

Usually the week is divided into locations. On Monday night we hold our signature event at the Asia Society. Melissa Chiu will be talking about the future of Asian art with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Documenta 13 Artistic Director.

Tuesday is dedicated to uptown galleries and museum, Wednesday midtown  and Thursday is Hot Chelsea Night… I sayhot because there are so many participants that day. Friday will be downtown and Tribeca and on Saturday and Sunday we go to different boroughs.

The idea is to create a circle of people who hop from one place to another. It is a powerful way to share audiences as normally venues are naturally very protective. In this way everyone’s programme is broadcast through the website and printed pamphlets and we ask everyone to promote this to their own audiences and it ends up being a wonderful way to connect.

AR: So what do you have to say to people in these gloomy economic times?

LA: Well I love what has been coming out of the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong….these incredible public programming events like the performance of Raqs Media Collective. It is so incredible. Instead of stopping and staying quiet at this time they are forging on. And that is a message I would love to get out. We can curl up and say times are so bad and what are we going to do and it is going to get worse. Many people are doing that and  it is one option and the other option is to do even better with what you have.

AR: Do you find that you can reach out in another way in a recession because art has so many facets? It is different things to different people. Therapy, entertainment, education, sensory stimulation, distraction, spirtual connection, activism…all of these things come to the fore when you take out the investment and speculation buzz.

LA: Absolutely Absolutely. I feel the recession is going to change things dramatically. I don’t think that the recession will be the worst thing that can happen. I think it will help us all reflect on our relationship with art and its practice, and that is a really good thing.

This is the third part of a 3 part interview:

  • Part 1: How art from half of Asia has been missed
  • Part 2: Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure
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    Posted in Interviews, Leeza Ahmady, Nonprofit | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure – interview Leeza Ahmady director ACAW

    Posted by artradar on May 12, 2009


    ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK NEW YORK 2009

    Asian Contemporary Art Week director Leeza Ahmady talks about the ‘ incredible’ initiatives in India and Hong Kong which are helping to build an Asian art infrastructure, Indian collector Anupam Poddar’s first time purchase of art from Afghanistan and where to see exciting art from Central Asia, the Middle East and Iran at New York’s Asian Contemporary Art Week May 2009.

    This is the second part of a 3 part interview

     

    Gulnara Muratabek

    Gulnara Muratbek

     

    AR: If visitors to Asian Contemporary Art Week 2009 in New York want to learn more about Central Asia at Asia Contemporary Art Week, what can they see and where they can go?

    LA: People can see some of the best artists from Central Asia and the Middle East at an exhibition titled: Tarjama/Translation I have co-curated with Iftikar Dadi and Reem Fada at Queen’s Museum produced by ArteEast. Many of them are internationally-renowned artists but for some reason they are not being exhibited in New York yet.

    Akram Zaatari and Lara Baladi from Lebanon, Esra Ersen from Turkey and Sharif Wakid from Palestine are represented and Almagul Menlibayevaof Kazakhstan who is getting a lot of attention here in New York and now has a gallery representing her. We have specially commissioned a video work by her entitled “Queens”. It is an extraordinary work. Almagul has juxtaposed her signature style-using performance as a base revolving around ritual and the fantastic to captivate the Central Asian diasporas like the Bukharan Jews, the Samarkand Uzbeks and the Afghans living in Queens, New York.

    Among the Iranian artists included in Tarjama/Translation, Farhad MoshiriI have heard is totally galvanising the art market which is very encouraging. Often these artists do well in the biennale or academic arenas but we do not see them in the market arena so there is a shift there as well.

    There is a whole lot of fascination going on with Iran this year I have to tell you. Thomas Erben, one of the best galleries in my opinion for working with cutting edge artists from Pakistan and India, has just come back from Iran. So in honour of ACAW, he will be curating an exhibition of artists living and making art in Iran and he has been going through all kinds of hoops to get the work to New York. The Chelsea Museum is also organizing a large exhibition in June showcasing Iranian artists from the 60’s up to the present.

    AR: What do you see in the future for Asian art? Will Asia continue to rely on Western art centres as a platform for international recognition or will it start to happen within Asia itself?

    LA: The Western world is way ahead, years if not centuries, in having the institutions which help with not just showcasing but also maintaining, archiving and saving works of contemporary art. We can’t really have a conversation which compares the two because of that disparity. What I can say is that changes will not just happen in the future …. they are already happening.

    Arts i  is the new 12,000 square foot art space of one of the largest investment companies in India. It is based in New Delhi and has launched the Religare Arts Initiative which acts as a corporate champion of art. Most galleries, auction houses and art funds operate art businesses but the Religare Arts Initiative tries to leverage business for art through a host of activities – exhibitions, residency programs, library, documentaries, art fund, seminars, documentation etc. The intention of the initiative is to have a 360 degree platform for art in India and really have it create change in society. It is not just a group of people but it wants to actually create an impact on society. I think that is incredibly novel.

    Often it is easy for us to say that there is not enough expertise and not enough critical dialogue but the fact is if you really want to look there are some incredible things happening. In India another example is Devi Art Foundation started by a mother and son team who turned their private collection into a public venue. They opened a huge space last summer and already have had two or three critically-acclaimed exhibitions.

    They are looking not only at promoting Indian art but also at what else is going on in the region. They reached out to me and we purchased two works by Afghan artists for their collection. This is very encouraging.

     To have come this far is wonderful. I want to acknowledge that there is a handful of us out there and it is changing. Another great example is Green Cardamom Gallery in London. They are contributing to the discourse by providing critical context through artist-generated collaborative exhibitions and writing projects.I cannot speak for China as I have never been there except for Hong Kong. But I have to say organisations like Asia Art Archive or your publication now, these are huge leaps forward in creating forums where critics can have space to say what they need to say.

    AR: Do you have anything to say about the market for Asian art?

    LA:  What has astonished a lot of people is that art from India and China has been successful because of locally-based collectors not just outside collectors. The whole market frenzy and speculation was accelerated by this local interest. In the long term this interest will continue to grow. What is happening in the Middle East is also incredible. For the first time in the last 2 years we are seeing auctions of contemporary art from the Middle East. Who would have thought it? And they did not do too badly at all.

    AR: Perhaps it speaks about the quality and freshness of the work coming out of the Middle East, what do you think?

    LA: That is true. It is fresh  because there is a cultural specifity which is very intriguing yet at the same time the art is universally relevant. For me when art tells me something specific but is still relevant whether or not I know where it is from or what it is about – if I can connect with it from that universal place – then it is good art. That is not to say that everything that is coming out of Asia is good of course! (Laughter) 

    This is the second part of a 3 part interview

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    How art from half of Asia has been missed – interview Leeza Ahmady ACAW director

    Posted by artradar on May 4, 2009


     ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK 2009

    Leeza Ahmady talks to Art Radar about her involvement in the Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW) in New York. She discusses her two missions: first to broaden the definition of Asian art – yes, she tells us, the Middle East is part of the Asian continent  – and second, to connect Asians with one another.

     

    This is the first part of a 3 part interview.

     

    AR: You have an interesting story tell us about how you got involved with the Asian Contemporary Art Week. What happened?

    LA: Some time ago I was studying arts and cultural management at Pratt Institute in New York and writing my thesis on Central Asia. One of my classes was about leadership and we were given the assignment to choose a leader in the arts field and have a daring interview with them.

    Well I really took that on. Who do I want to do this with, I asked myself. I remember choosing Vishakha Desai who is now the president of the Asia Society but at the time was the Museum Director.  I hounded her assistants and emailed them until I got an interview. And we had a wonderful very pleasant interview. I asked her standard questions about how she started and what she envisioned for her role. I asked her how much of that she had managed to accomplish and questioned her about her leadership style.  

    Then I took a deep breath and  I dared to ask the real question I wanted to ask. How did the Asia Society justify calling itself the Asia Society when half of the Asian continent is missing from its programming. She was amazing and answered me carefully and diplomatically.

    AR: It is a provocative question! What did she say?

    LA: Very matter-of-factly she explained to me that everyone has to narrow their mission and the Asia Society was supported by the Rockefellers in the early days and their original mission focused on East Asia. She explained that of course other regions are now being integrated.

    Then she looked at me and said 10 years ago when I came on the scene, there was no such thing as India particularly from a contemporary art perspective. Then it was only about antiquities so what I had to do was make it my mission to change that and I did that. She didn’t say it in so many words but I got this really wonderful answer which was if you want to make something happen don’t complain about it. You have to take it on and make it happen yourself.  It was as provocative as my question to her.

    AR: And then?

    LA: Well we kept in touch and I kept her up-to-date about my research in Central Asia. A few months later she wrote to me: “Leeza I have a wonderful project for you. Talk with Melissa Chiu and get involved in the Asian Contemporary Art Week” and that was 4 years ago – the end of 2004.

     

    Mohsen Ahmadvand, Wrestlers, 2008, mixed media, courtesy of artist, Thomas Erben and XVA galleries

    Mohsen Ahmadvand, Wrestlers, 2008, mixed media, courtesy of artist, Thomas Erben and XVA galleries

     

     

    AR: So can you tell us more about the ACAW? What is it?

    LA: The Asia Contemporary Art Week is an initiative started by a group of independent curators, museum directors, collectors and seminal people interested in creating awareness about Asian art primarily in New York, but also elsewhere. They formed a consortium, the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium, in 2001 to create public educational programs.

    Rather than doing things in isolation, they felt it would be more effective to join forces once a year or so and make this one big loud noise together. When I came in it was small and limited to galleries and museums already focused on Asian art. But I was interested in encouraging others to jump on the wagon. I wanted to motivate those who were thinking of showing a couple of Asian artists but who were, perhaps, a little reluctant because they did not have the backing or voice.

    AR: Vishakha Desai helped to raise the profile of India in the Asia Society. What has been your mission and your contribution to Asian Contemporary Art Week?

    LA: My contribution has been based on my strong desire to expand participation not just by the galleries and museums but also by the artists. 

    We now have featured artists from all over Asia, not only from the traditional participants of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We have gradually moved West and we now include more artists  from, amongst others, Vietnam Thailand Pakistan Indonesia Iran Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Now over the last 2 years I have been trying to really broaden the notion of what constitutes Asia by bringing in the Middle East. Lebanese, Turkish, Palestinian and Israeli artists have been represented in 2008 and 2009.

    AR: That sounds like an enormous undertaking. Asia is a huge continent.

    LA: My specialty is Central Asia so of course I have had to learn a lot.  If you want to be involved in something I believe that you really need to know the players and what is going on with everyone. And by being involved in Asia Contemporary Art Week I am lucky enough to be at the centre of a lot of networks.

    AR: What has been the response?

    LA: I have spent a lot of time figuring who would be interested in opening their doors  to help broaden frontiers. Fortunately people have been very open because of the success of artists in the international arena from Central Asia. And people are curious, they do want to know what else is out there.

    AR: How much do people know about the Asian continent in New York?

    LA: Well there is a lot of confusion. For example take the Middle East. Iran is somehow there and not there at the same time. Afghanistan? There is also a lot of confusion about where it is and whether it is in the Middle East, Central Asia or South Asia.

    AR: In the past you have talked passionately about opening up Asia to the Asians. We often hear people talk about connecting East and West but why do you feel there is a need for connection within Asia?

    LA: Well the fact that the Middle East is a vast territory within Asia surprises people. In the US, Asia represents China Korea and Japan and only very recently has it been expanded to include India and Pakistan.

    There is tremendous ignorance about Central Asia and when I tell someone from Korea or Japan that I too am from Asia, they look perplexed and ask well where are you from? When I say, “I am from Afghanistan” they look confused. Afghanistan shares a 76 kilometer border with China. To me it is simply incredible that in such an interconnected world, people on the same continent can still be so disconnected from eachother. There were years of Soviet rule which kept Central Asia out of reach but at the same time it is now 20 years since the Soviet rule ended.

    AR: Why do you feel promoting connections within Asia is so important?

    LA: I remember learning so much about all the countries around the world when I was at school in Kabul in Afghanistan. Why do I feel its important ? There is something wise about knowing yourself well. Asians share so may linguistic, spiritual and cultural ties which have broken down as a result of politics.

    Historically Iran and Afghanistan were regarded as part of Central Asia. This changed for Iran after the Shah was deposed in 1979. With the dissolution of Soviet rule, 5 states from the USSR became independent including Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. These 5 states are now more commonly referred to as Central Asia.

    Meanwhile Afghanistan was left hanging in limbo until the events of September 11 shot it directly back into the Middle East. Recently Afghanistan has been referred to as part of South Asia.

    AR: Why have these connections within Asia broken down?

    Economic and political policies create disconnections and I feel the best way to make things whole is through art. At least that is what artists do. They try to break things down and put them back together. The idea of deconstructing and constructing, I see art as something beyond aesthetics and intellectual mumbo jumbo. I see it as a  tool for people to become more aware, spiritual and connected to themselves and others.

    Leeza Ahmady was born in Afghanistan and lives in New York. Her specialist area is Central Asia.

    This is the first part of a 3 part interview:

    Related links: Asian Contemporary Art Week website

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    Posted in Events, Gallery shows, Middle Eastern, Museum shows, New York, Professionals, USA | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Rarely exhibited art and more firsts at Asian Contemporary Art Week New York 2009

    Posted by artradar on April 30, 2009


    ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK 2009

    For the first time since its inception in 2004 Cambodian and Tibetan artists will be on show in the 200 artist, 8 day event to be held in New York May 10-18th.  But this is not the only first for ACAW in 2009.

    The event which, according to Asia Society director Melissa Chiu, aims to present “the latest trends in Asian contemporary art” will also highlight the new vitality and increased international profile of artists from Central Asia and the Middle East.

    Coming up soon on Art Radar is an exclusive interview with ACAW director Afghanistan-born Leeza Ahmady and her ground-breaking initiatives to change the perception of Asian art. In the art world, Asia traditionally refers to East Asia but Ahmady speaks passionately with us about how she has made it her mission to overtun this narrow definition and why it is important.

     

    Qiu Zhijie, Failing City, installation 2009

    Qiu Zhijie, Failing City, installation 2009

     

    Also new at this year’s event is a platform called Open Portfolios, a series of 20 artist talks and performances, each of which will focus on one aspect of the artist’s work and allow visitors to get up close and personal with artists. Artists involved include Qiu Zhijie (China), Mitra Tabrizian (Iran), Zaher Shah (Pakistan) and Zarina Hashim (India)  at the Museum of Modern Art the husband and wife team Muratbek Djumaliev and Gulnara Kasmalieva from Kyrgyzstan. Seven selected artists will discuss their work in exclusive interviews available on www.acaw.net

    In an astounding display of commitment to public education despite the weak economic climate, the ACAW team and the 35 participating venues will together present over 60 events, most of which are free to the public. In fact this year’s event has a record number of artists on show and includes many countries whose artists rarely exhibit work in the United States.

    Countries represented include: Afghanistan, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

    For a full program visit the  Asian Contemporary Art Week site.

    Related posts:

    Interview with Leeza Ahmady, director ACAW 2009

  • Part 1: How art from half of Asia has been missed
  • Part 2: Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure
  • Part 3: Excitement at Asian Contemporary Art Week despite recession
  •  

  • 5 eighties born Cambodian artists in historic survey show Forever Until Now Mar 2009
  • Tibetan art moves away from its religious origins Sep 2008
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    Posted in Cambodian, Central Asian, Chinese, Gallery shows, Iranian, Kyrgyz, Middle Eastern, Museum shows, New York, Nonprofit | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Contemporary Asian art research grant 2009 – call for applications by Asia Art Archive

    Posted by artradar on March 10, 2009


    ASIAN ART RESEARCH GRANT

    The first of its kind in the field, AAA Research Grant was created by Asia Art Archive with the generous support of Martell in 2005.

    It was established to encourage understanding of the exciting developments taking place, provide much-needed resources to individuals wishing to carry out focused research projects in Asia, and to endow future generations with material on artists working today.

    The grant is thematic in approach and requires the collection of rare documents, original materials and first-hand information on contemporary Asian art.

    The US$10,000 grant is offered every two years.

    Deadline for proposals 30 June 2009.

    The interest in contemporary Asian art over the past decade has surged with an increasing number of Asian artists taking part in major international exhibitions, a growing art market and a mushrooming of art events and spaces in the region. Despite these developments, there has been a lack of research and in-depth writing, which is very important for the long-term understanding and healthy growth of contemporary art in the region.

    Previous grantees are

    1. Leeza Ahmady, Unveiling Contemporary Art in Central Asia Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and
    Tajikistan

    Afghanistan born and New York based curator Leeza Ahmady is currently director of Asian Contemporary Art Week New York. Click on the link above to see the results of the research online.

    Leeza Ahmady organised an exhibition and symposium entitled “The Taste of Others: Contemporary Art in
    Central Asia” in New York in March 2005, with the aim of closing the gap that exists between the international
    and Central Asian art communities. With the support of the Research Grant, Ahmady traveled to Central Asia
    in August and September 2005 to further conduct interviews with artists and curators, and collect up-to-date
    materials of the developing art scene.

    2. Richard Streitmatter-Tran, Mediating the Mekong 

    Vietnamese artist and curator Richard Streitmatter-Tran has exhibited at Venice, Singapore, Gwangju and Hong Kong Biennales. He will be assisting the Queensland Art Gallery as a co-curator for the upcoming Asia Pacific Triennale in 2009 for a Mekong focused platform.
    Richard Streitmatter-Tran’s research looked at the Mekong region, where he examined the importance of the media in effecting work produced in the region. Over the life of the project, Streitmatter-Tran travelled to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. He proceeded by making a general assessment of the media infrastructure for each country and then seeking out artists that were either using, commenting or resisting media in the production of their work. Videos, images and documents were collected in the course of his research.

    More information available on Asia Art Archive website.

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    Posted in Central Asian, Research, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »