Monday, March 21, 2011

In New York, Two Showcases of Asian Art

Makoto Aida's "Harakiri School Girls, 2002" is part of "BYE BYE KITTY!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art." Photo courtesy of Mizuma Art Gallery Watai Collection.

ASIA has been even more in the forefront of the public conversation since the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and continuing nuclear radiation fallout.

The conversation reaches near fever pitch on an upbeat note as New York hosts two important Asian-themed art bazaars. Both have added "Help Japan" components.

The rechristened Asia Week New York continues through Saturday (26 March), while Asian Contemporary Art Week commences at 7 tonight at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) with the film series, “Modern Mondays: An Evening with Mariam Ghani.”

MG, an American of Afghani and Lebanese descent, uses video, installation, photography and other disciplines to explore notions such as identity, dislocation and interpretation of cultural moments across borders and generations. After a talk some of her work will be screened.

Gold and and ruby nandi (bull), South Deccan, 17th century or earlier from "Exhibition of Jewels from Mughal India and South East Asia." Photo courtesy of Sue Ollemans Oriental Art.

The two overlapping art “weeks” compare and contrast nicely. ACAW is more of a presentation by the city’s leading museums and galleries of the broad spectrum of work by an even broader demographic of Asian artists on the continent and abroad. It meets its mandate through performances, lectures, exhibitions and receptions.

AWNY née Asia Week too, hosts its share of the above events. In addition to contemporary art though, it showcases classic and ancient art from mainly China, India&Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea. It is also more overtly commercial, bringing together museums, galleries, dealers, specialists, Asian cultural institutions, as well as auction houses. All have a commercial mandate.

The biggest event of AWNY is tonight’s (6 p.m.) “Gala Benefit and Dinner Dance” at the Asia Society. It is billed as an elegant evening of “art, fashion, cuisine, music and design from across Asia in one festive setting.” Honorary chairs Renée Fleming and Naeem Khan will welcome well-toned guests with a Silk Road-themed cocktail party, followed by a dinner prepared by the formidable Hemant Mathur. Also on the menu is a live auction.

"Pink Lotus on Pink Background, 2010" from “Contemporary Chinese Ink Paintings, Featuring Lotus Paintings by Shi Ze. Photo courtesy of M. Sutherland Fine Arts, Ltd.

The Asia Society is also the venue Wednesday for what ACAW calls a signature event. Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian,who now lives in her native Iran after 10 years at New York, discusses her life and art work. A reception follows.

During AWNY there are a number of auctions through Friday Fine Japanese art will be on the block tomorrow at Bonhams. Meanwhile, at Sotheby’s is a morning preview, “Informing the Eye of the Collector Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from J.T. Tai & Co.” The preview is followed by an afternoon auction.

At Sotheby’s on Tuesday evening as part of ACAW is a talk, book launch and reception. Rashid Rana and KHOJ director Pooja Sood provide insights about the state of the contemporary art space in South Asia. The event also marks the debut of “The KHOJ Book,” which explores contemporary art practice in India.

The individual interested in Asian art, but mainly in the form of exhibits will not feel neglected. Naturally, works of ceramics figure prominently in Asian Art, and AWNY has much to offer. Worthy of a visit is the non-traditional “Birds of Dawn: Pioneers of Japan’s Sodeisha Ceramic Movement.” The pioneers of the title are Suzuki Osamu, Yagi Kazuo and Yamada Hikaru. “Birds of Dawn” is on view at Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd. through 29 April.

Suzuki Osamu's "Umagata; Horse Form, 1982" is among the objects in "Birds of Dawn." Photo by Richard Goodbody courtesy of Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd.

ACAW participant Chambers Fine Art hosts an opening reception Thursday for “Layers: Recent Works by Xiaoze Xie.” XX uses paintings and an installation featuring Chinese books and newspapers to comment on the “historical dimension” of recorded events in that country.

The notion of comparison is explored in “Micro-cosm.” The first show from Gallery Korea’s “Call For Artists 2011” campaign showcases the work of emerging artists, Yun-woo Choi and Ankabuta. While they purportedly have similar aspirations and philosophies, they use vastly different means to express them. It opens on 29 March.

At M. Sutherland Fine Arts, Ltd. through AWNY (26 March) is “Contemporary Chinese Ink Paintings, Featuring Lotus Paintings by Shi Ze. Visitors may wish to inquire about SZ’s talk on Sunday during which she spoke about how Buddhism influences her work.

Themes of memory, exile and cultural dislocation inform the work of the multimedia group exhibition, “Erasing Borders: Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora.” Organized by the Indo-American Arts Council for ACAW, the eighth annual group exhibition opens Sunday at Queens Museum of Art.

Uupekha Jain as Kali in Srinivas Krishna’s installation, "When The Gods Came Down To Earth." It is part of "Erasing Borders: Contemporary Indian Art of the Diaspora." Photo courtesy of Srinivas Krishna & Divani Films Inc.

The group exhibit, BYE BYE KITTY!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art, purports to go “far beyond stereotypes” to arrive at works that rely on traditional styles to comment on today and tomorrow. It is among the major events during ACAW and opens at the Japan Society on 29 March.

There seems to be a spirit of cooperation between the 15-year-old AWNY and 9-year-old ACAW for good reason. Both have some of the same boosters/supporters, particularly Japan Society, the Guggenheim Museum and Asia Society. The latter played a major role in creating ACAW. For its first three days ACAW, which has no qualms about switching the month it starts in any given year, only has one event a day. Multiple events are on the program by Thursday when AWNY is on the final stretch with three days left and most of the larger events out of the way.

Of course, from a practical point of view as little conflict as possible makes sense: why divide and oversaturate the audience/market unnecessarily?

Visit to learn more about Asia Week New York and to learn more about Asian Contemporary Art Week.

Artexpo New York Rolls Out 2011 Chapter
A World Without Him" is one of thousands of works to be presented at Artexpo New York. Painting by Ronex Ahimbisibwe

THE longer one views “A World Without Him,” the more abstract many of its elements become.

It is at once a scene of outdoors and indoors. One glance and the dog at the bottom right is sitting on a white towel inside a basket. Look again and the dog is an image on a coffeetable or sidetable.

One element that remains unchanged, though, is the enigmatic woman at its center. She has something draped over her head. She is simply, chicly dressed in a sleeveless shift. The woman is reclining. Her legs are crossed. It is not clear whether she is melancholy, contemplative or simply weary. Her downcast countenance commands the attention.

Ronex Ahimbisibwe’s “A World Without Him” is one of thousands of works by both established and emerging artists from around the world to be displayed during the 32 annual Artexpo New York 2011 from 25-27 March (Friday-Sunday).

“A World Without Him,” a 24″ x 35″ mixed media painting (it is also available as a giclee print in 18″ x 26″/ 20″ x 28″), is one of several paintings by the Ugandan, the theme of which is the empowerment of women in African society. How fitting during International Women’s Month.

Artexpo New York is a perennial hot ticket for the art set for several reasons. Obviously, its stature as the world’s largest fine arts trade show is a draw. It also hopes to do something other than sell, sell, sell. To that end, on the agenda are art education classes, which brings up another point. Artxpo New York wants to attract marquee names. One is Jane Seymour, who not only acts but paints and designs jewelry.

Jane Seymour (center red outfit) and New York City youth at last year's Free Arts Saturday.Photo from Artexpo New York.

On Saturday (26 March) – Free Arts Satruday – JS returns to ArtExpo New York to help NYC kids paint an Andy Warhol-inspired mural. Panel discussions and performance art are also events on the three-day calendar. Conveniently all of this activity unfolds in one location: New York City’s Pier 94.

Further, Artexpo New York attracts an international audience of dealers, collectors and buyers in search of something simply exquisite, investment worthy and/or the next big thing.

To learn more about Artexpo New York 2011 visit; to see more works from Ronex Ahimbisibwe visit Wet Stone Fine Art:

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