Among the icons of Malaysian modernity appropriated by Liew were the Kuala Lumpur Tower and the famed Petronas Twin Towers—the latter notable for being the world’s tallest skyscrapers at the time of completion in 1999.But Liew’s artwork was not necessarily an unequivocal celebration or veneration of Malaysian progress, since its garish vision of the newly urbanised Asia might also be read as a parody of all things shiny and novel: indeed, at the end of the red carpet, visitors were met with a monstrous if alluring idol of modernity at this symbolic altar of progress.Liew Kung Yu, , artist Phuan Thai Meng offered another vision of Malaysian urbanisation, but one which is decidedly bleak and seemingly less ambivalent about the effect of economic ‘progress’ in Malaysia.
Among the icons of Malaysian modernity appropriated by Liew were the Kuala Lumpur Tower and the famed Petronas Twin Towers—the latter notable for being the world’s tallest skyscrapers at the time of completion in 1999.
Liew Kung Yu, exhibition; installation with red carpet, trophies, photo booth; collage.
© Liew Kung Yu; image courtesy of the artist Liew’s contributions to the exhibition reflected Malaysia’s newly prosperous economic status in the mid-1990s as one of the rising ‘Asian tiger’ economies—a position that was famously argued by then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as resulting from unique ‘Asian values’.
Indeed, the changing circumstances of Asia and its art, as the authors in this volume have suggested, also bear relevance for the world, necessarily showing Asia as enmeshed in, even increasingly at the centre of or directing, global currents and transnational networks.
Politics, the economy, and environmental issues, for instance, may relate directly to local Asian concerns, but also have consequences for the world and international engagements with Asia.
Similarly, as Asian art has taken hold in Asia, it has also captured international attention and affects currents of international art.
In this sense, as essays by Marsha Meskimmon, Francis Maravillas and Jacqueline Lo highlight, Asian art exemplifies the conditions of ‘contemporary art’ practice in that it simultaneously speaks to both local and global concerns, is capable of communicating and connecting with audiences near and far across borders of all kinds, and is distinctive in its emergence from or influence by particular Asian cultural contexts of production with concurrent relevance and relation to the world.3 These antinomies lie at the heart of the developing field of art historical enquiry surrounding ‘contemporary art’ practice.
In the following, I reflect on new currents of contemporary Asian art and exhibition in the twenty-first century, highlighting the concerns of a new generation of Asian artists, new issues expressed via art, and new modes of art practice and exhibition with regards to Asia.
In so doing, I draw from the various themes and arguments explored throughout the essays in this book as a means of reflecting on Asian art’s histories, presents and futures.
Indeed, alongside Asia’s renewed influence in matters of global economics and politics, it has likewise been impossible to ignore Asia’s revived cultural influence in the world.
This includes the explosion of contemporary art from Asia—the now ubiquitous and striking array of avant-garde, experimental or transforming art practices, which communicate not only the vitality of contemporary Asian art practice, but also reflect the rapidly changing social circumstances of Asia.