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Symposium: “Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Arts of Asia”


November 9, 2017, 3-5pm. Art Building room 101.

Venue info on the event page.


"Brahmacharis" (1937), oil on canvas, by Amrita Sher-Gil

“Brahmacharis” (1937), oil on canvas, by Amrita Sher-Gil

"Fortress Temple" (2013), porcelain, by Bui Cong Khanh

“Fortress Temple” (2013), porcelain, by Bui Cong Khanh

About the Talk

Modern and contemporary artists in Asia have had to cope with many challenges, from the influx of Western artistic priorities often intent on redefining or even erasing local artistic traditions, to the wholesale destruction of national infrastructure through unstable political systems and devastating wars. That artists have successfully risen to these challenges, as well as the resilience of local artistic systems and values, is eminently manifest in the vibrant contemporary arts of Asia today.

This symposium will explore the inspirational potential of traditional materials, methods, and styles of art making among modern and contemporary artists of India, China, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. It will feature illustrated presentations by three eminent scholars of modern and contemporary Asian art, followed by a moderated discussion, all focusing on the various ways regional “traditions” of art and culture function as inspiration, catalyst, or foil, some times honoring them, other times contrasting and even undermining them, often with humorous or ironic intent.

Speakers & Presentation Titles

headshot of Joan Kee

Joan Kee, “Tradition as ‘Contemporaneity’s Raw Materials’: Korea, China, and the Philippines”
Kee is an art historian specializing in art and law, with special research focus on modern and contemporary East and Southeast Asian art. She teaches at the University of Michigan, where she is Associate Professor in the History of Art. She is author of Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (2013), curated the exhibition From All Sides: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (2014), and serves as contributing editor to Artforum.

headshot of Sonal Khullar

Sonal Khullar, “The Pearl Divers and Shipwrecks of Marine Drive: History, Tradition, and Modernism in India.” Khullar is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Washington. Her research focus is on Indian art of the eighteenth century to the present, with additional teaching and research interests in transnational histories of art, feminist theory, and postcolonial studies. Publications include the award-winning Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990 (2015).

Headshot of Iola Lenzi

Iola Lenzi, ““Not Nostalgia: How Tradition is Critically Co-opted in Thai and Vietnamese Contemporary Art” Lenzi is a Singapore-based curator, lecturer, and critic specializing in contemporary arts of Southeast Asia. She has curated exhibitions in in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok, serves as lecturer for the Asian Art Histories MA program at Lasalle College, Singapore, and as regional correspondent for Asian Art, London. She is author of Museums of Southeast Asia
(2005).