The use of art for social activism isn't new and we're sure you've seen your fair share. Yes, Keith Haring's whimsical hieroglyphics is one. The prominent American artist is certainly known for embedding political messages such as The Cold War, HIV/AIDS, and LGBTQ rights into pop-art. Including Haring, most identifiable socio-political artworks hail from the west. But how about Asia? With this in mind, National Gallery Singapore has recently gathered significant representations from the East for an exhibition that questions societal conventions.
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Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s – 1990s runs from 14 June 2019 to 15 September 2019. It spotlights artistic responses to major global events such as the Cold War, and explores how artists challenged political, social, and artistic conventions. Julie Lluch. Thinking Nude. 1988. Terracotta and mirror. Collection of National Gallery Singapore. #NationalGallerySingapore #ArtOfChange #MuseumSG #VisitSingapore #DiscoverSG #ArtSG
Jointly co-organised with Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea (MMCA) and the Japan Foundation Asia Center, this exhibition features about 142 artworks with social and/or political contexts. The artists behind these provocative works illustrate the region's most turbulent periods post-war through a transnational artistic lens, with a focus on radical qualities of experimental practices.
Between the 1960s and 1990s, Asia saw the re-evaluation of politics, society, economics and culture. Thus, this explorative journey of deep introspection reflects upon the role that art continues to play while serving as an expressive tool that brings important social issues to the fore in those three decades.
This massive presentation—that took four years to curate—certainly requires some navigational guidance. National Gallery Singapore disregarded the expected chronological arrangement and structured the exhibition into three sections: Questioning Structures, Artists and the City, and New Solidarities. Therefore, visitors can explore, in no particular order, the various themes and still grasp the transnational connections within Asia.
Old is gold, or is it? Traditional norms of art creation can hinder progress and evolution. Focusing on both the dominant structures of power in society and artistic structures, these artworks challenge aesthetic conventions and social structures. Highlights include Lee Ufan's 'Relatum', Lee Kang-S's 'Disappearance—Bar in the Gallery', and Dede Eri Supria's 'Labyrinth'.
Artists and the City
A focus on communities in society. In this section, artists present their view on social issues in their motherland. Capitalism, modernisation, urbanisation, and the influx of consumerism are examined through mixed media. Look out for Huang Yong Ping's breathtaking 'Reptiles', Lin Yilin's riveting 'Safely Maneuvering Across Lin He Road', and local artist Tang Da Wu's provocative 'They Poach the Rhino, Chop Off His Horn and Make This Drink'.
Resistance challenges political oppression, social injustice and patriarchal ideologies. So by forming an alliance and collaboration, participatory models of art can express the citizens' solidarity. F.X. Harsono's 'What Would You Do If These Crackers Were Real Pistols?' specifically invites the audience to pen their responses to the art's title in the artwork's accompanying notebook. Notably, the artist created this work in 1977 as a political statement against Indonesia’s then-President Suharto’s authoritarian New Order regime.
Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s happens from now till Sep 15 at National Gallery Singapore’s Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery. Entry fee applies.
*Note: National Gallery Singapore is offering free admission to all exhibitions from now until 12 August, and 50% off tickets from 13 August to the end of August.