Asian art has taken the scene by storm. Popular names like Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, and Dia Azzawi crossed the geographical borders of the art world by giving Asian art a larger platform in Western culture in the past. Fast forward to today, who are the artists whose work we should look out for? Let’s take a closer look.
1. Marwan Rechmaoui
We’ve previously shared here how the city of Beirut continues to be a source of inspiration for many artists, especially because of its social climate. As a place of change and chaos, Beirut is an even more important topic for Lebanese artists to interpret. Case in point: Marwan Rechmaoui recently showed his sculptures that display social realist motifs about Beirut in Hamburg, Germany last fall. A New York Times’ profile about his pieces notes that a standout sculpture of his entitled “Veni, Vidi, Vici” was created due to the endangerment of historical site of Nahr el-Kalb’s.
With his minimalist approach, Rechmaoui’s sculptures might seem disconnected to Beirut’s colorful history. However, it’s important to understand that what makes his art special is that his sculptures tell stories about how social injustice is reflected in urban planning.
2. Siren Eun Young Jung
South Korea is country that holds its values and traditions very deeply to its heart. And Siren Eun Young Jung’s art projects take a deeper dive into this, as she explores the feminist and queer practices that are often forgotten. Her collection of six art projects that highlighted the hidden stories of “Yeoseong Gukgeuk” — a South Korean theater genre where all parts are played by women — earned the multimedia artist the Korea Artist Prize in 2018. “Yeoseong Gukgeuk” allowed women to challenge gender norms — Jung’s art finally gave it a voice. As the world continues to explore more about gender equality, roles, and norms, Jung’s future pieces are not to be missed.
3. Anne Samat
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With its elaborate design and striking colors, it’s hard to miss an assemblage sculpture that’s crafted by Anne Samat. The Malaysian artist is a trained weaver who’s making waves in the art world for her use of old-fashioned weaving styles from her country, and pairing it with contemporary techniques and materials. Samat grew up in the lively city of Kuala Lumpur, which Expat Bets’ guide to Malaysian cities points out isn’t just the heart of the country, but it’s also the center of the main activities in the country. Samat’s connection to the Malaysian city is evident in her works as she always adds a modern touch to her sculptures. For instance, instead of using traditional natural and ornate thread, she prefers incorporating synthetic fibers and rattan sticks in her work.
Her fusion of the old and new is surely a sight to behold. And unsurprisingly, she’s recently held her first exhibit in New York just last year.
4. Martha Atienza
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A Reuters’ report on climate change in the Philippines points out how those who live near the sea are some of the most vulnerable. This environmental issue hits home for the emerging Asian artist Martha Atienza. After noticing her hometown Bantayan Island’s coastline disappear, Atienza was inspired to create an exhibition where she planted mangrove baths and made video about the sad state of her region. This project led her to win the Baloise Prize at Art Basel in 2017. With our environment’s still worrying state, her artistry is more important than ever.
5. Salman Toor
Credit: salman.toor on Instagram
The Whitney Museum of American Art is one of New York City’s most illustrious museums. And Pakistani painter Salman Toor was set to show his paintings there with his first solo exhibition called “Them” last March. However, the pandemic had to put this on hold. Thankfully, his collection about the lives of queer South Asian men will finally be displayed in the contemporary space Luhring Augustine Gallery soon. Toor’s soft and poignant paintings tell the powerful yet secret struggle of identity that South Asian face today.