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Unit outline_

ARHT6937: Collecting and Exhibiting Asian Art

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit investigates the rising interest in Asian art by galleries, museums, bi/triennials and their audiences; it explores the politics and issues related to the circulation, exhibition and collection of modern and contemporary Asian art both inside and outside of Asia. Students will achieve a unique insight into institutional settings and curatorial practice in relation to Asian art both internationally and regionally. Critical attention is given to the global interaction between “Asia” and the West, with the aim to ultimately broaden the experience of students who are interested in curating aspects of pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Asian art.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Art History
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Yvonne Low,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Exhibition Analysis Exercise
25% Week 06
Due date: 31 Mar 2023 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Presentation Seminar Presentation
Presentation on selected topic.
25% Week 08
Due date: 19 Apr 2023 at 23:59
Equivalent to 2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Final research paper
Research paper
50% Week 13
Due date: 28 May 2023 at 23:59
2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Assessment summary

SEMINAR PRESENTATION (25%): 2000 words equivalent 

For this assignment, students working in pairs must choose one of the presentation topics listed on the presentation schedule. The presentation should be based closely on the prescribed reading for the chosen topic; the duration of the presentation is between 10-15 minutes. In preparing for it, students should read the discussion questions carefully and refer closely to the assigned reading(s). 


The paper presentation should consist of a clear objective in which the student clearly states his/her position. It should comprise of a reflection of key issues raised and centred around either a key exhibition and/or collection. Please note that the presentation should be accompanied by images. All presentation materials – notes and slides have to be submitted on Canvas (Dropbox) by EOD. Details and requirements will be given in the first seminar. 


EXHIBITION ANALYSIS EXERCISE (25%): 1500 words equivalent

This assignment is designed for students to develop skills on crafting a case-study analysing and critiquing an exhibition on Asian Art (across any time period). It will give students the opportunity to hone their analytical skills and develop their critical thinking skills on a set topic whilst applying their knowledge gained throughout the course. 


Students may select any one Asian-centric exhibition that was viewed either in person or online and to write a brief, illustrated critique of its (1) curatorial design, and (2) selection of objects when answering the question: Whilst exhibitions have the power to intervene and destabilise canonical histories, so too can it reinforce and perpetuate fixed ideas and parochial values. How have contemporary exhibitions shaped the narratives of Asian Art history and construct ideas of ‘Asian-ness’?


The student will be provided with a recommended reading in which critical perspectives are offered for the student to consider in response to the question. The Exhibition analysis exercise is due during the mid-semester break. More information will be provided on Canvas.


FINAL RESEARCH PAPER (50%): 2500 words

The Final Essay is designed for students to develop extensive research skills and experience in writing critically and theoretically informed art historical discourses on Asian art and its exhibitions. It will give students the opportunity to hone their analytical skills and develop their ability to examine the socio-cultural and political issues that centred the collection and exhibition of Asian Art in a range of curatorial contexts. Please note that essay questions will be released after the mid-semester break. 


A good research essay of this length should contain a bibliography of at least 10-15 references made up of books and journal articles. All research essays must have an argument. Please note that your essay topic cannot be the same as your seminar discussion topic. You will have the opportunity to consult with your lecturer immediately after the session break (by appointment).


The Final Essay of 2500 words will account for 50% of your final mark. Please ensure that you include the word count at the end of the essay. You can be over or under the word count by 10% but no more than that. Please ensure that you adhere to the style guide when incorporating references in your essay. Further details will be provided on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 From Expositions to Biennales: A century of showing Asian Art; Lecture and Discussion Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 02 Becoming Professional: The Institutions of the Modern Art World and its Histories Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 03 Crossing the State and its Institutions: Artists, Manifestoes, and the Obscene Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 04 New Patrons of Modern and Contemporary Asian art: Curators, Museums and the State Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 05 Women re-modelling contemporary art worlds: Exhibitions and Projects; Lecture and Presentation/Discussion Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 06 Re-imagining Asia: Guggenheim and Japan’s Gutai; Lecture and Presentation/Discussion Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 07 [Site Visit] University Museums: Collecting and Curating Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 08 Presentation Week Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 09 [Workshop] The Digital turn: Innovations in Art Curating and Art History Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Week 10 Cultural politics and Asian artists in Australian Exhibitions Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 11 Private and Public Collections: Framing ‘China’ and ‘Chineseness'; Lecture and Presentation/Discussion Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 12 Exhibiting Contemporary Asian Art regionally and internationally: Biennales and Triennials Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 13 A Coda: Global Art, Local Histories? Seminar (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Week 1: 22 February 2023

An Introduction

From Expositions to Biennales: A century of showing Asian Art

Welcome to Exhibiting and Collecting Asian Art. For this inaugural seminar, we will explore briefly the historical developments in the exhibition of Asian Art in the international arena, beginning with World Exhibitions. We will identify the contexts in which the display, collection and viewing of Asian art were made where we will also explore the issues and politics that centre around this cultural phenomenon. We will also examine the significance of Asian participation in the contemporary art world, tracing the rise of Asia’s involvement in the Biennale.

Prescribed Reading:

. Tan, Chang, “Telling global stories, one at a time: the politics and poetics of exhibiting Asian art”, World Art, vol. 5, no. 2 (2015): 307–330.

. McCormick, Seth, “Exhibition as Proposition: Responding critically to the third mind [with Response]”, Art Journal, vol. 68, no. 3, (2009): 30-51.

Additional Readings:

. Green, Charles and Gardner, Anthony. “Biennials of the South on the Edges of the Global,” Third Text 27, no. 4 (2013): 442-455.

. Clark, John. “Asian artists as long-distance cultural specialists in the formation of modernities” in Asia through Art and Anthropology: Cultural Translation across Borders, Fuyubi Nakamura, Morgan Perkins and Olivier Krischer, eds. (London: Bloomsbury, 2003) 19-32.

. Viau-Courville, Mathieu. “Museums without (Scholar-)Curators: Exhibition-making in times of managerial curatorship”, Museum International, vol. 68, no. 3/4 (2016): 11-32.

. Poshyananda, Apinan, et. al. Contemporary art in Asia: traditions, tensions (New York : Asia Society Galleries, 1996).

Week 2: 1 March 2023
Becoming Professional: The Institutions of the Modern Art World and its Histories

What are the institutions of the modern art world? Very often, the institutions of the modern art worlds of Asian countries came about as deliberate attempts to provide state and private intervention in education and in the structure of distribution, namely salons, commissions, artists’ groups and so forth. Among the issues considered in this survey include a broad examination of the transfer and transformation of the beaux arts tradition of the European academies variously into local contexts in parts of Asia, its acceptance and resistance among the artists and the wider public, the ideological adoption and adaptation of modernist styles and its wider political significance in light of the colonial, and anti-colonial conditions that some countries were encountering.

Topic for discussion: What new ways of looking at and doing art did the institutions of modern art bring about? What dominant artistic values were changed as a result? Discuss how the transfer, adaptation and institutionalization of certain modernist styles affect the production and reception of art in the Asian nations under study. Why were they desired at times, and resisted at others? Identify the issues that are at stake in the promulgation and institutionalization of certain art forms in light of particular socio-political conditions.

Prescribed reading

. Spanjaard, Helena. “The controversy between the Academies of Bandung and Yogyakarta”, in Clark, John, ed., Modernity in Asian Art (Sydney: Wild Peony Press, 1993), 85-104. 

. Scott, Phoebe. “Imagining ‘Asian’ Aesthetics in colonial Hanoi: The Ecole des Beaux-Arts De L’Indochine (1925-1945),” in eds., Nakamura, Fuyubi,, Asia through art and anthropology: Cultural translation across borders (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 47-61.


Background reading

. [Chapter 5] Clark, John. “Art Education and Modern Art,” Asian Modernities: Chinese and Thai Art Compared, 1980 to 1999 (Sydney: Power Publications, 2010), 188-201.

. Fischer, Joseph. Modern Indonesian art: Three generations of tradition and change, 1945-1990 (Jakarta: Panitia Pameran KIAS, 1990).

. [Chapter] Holt, Claire. “The Great Debate” in Art and Indonesia: Continuities and Change (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967), 211-254.

. Supangkat, Jim. Indonesian modern art and beyond (Jakarta: Indonesia Fine Arts Foundation, 1997). 

. Taylor, Nora. Painters in Hanoi: An ethnography of Vietnamese Art (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009), 1-21.


Week 3: 8 March 2023

Crossing the State and its Institutions: Artists, Manifestoes, and the Obscene 

The desire for greater autonomy to practice was a prevalent theme in the seventies through to the nineties, as artists from different parts of Asia experimented with new concepts of art making and advocated new definitions of art (for example, art as processes/art that is created collaboratively and so forth). In particular, during the seventies, in parts of Southeast Asia, artists became disillusioned with the sterile state of the local art world; the modern in art practices, to them, displayed exhaustion. As such, protests in the form of manifestoes and exhibitions were staged to undermine the status of art as commodity, to advocate for change in moribund structures, among others. 

Topic for discussion: What new ideas were posited in the exhibition and manifesto, Towards a mystical reality? Why was it deemed controversial in its time? Discuss the political import and significance of issuing a manifesto by the artists. In what way has the manifesto, as a treatise, aspired towards a kind of Asian-ness? Refer closely to the manifesto (reprinted here) to support your argument.


Prescribed reading

. [Manifesto; reprint] “Towards a mystical reality: a Documentation of Jointly-Initiated Experiences by redza piyadasa and sulaiman esa [1974],” in eds., Nur Hanim Khairuddin,, Reactions – New critical strategies: Narratives in Malaysian Art Vol. 2 (Kuala Lumpur: RogueArt, 2013), 31-54.

. Soon, Simon. “An empty canvas on which many shadows have already fallen,” in eds., Nur Hanim Khairuddin,, Reactions – New critical strategies: Narratives in Malaysian Art Vol. 2 (Kuala Lumpur: RogueArt, 2013), 55-69.


Background reading

. Antoinette, Michelle. “Different visions: Contemporary Malaysian art and exhibition in the 1990s and beyond,” in eds., Nur Hanim Khairuddin,, Reactions – New critical strategies: Narratives in Malaysian Art Vol. 2 (Kuala Lumpur: RogueArt, 2013), 166-185.

. Flores, Patrick. “First person plural: Manifestoes of the 1970s in Southeast Asia,” in eds. Belting, Hans, et. al., Global Studies: Mapping Contemporary art and Culture, (Ostfildern Hatje Cantz: 2011), 224-273.

. Langenbach, William Ray. “Performing the Singapore State: 1988-1995”. PhD diss.[unpublished], Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney, 2003.

. Miklouho-Maklai, Brita. Exposing society’s wounds: Some aspects of Contemporary Indonesian Art since 1966 (Adelaide: Flinders University of South Australia, 1991). 

. Miklouho-Maklai, Brita. “New streams, new visions: Contemporary art since 1966,” in ed. Hooker, Virginia, Culture and Society in New Order Indonesia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 70-109. 

. Mashadi, Ahmad. Telah terbit (Out now): Southeast Asian contemporary art practices during the 1960s to 1980s (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2007). 

. Supangkat, Jim. “Contemporary Art: Development beyond the 1970’s,” in ed. Supangkat, Jim, Indonesian Modern art and beyond (Jakarta: The Indonesian Fine Arts Foundation, 1997), 65-89. 

. Storer, Russell. “Making Space: Historical contexts of Contemporary art in Singapore” in Contemporary Art in Singapore, (Singapore: Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore and LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, 2007), 9-18.


Week 4: 15 March 2023

New Patrons of Modern and Contemporary Asian art: Curators, Museums and the State 

In light of the conditions brought forth by internationalization and globalization, this week will consider issues related to the circulation, exhibition and collection of modern and contemporary Asian art both inside and outside of Asia. Museums and galleries in the West struggle to re-consider their acquisition policies and re-think existing collection models in a bid to close the gap in their knowledge of Asian of the past century and to catch up on its present and future developments. One of the problems they faced was the lack of expertise in the field of modern and contemporary Asian art. On the other hand, institutions within Asia have themselves begun building its own collection and developing art historical knowledges. This lecture examines the import of public and private interventions in parts of Asia, as well as the broader roles curators now play as mediators for the patronage of modern and contemporary art.

Topic for discussion: What new roles and responsibilities do curators both inside and outside of Asian countries now face with the positioning of Asian art in the wider international art world? What are some of the political implications/agendas behind the interest and motivations of collecting modern and contemporary Asian art? Discuss some of the issues highlighted by the authors in the readings, paying particular attention to their criticisms and the politics at play. 


Prescribed reading

. Flores, Patrick D. “Place of Curation,” in Flores, Patrick D., Past Peripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia (Singapore: NUS Museum, 2008), 4-33.

. Desai, Vishakha N. “Beyond the ‘Authentic-Exotic’: Collecting Contemporary Asian Art in the Twenty-First Century,” in Bruce Altshuler, ed., Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007), 103-114.

Background reading

. Bennett, Tony. “Exhibition, Difference and the Logic of Culture,” in Karp, Ivan et. al., eds., Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 46-69.

. Catching, Rebecca. “The new face of censorship: State control of the visual arts in Shanghai, 2008-2011,” Journal of Visual Art Practice 11, no.2-3 (2014): 231-249. 

. Chong, Doryun,, eds. From postwar to postmodern: Art in Japan 1945-1989: primary documents (New York; Museum of Modern Art: Duke University Press, 2012). 

. Chua, Kevin. “Exhibiting Modern Asian Art in Southeast Art,” in Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art 13, no. 2 (March/April 2014): 105-116.

. Gao, Minglu. “Changing motivations of Chinese Contemporary Art Since the Mid 1990s,” Journal of Visual Art Practice 11, no.2-3 (2014): 209-219.

. Low, Yvonne. “Positioning Singapore’s Contemporary Art,” Journal of Maritime Geopolitics and Culture 2, no. 1 and 2 (2011): 115-137.

. Lenzi, Iola, ed. Negotiating Home, History and Nation: Two decades of contemporary art in Southeast Asia 1991-2011 (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2011).

. Wang, Zineng. “Market Watch,” Third Text 25, no. 4 (Aug 2011): 456-466.

. Wang, Peggy. “Art critics as middlemen: Navigating State and Market in Contemporary Chinese Art, 1980s-1990s,” Art Journal 72, no. 1 (2014): 6-19.

. Wang, Peggy and Wu, Hung, eds. Contemporary Chinese art: primary documents. (New York; Museum of Modern Art: Duke University Press, 2010).


Week 5: 22 March 2023

Women re-modelling contemporary art worlds: Exhibitions and Projects 

This week’s topic discusses the histories of women’s exhibitions in Asia within the broader context of feminist art history. Interest in the histories of women artists, particularly in Asia, is observed to be a relatively recent phenomenon. How did the topic “Women artists” gain salience over the years? What does the general absence of women artists in history imply about women’s participation in the modern and contemporary art discourses? Very often, book publications, exhibitions and projects on women artists were the result of concerted efforts by women exposed to feminist-inspired discourses. This lecture provides a brief overview of the work by cultural practitioners and art historians in the nineties which saw a rise in a range of cross-cultural, feminist-inspired projects conducted throughout Asia. With examples drawn from both East and Southeast Asia, it will examine some of the strategies undertaken to address the issue of gender disparity and in recovering the “forgotten” histories of Asian women artists.


Topic for discussion: What are some of the gender-based obstacles that women artists encountered in their art practices? In what ways have women-centred spaces and exhibitions presented new problems to female art practitioners? How do women’s work challenge political and personal gendered spaces? With reference to both readings, discuss how contemporary conditions facilitated the discourse of feminism and supported/hindered the production and reception of women’s art and practice.

Prescribed Reading: 

. Kee, Joan. “What is Feminist about Contemporary Asian Women’s Art?, in Global Feminisms: New Directions in Contemporary Art (exh. cat.), Maura Reilly and Linda Nochlin, eds. (London and New York: Merrell Publishers and Brooklyn Museum, 2007) 107-121.

. Nair, Varsha. “Womanifesto: A biennial art exchange in Thailand”, Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia 3 (1): March 2019, 147-171.

. Wang, Peggy. "Tensile Strength: Threads of resistance in Lin Tianmiao's art" Positions, vol 28 (no. 1): 121-144.

Additional Readings:

Dirgantoro, Wulan. “Introduction” in Feminisms and Contemporary art in Indonesia: Defining Experiences (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017) 15-36.

Huangfu, Binghui, ed. Text and Subtext: Contemporary art and Asian Women (Singapore: Earl Lu Gallery, 2000) [introduction].

. Reilly, Maura. “Introduction: Toward Transnational Feminisms”, in Global Feminisms: New Directions in Contemporary Art (exh. cat.), Maura Reilly and Linda Nochlin, eds.  (London and New York: Merrell Publishers and Brooklyn Museum, 2007) 15-46. 

. Bianpoen, Carla, Wardani, Farah and Dirgantoro, Wulan. Indonesian women artists: The curtain opens (Jakarta: Yayasan Senirupa Indonesia, 2007) [Introduction].

. Low, Yvonne. “Women re-modelling art worlds: Exhibitions and Projects on Southeast Asian Women Artists (1990-2015),” The Journal of the Asian Arts Society of Australia 24, no. 4 (Dec 2015): 4-6.


Week 6: 29 March 2023 

Re-imagining Asia: Guggenheim and Japan’s Gutai 

This seminar will examine Guggenheim’s retrospective show on the Gutai that aimed to re-evaluate its role and contribution to the narrative of modernism in Japan and internationally. As it seeks to re-evaluate the experimentations of Gutai painters and their outdoor exhibitions, we will also consider the growing scholarship that has strove to show how the Gutai predated in its originality the changes in western art developments with the creation of genres such as installations, performance and land art.

Topic for discussion: Discuss the objectives for recovering the marginalised histories of Gutai, as discussed by Alexandra Munroe and Ming Tiampo in the text(s) and interview. Reflect broadly on the function of historical retrospective exhibitions; in this case, were the issues explored in the texts by Munroe and Ming Tiampo sufficiently in their show?

Prescribed Reading: 

. Munroe, Alexandra. To Challenge the Mid-Summer Sun: The Gutai Group,” Japanese art after 1945: scream against the sky (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1994), 19-25

. Tiampo, Ming. Gutai: decentering modernism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011) [select chapters].

Additional/Background readings:

. Mitter, Partha. “Decentering Modernism: Art History and Avant-Garde Art from the Periphery.” The Art Bulletin 90, No. 4 (December 2008): 531-548.

. Tatehata, Akira. "Mono-ha and Japan's crisis of the Modern", Third Text, vol. 13, no. 3 (2010): 223-236. 

. Szostak, John Donald. "The inaugural Kokuten exhibition of 1918: Content and Contexts", in Painting circles: Tsuchida Bakusen and Nihonga collectives in early 20th century Japan. (Leiden: Brill), 2013, 119-151.


Week 7: 5 April 2023

[Site Visit] University Museums: Collecting and Curating  

For this seminar we will be visiting the show on the Asian collection at the Chau Chak Wing Museum. Curator, Dr Shuxia Chen, will talk introduce key objects and curatorial aspects of the exhibition. You will also have the opportunity to engage deeply with the University’s collection. Following the curator’s talk is an object-based workshop where you will learn about ways of handling the object and exhibition issues.

Prescribed Reading: 

. [Excerpt] Wen Fong, Images of the mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliott family and John B. Elliott collections of Chinese calligraphy and painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.: Art Museum, Princeton University in association with Princeton University Press, c1984).

. Clark, John. “Building a collection: Chinese prints at the University of Sydney”, Floating Time, Chinese Prints, 1954-2002, (Sydney: Power Publications, 2016) 25-36.

Additional Readings:

. Ainger, Susanne. Guide to museums, galleries and collections at the University of Sydney (Sydney: University of Sydney, University News Service, 1989).

. Frank, Pamela. “A Twenty-First-Century Teaching Museum: The Expanded Yale University Art Gallery”, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin, Teaching with Art, (2013): 22-37. 

Mid-Semester Break: 10-14 April 2023

Week 8: 19 April 2023

Presentation Week 
A schedule will be drawn up ahead so that students will know the order of their presentations. Please refer to Canvas for further details and instructions. 

Week 9: 26 April 2023

[Workshop] The Digital turn: Innovations in Art Curating and Art History

This seminar will explore the use of digital methods to foster research breakthroughs in scholarship and museum exhibitions. Drawing closely to the Xiangtangshan Caves Project and the Dunhuang Project, we will examine how 3D modelling for instance has variously opened up research into deeper insights to the history of Buddhist art in China, as well as consider the significance of the site and the object. This is followed by a workshop on using digital tools and methodology in Feminist Art History. We will learn more about recent scholarly discussions and research on the subject of digitality and canon-making. Students will then be given the opportunity to explore the platform, GERT Links to an external site. Using a specific set of digitized archival materials, students may play with existing datasets on an integrated online application with the aim to identify patterns and/or gaps in research, and in the process learn to develop and design research questions about women’s networks, collection records, exhibition histories, and market trends, among others. 

More instructions will be provided in class. 

Prescribed readings:

. Rezaei, Yasamin. “Data Stories for/from All: Why Data Feminism is for Everyone” Digital Humanities Quarterly 16, no. 2 (2022): unpaged.

. Tsiang Katharine, "Bodhisattvas, jewels & demons: reconstructing meaning in the North Cave at Xiangtangshan", Apollo 167, no. 554 (2008): 36-41.

Additional readings:

. Tsiang, R. Katherine, and Powers, J. Martin, “Introduction” in Looking at Asian Art, eds. Katherine Tsiang and Martin Powers (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2012) 9-17.

. McNair, Amy, “Early Tang Imperial Patronage at Longmen” Ars Orientalis, Vol. 24 (1994): 65-81.

. Shih, Hsio-Yen, “Readings and re-readings of narrative in Dunhuang murals” Artibus Asiae, Vol. 53, no.1/2 (1993): 59-88.

Week 10: 3 May 2023

Cultural politics and Asian artists in Australian Exhibitions 

For this seminar we will examine the recent history of exhibiting Asian art in Australia against the politicisation of Asian identities and the making of Asian-Australian identities. This is part of a larger exploration of related issues centring around exhibition making and its politics in the context of Australia. Here, we will begin with Gallery 4A, the first institution in Australia focusing on the exhibiting of contemporary Asian art. 

Prescribed Readings: 

. Antoinette, Michelle, ‘A Space for ‘Asian-Australian’ art: Gallery 4A at the Asia-Australia Arts Centre’ in Journal of Australian Studies32, no. 4, 531-524.

. Gralton, Beatrice et. al. “Curating Chinese Contemporary Art in an Australian context”, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, vol. 16, no. 2 (2016): 247-271. 

Additional Readings:

Zhang, Tian. ‘Between Asia and Australia: Curating Asian-Australian Identities at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’, 4A Papers, issue 6, May 2019

. Jacqueline Lo, ‘Diaspora, Art and Empathy’, in The Bridge and the Fruit Tree: John Young - A survey, ed. Carolyn Barnes and Jacqueline Lo (Canberra: Australian National University Drill Hall Gallery, 2016), 19-43.


Week 11: 10 May 2023

Private and Public Collections: Framing ‘China’ and ‘Chineseness’ 

This seminar explores the history and significance of collecting and exhibiting Chinese art. Students will be given the opportunity to examine a number of case-studies spanning the pre-modern through to contemporary art. We will consider broadly how History is driven by narrative where the art historians’ explicit task is sometimes to narrate past events; here, it might also be worthwhile for us to think about how narratives of Chinese art have been shaped by exhibitions, particularly exhibitions that appear to tell a teleological story. We will also consider the challenges of making and exhibiting contemporary art in relation to issues of contemporaneity, looking at the themes of dislocation and disillusionment when considering the obstacles encountered by contemporary artists struggling to enter the international art circuit (especially those residing in provincial towns and villages). 

Prescribed Readings: 

. Hancox, Simone. Art, activism and the geopolitical imagination: Ai WeiweiSunflower Seeds,” Journal of Media Practice 12, no. 3 (2012): 279-290. 

. Liu, Cary. "In the mischievous role of naturalist: Classifying the chineseness in Contemporary Art", in Outside In: Chinese x American x Contemporary Art (Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art; and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 141-58. 

. Rui Oliveria Lopes, “Meeting another China: exhibiting Chinese [folk] art and popular culture in the Orient Museum”, World Art 4, no. 2 (2014): 237-261.

Additional Readings:

. Gao, Minglu. Changing motivations of Chinese Contemporary art since the mid 1990s,” Journal of Visual Art Practice 11, no. 2-3 (2012): 209-219.

. Maravillas, Francis. Constellations of the contemporary: Art/Asia/Australia,” Journal of Australian Studies 32, no. 4 (2008): 433-444. 

. Sambrani, Chaitanya. Here, Out There (and Somewhere in Between): Contemporary Art in India,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art 3, no. 2 (2015): 55-76. 

. Supangkat, Jim. Multiculturalism/Multimodernism,” in Apinan Poshyananda, et. al., Traditions/Tensions: Contemporary Art in Asia (New York: Asia Society Galleries, 1996), 70-81.

. Bell, David. “White Rabbit, contemporary Chinese arts and soft power in Sydney’s Chippendale” in China in Australasia: Cultural diplomacy and Chinese arts since the Cold War, eds. James Beattie et al. (London: Routledge, 2019) 133-150.

. Suhanya Raffel, "The China Project" in The China Project, catalogue, (Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 2009) 14-23.

. Cao Yin, "Introduction" in Tang: Treasures from the Silk Road Capital (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2016) 15-23, 


Week 12: 17 May 2023

Exhibiting Contemporary Asian Art regionally and internationally: Biennales and Triennials

This week’s topic follows through with some of the issues raised in the preceding weeks, but with focus paid to the role Biennales and Triennials have played in shaping the production and reception of contemporary Asian art. For example, the participation of such events have jumpstarted careers for artists and curators alike; it had also, in some instances, provided the much needed platform to pursue practices that were otherwise disallowed in their home countries. Beginning with a brief discussion of the Biennale format and the national pavilions for which modern and contemporary art is organized and viewed, the lecture will contrast this with more regional developments, such as the roles Australia and Japan have variously played in spearheading and driving certain initiatives in the Asia-Pacific/Asia region (namely, the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale and the Asia-Pacific-Triennial). What are some of the implications and consequences brought forth from the inclusion of Asian contemporary art in the now ubiquitous Biennales/Triennials? 

Prescribed Readings: 

. Clark, John. “Histories of the Asian ‘New’: Biennales and Contemporary Asian Art” in Vishakha N. Desai, ed., Asian Art History in the Twenty-First Century (Williamstown, New Haven and London: Clark Institute and Yale University Press, 2007). 

. Schoppert, Peter. “Asia in the 50th Venice Biennale of Art 2003”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 6, no. 1 (Aug 2006): 136-140.

Additional Readings:

. Clarke, David. “Contemporary Asian art and its Western reception,” Third Text 16, no. 3 (2002): 237-242.

. Chiu, Melissa. “The transcultural dilemma: Asian Australian artists in the Asia debate,” Journal of Australian Studies 24, no. 65 (2009): 27-34. 

. Green, Charles and Gardner, Anthony. “Biennials of the South on the Edges of the Global,” Third Text 27, no. 4 (2013): 442-455. 

. Turner, Caroline. “Introduction: Internationalism and Regionalism: Paradoxes of Identity”, in Turner, Caroline, ed. Tradition and Change: Contemporary Art of Asia and the Pacific (Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1993), xii-xviii.

. Turner, Caroline. “Art Speaking for Humanity: The Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art,” Art Journal 59, no. 1 (2014): 16-19. 

. Maravillas, Francis. “Cartographies of the Future: The Asia-Pacific Triennials and the Curatorial Imaginary,” in Clark, John, Peleggi, Maurizio, and Sabapathy, T.K., eds., Eye of the Beholder: Reception, Audience and Practice of Modern Asian Art, (Wild Peony, Sydney: 2006), 244-270.

. Poshyananda, Apinan, et. al. Contemporary art in Asia: traditions, tensions (New York : Asia Society Galleries, 1996).

. Oren, Michel. “Contemporary art in Asia: Traditions/tensions,” Third Text 11, no. 41 (Jun 2008): 103-106. 


Week 13: 24 May 2023

A Coda: Global Art, Local Histories?  

For this final seminar, we will revisit some of the broad themes discussed throughout the course:

• Assumptions held about modern and contemporary Asian art (its objects, ideas, ideology, theoretical frameworks and institutions) and its histories

• Responses of the artists (individuals and collectives) toward national, regional and international changes and challenges from the post-war era to the present

• Institutionalization of modern and contemporary Asian, its problems, politics and agendas 

• Global interactions/exchanges, and the impact and effect internationalism/ globalization has on the production and reception of Asian art

• Function of art in and across various domains (political, socio-cultural and individual) 

In concluding the course, the lecture will consider the history of Asian art history and its attendant issues. The preceding few topics have questioned the now dominant role that curators too played in shaping contemporary art developments and its discourses. The task of providing contextual readings of contemporary Asian art by and large fall on art historians, yet art history has proven to be much less adept than curatorial work in addressing Asian artistic output of recent times. Why is this so? Can we speak of art history as having become globalized as a discipline? 

Prescribed readings:

. Teh, David. “Travelling without Moving: Historicising Thai Contemporary Art,” Third Text 26, no. 5 (2012): 567-583.

. Smith, Terry. “The State of Art History: Contemporary Art,” The Art Bulletin 92, no. 4 (2014): 366-383.  

Background reading

. Clark, John. “Beyond the National, inside the Global” in Anderson, Jaynie, ed., Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration and Convergence [The Proceedings of the 32nd International Congress in the History of Art] (Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 2009), 58-59. 

. Clark, John, et. al. “The possibility of a world art history” [discussion] in Australian & New Zealand Journal of Art, Special Issue 21st-century Art History 9, nos. 1/2 (2008-9): 43-47.

. Kee, Joan. “Field and stream: The terrain of contemporary Asian art,” in The Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 2012), 66-71.

. Poshyananda, Apinan. “Positioning Contemporary Asian Art” Art Journal 59, no. 1 (May 2014): 10-13.

. Taylor, Nora. “Art without History? Southeast Asian Artists and Their Communities in the Face of Geography,” Art Journal 70, no. 2 (2011): 6-23.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate a better understanding of major developments in modern and contemporary Asian art, both in and beyond Australia
  • LO2. demonstrate an appreciation for historical approaches to the collection and exhibition of Asian art
  • LO3. analyse narratives of Asian art within the field of art history and the exhibitionary context
  • LO4. critically evaluate the impact of the institutionalisation of Asian art both inside and outside of Asia
  • LO5. effectively articulate a sophisticated interpretation of this cultural production both verbally and in writing.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Changes have been made in accordance to HyFlex teaching requirements. On-site visits to museums and galleries have been incorporated.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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