Edited version of Suhanya Raffel’s Foreword from ‘The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT7) publication.
Two decades ago, the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) affirmed this Gallery’s commitment to programs of international and national relevance, and renegotiated the framework in which contemporary art was presented. In 2012, the APT remains just as vital, exciting and engaging as ever. While APTs have clearly played an important role in enhancing cultural dialogue in our region and providing a platform for diverse artistic practices, they have also dramatically shaped the character of our institution and informed new generations of art audiences here in Australia.
The Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) remains one of the few public institutions in the world to collect both contemporary Asian and Pacific art, and these collections have been developed in tandem with the APT series. We have established genuine and lasting relationships with seminal artists, many of whom are now great ambassadors for our Gallery and who have continued to support our Collection development and exhibition programs.
Strategically aligning art work acquisition with Asia and the Pacific has also redefined our curatorial and collecting areas. Many curators and museum professionals began their careers working on APT projects and we are proud of those who have continued to hone their expertise with us, as well as those who have gone farther afield to expand their experience. I, myself, joined the Gallery for APT2 in 1996, and feel tremendously privileged to present APT7 as the Acting Director at QAGOMA.
This Gallery is renowned for its inclusive and innovative public programs, especially for children and families. Much of what we have learned in this field — developing interactive art works with contemporary artists and creating meaningful ways for audiences to engage with contemporary art — has been garnered from our experience of presenting the Triennial, particularly Kids’ APT.
The overwhelming success of the APT series, and associated Collection and audience development, also provided the impetus for our second building, the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), which opened in 2006 with APT5. GOMA heralded a new era for the arts in Queensland. It opened with the Children’s Art Centre, and the Australian Cinematheque, both purpose-built and the first of their kind in an Australian art museum. Since then, both the Kids’ APT and various cinema programs have continued to add dynamic new dimensions to the Triennial. It is fitting then, as we reflect on 20 years of cultural change, that one of the central themes of APT7 is the built environment and the way structures influence people’s engagement with their surroundings.
This emphasis on ephemeral structures and transitory spaces is evident in many APT7 works — suggesting ideas of regeneration, re-evaluation and renewal. Spectacular examples include two major commissioned structures by Abelam and Kwoma artists from the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. Also featured is a selection of masks from New Britain and the Sepik, making this the largest representation of work from Papua New Guinea to date in an APT.
As part of APT7, we also continue our in-depth exploration of West Asia. This region, encompassing Turkey through the Middle East to Iran and Central Asia, is characterised by diverse histories, cultures, religions and politics, and has long been a route for cultural exchange between East and West.
The sharing of cultural ideas and knowledge is also the basis of Michael Parekowhai’s poetic The World Turns, a public sculpture commissioned to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the opening of GOMA and 20 years of APT. This remarkable work will be an enduring testament to cultural exchange.
QAGOMA remains firmly committed to an enduring engagement with Asia and the Pacific through collecting, researching, exhibiting, publishing and interpreting the art of the region. ‘The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ encapsulates these ambitions, and we are excited by the potential directions of future collaborations and cultural exchanges with our peers throughout the region.