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With Asia Focus, national museum amplifies Asian voices in global art world

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, kicked off the second edition of Asia Focus on Friday at its Seoul branch. This year’s Asia Focus -- a program launched last year to support artists in Asia -- runs through next Wednesday.

Asia Focus forms part of MMCA Performing Arts, a yearlong program dedicated to interdisciplinary performances. This year, the museum co-commissioned five Asian artists -- Ho Tzu Nyen of Singapore, Meiro Koizumi of Japan, Dai Chenlian of China, Hong Kong-based Royce Ng and Korean artist Nam Hwa-yeon -- to convey site-specific stories through visual performances in cooperation with 10 art institutions abroad. 

A still from artist Ho Tzu Nyen’s hourlong performance “The Mysterious Lai Teck” /MMCA
A still from artist Ho Tzu Nyen’s hourlong performance “The Mysterious Lai Teck” /MMCA

Participating institutions include Abu Dhabi Art of the United Arab Emirates, China’s Ming Contemporary Art Museum, the Singapore International Festival of Arts, the German theater Kampnagel, and Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Belgium.

The works will tour the participating institutions following the premiere in Seoul, giving the Asian artists broader international exposure.

“Much of the discourse surrounding Asian arts -- if not all -- has been developed and used by the West. ‘Asia Focus’ is a platform designed to help bring the center back to Asia. Many countries in Asia, based on my experience, have been emphasizing the importance of bringing their works abroad but somehow lacked the required infrastructure,” said Kim Seong-hee, project director of MMCA Performing Arts, during a press conference Thursday.

While introducing artworks at “Asia Focus” is important, the more fundamental thing is to offer a better environment for making art, Kim added.

The museum also hopes to strengthen the theoretical framework for “Asia Focus.”

“We have worked with (the) magazine ‘Okulo’ for critiques (of) the works,” Kim told The Korea Herald, saying this was a step in initiating a discourse on art in Asia.

The museum is currently planning a publication about “Asia Focus,” according to Kim.

By Shim Woo-hyun (