Christopher K. Ho Takes the Reigns at Asia Art Archive
Ho is taking over from Claire Hsu, who built the world's largest collection of materials related to Asian contemporary art.
Asia Art Archive. Courtesy Asia Art Archive.
With contributions from a strong board of advisors and an even stronger list of patrons and sponsors, Hsu grew Asia Art Archive to a team of over 35. The organisation also launched satellites in America and India, both set up as independent entities with their own boards of directors.
The incoming Executive Director, Hong Kong-born artist Christopher K. Ho, first became involved with AAA in 2013 after attending a presentation by Korakrit Arunanondchai at the New York satellite. He went on to join the AAA in America board and co-founded AAA in America's Leadership Camp with artist Wong Kit Yi.
Ho moved back to Hong Kong this year and officially took over as Executive Director on 1 September.
'That AAA centres and listens to artists, and lets their voices—through artworks, writings, and other indices of activities, ideas, and passions—guide collections and research is one reason the Executive Director role intrigued me,' he told Ocula Magazine.
'This year, for instance, AAA digitised Oscar Ho's archive, and will launch Ellen Pau's. That these two influential Hong Kong based-artists wore many hats also inspire: Ho served as Exhibitions Director at Hong Kong Arts Centre through 2001, and later as Program Director of the MA program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, while Pau co-founded Videotage, a groundbreaking platform for video art.'
Ho said he has inherited an institution on solid financial footing. One of his priorities is to make room for AAA to grow further.
'After nearly a decade in our current space, AAA is ready for a larger home to accommodate our growing collections and audiences,' he said.
He also plans to appoint a dedicated researcher to focus on Hong Kong, a move that acknowledges the growing precarity of making art in the city.
Back in 2000, Hsu was inspired to establish AAA by her experience of Beijing's vibrant East Village art scene, whose activities weren't being adequately recorded.
Fast forwarding to 2021, China has opened museums at a blistering pace, including private museums such as UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, the Rockbund Art Museum, OCAT's institutions in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Xi'an, the Yuz Museum, the Long Museum, and others, that do a very respectable job of documenting art making in mainland China.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, has become an increasingly fraught place to show art. A number of artists and art professionals have already left the city following the introduction of laws that punish 'subversive' forms of expression.
(Ho declined to comment on ways AAA might seek to archive artwork that was censored, removed, or destroyed, a problem not just in Hong Kong but across the region.)
Ho said AAA will continue to play a supporting role to institutions in China, as well as stepping up in other countries.
Their first exhibition in 2022 is a collaboration with Jakarta-based platform Gudskul. Among AAA's many other activities, AAA in India researcher Noopur Desai is collaborating with New York's Museum of Modern Art on a resource book for students and researchers called The MoMA Primary Documents: South Asia. And AAA in America's ongoing Postwar and Contemporary Japanese Art Wikipedia Initiative continues to award grants to young scholars to write about underrepresented Japanese artists and movements.
Ho said that these sorts of 'small upstream changes can snowball and drastically impact downstream results. On an abstract level, this is how I view AAA's physical and online collections: as wellsprings from which diverse and different people and organisations in the present and future will draw from, activate, and elaborate in idiosyncratic, unexpected, and transformative ways.'
Hsu will remain involved with AAA as the board's co-chair, along with Benjamin Cha.
Regarding Ho's appointment, she said, 'We have great respect for his vision and experience as an artist and educator, and have no doubt that AAA will thrive under his leadership as one of the leading organisations dedicated to making less visible histories accessible in the field.' —[O]