As with any large international exhibition, there are challenges, but over 20 years, we have developed significant expertise and networks on the ground that assist significantly with complex logistical and cultural negotiations. The APT is developed through intensive research, travel and working with a range of colleagues throughout the region, who include artists, curators and galleries, as well as diplomatic agencies, companies and experts from different fields.
There are several differences. Though the geographical scope of the APT may vary, it remains committed to investigating the contemporary art of Asia, the Pacific, and Australia. Unlike many other recurring exhibitions, there is no single artistic director – the curatorial structure of each edition of the APT is collaborative and includes QAGOMA staff as well as external co-curators. As the APT sits within a museum, rather than starting with a clean slate each time, it is always in dialogue with its history. This museum base has also enabled a collecting focus for the APT, which is unique in the region and has enabled the Gallery to develop a significant collection of Asian and Pacific contemporary art.
The focus both has and hasn’t changed. Certainly the geographical scope has expanded, in APT1 for example Asia was limited to East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific encapsulated New Zealand, PNG and Australia. And curatorial models have come and gone – we no longer think of hanging all the artists from a particular country together, for example. But the focus on Asia and the Pacific, and where Australia sits within that nexus, has remained solid throughout.
Attendance has grown substantially with each edition. 60,000 people saw APT1, while attendance at APT6 topped half a million. There are a range of factors involved with this – a growing audience for contemporary art generally, and the special role QAGOMA plays in Brisbane – but it is entirely in keeping with the times. Australians increasingly understand that regional engagement is our future, and the APT has been an important part of this process. This is the place to do it, and to be surprised, entertained and challenged at the same time.
Education is central to the visitor experience of APT. We work on a number of levels to ensure that people have the information they need. We have an ongoing program of artist and curator talks and tours; we work with schools and other groups; we have extensive online resources; and through the Kids’ APT we work closely with artists to develop art works and interactive projects to introduce children to the artists’ ideas and the diverse places they come from. And we ourselves are consistently being educated as we work on each APT.
APT7 has no overarching theme, but it does have a number of focuses. We have the largest representation ever of art from Papua New Guinea. We also profile the exciting new generations of artists emerging in Vietnam and Indonesia, and new works by five Aboriginal Australian artists. We have a special focus presentation on art from West Asia. And we look back at 20 years of the APT through artist projects and archival presentations. That’s just the start of course!
Highlights will include a major commission by leading Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, which transforms the QAG Watermall with a large-scale sculpture. A stunning display of performance masks and objects and structures based on spirit houses from PNG dominate the foyer spaces of GOMA. And the Kids’ APT hosts some wonderful artist projects, yet again. — [ O ]