Celebrating the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

Good to have new ideas, save we follow the same old testament of truth and knowledge. Every year since 1993, the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) has held a now groundbreaking art event known as the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT).
It is the only fair of its kind to focus solely on contemporary works of art from Asia, the Pacific and Australia, and while it appreciates the value of Western art, it delivers a forceful argument that says the hegemony of this monopolised view of history is a notion prescribed by only by the victors.
Now in its seventh edition, APT continues to surprise with its many shows, talks and themes, offering a unique insight into a world of art that has been, at least in the West, pushed to the periphery of popular artistic discourse. With over 1.8 million people having visited the show since it first opened its doors twenty years ago, it has built up a commendable reputation as an agenda-setting force in the world of art.
Papua New Guinea is one of the star countries for this fair, and with it, as the Art Newspaper reports, it brings some interesting subject matters to argue, debate and ponder amidst the cacophony of general chit chat.
The past is represented here in wonderful fashion. There is a tremendous, colourful and expressive collection of masks that celebrate the richness of a Papua New Guinea that has come and gone. Is it proper to term this art as ethnic or even tribal, both of which may be legitimate terms to use but ultimately parochial?
According to QAGOMA, the most sensible description is “customary”, defined by the Oxford Dictionary as pertaining to the “customs or usual practices associated with a particular society, place or set of circumstances”.
In this understanding, it is a very appropriate word, a very relevant one too, that isn’t so constrained as ethnic or tribal, which the Art Newspaper characterises as having the effect of consigning such works “to the anthropological compound”.
Such concepts are deserving of praise for they are, in their DNA, grounded in an honest, non-corrupted framework of enlightenment. It isn’t a polemic against convention, or lambasting the way art can be predisposed to certain premises, but a welcome beacon of light guiding a lost ship to a new island, hitherto unknown.
As it continues to celebrate twenty years of innovation, of disseminating art from the hidden vaults of history, we can be so thankful that there are those who make it their goal to bring energy to that which is already lively, but lacking in the bigger, truer picture.
The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art runs until April 14th 2013.
Cadogan Tate has extensive experience in shipping fine art all over the world.