The Asia Pacific Triennial

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) is an ongoing project initiated in 1993. It is one of very few regularly recurring international exhibitions with a declared interest in a specific region; it addresses culture and ethnicity and acknowledges historical diasporas. It is also one of the rare series sustained within a museum context. With every exhibition since the first, the APT has been the subject of much discussion and debate in the art world and it has developed a large, dedicated audience. Its uniqueness, asserted through geography, provides structure and agency.
Today, one of the most prominent ways of seeing contemporary international visual art en masse is via the biennale or triennial platform. These exhibitions are characterised by their scale, together with an understanding by artists, curators, educators, administrators, funding agencies and audiences that they offer a distinct perspective on the cultural life of a particular place. They provide evidence of cosmopolitanism and a ground for the exploration of ideas; are platforms for dialogue; and advocate a range of intellectual, political, aesthetic and otherwise ‘artistic’ views. They are also an important means of bringing a broad range of international contemporary art to local audiences who would otherwise not have the opportunity to see such work. They have bloomed across the world, multiplying most recently in places where art infrastructure is less established, particularly in Asia, thus allowing for a decentralised viewing of contemporary art. As the curator and critic Hou Hanru recently commented: ‘biennales are really the most intense moments we see in the art world’.3
It is interesting that most of the best regarded of these events are not staged in the major art capitals of London, New York or Tokyo, but rather in Kassel, Brisbane, Gwangju, São Paulo and Havana. These towns and cities provide a critical level of population, infrastructure and interest, at a scale that is...