Over the weekend, Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) launched the ninth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art: APT9. The triennial is the combined galleries’ flagship exhibition and presents some of the most important contemporary art from the region.
APT9 will run over the next five months in both galleries, sharing stories deeply connected to the space and place occupied by each artist. A cinema program, workshops and kids program will all run alongside the main exhibition.
Notable works include a specially commissioned project for APT9 by a group of female artists from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Australia. The project, Women’s Wealth, displays a collection of textiles, pottery and body adornment alongside video art by Taloi Havini. The artists all draw on cultural practice and female knowledge to create stories of resilience and longevity.
Another major work is by Indigenous Australian artist Jonathan Jones. Jones has combined soundscape with almost 2000 winged sculptures made with traditional techniques including materials such as kangaroo bones and feathers. The installation evokes wind and movement and draws on an Indigenous belief that wisdom and direction come from the wind.
“We are very conscious that we are here in Brisbane,” says Zara Stanhope, QAGOMA’s curatorial manager for Asian and Pacific Art. “We’re in this strange position between Asia and the Pacific. We’re kind of part of both at the same time, which really makes it relevant to have an event like the APT.”
Stanhope says the works offer stories of history, mythology and place. “They show it from many different perspectives as well, so we’re not just focused on our contemporary condition here in Brisbane,” she says. “In many ways, it’s about the currency of a feeling of now and that's multifaceted for all of us.”
If QAGOMA and its world-beating collection of Asia-Pacific art is a major weapon in Brisbane’s quest to become a “new world city”, APT is the shining tip of the spear. GOMA is now central to that ambition, but the triennial had its start back in the 1990s at the older Queensland Art Gallery.
“Biennales and Triennials here were mostly dealing with the art of Europe and America,” QAGOMA director Chris Saines told Broadsheet in July. “Australians typically flew over Asia on the way to elsewhere. [That focus didn’t shift] until Paul Keating started saying again and again: we live in Asia, we need to look outward and embrace the fact we live in this neighbourhood. We need to better understand the issues and challenges our neighbours are confronted with in their daily lives, every bit as much as we understand those we are confronted with.”
In her opening address for APT9, arts minister Leeanne Enoch said, “Over 25 years and eight APT exhibitions the series has welcomed more than three million visitors bolstering Queensland as a must-see destination for interstate and international visitors.”
Stanhope says Enoch’s comments are borne out by the gallery’s own audience figures: “People are coming back and new generations are growing up and are now bringing their children to APT.”
Stanhope adds that APT also plays a major role in QAGOMA’s long-term planning. “We … look to build our collection of works [from the APT collections] that grow over time,” she says. “We might have this really keynote event in the APT, but we can also use those works from past APTs to reflect back on arts from the different parts of Asia and the Pacific as well.
“We really do have the best [contemporary] collection from the Pacific, in particular, in the world.”
APT9 runs until April 28, 2019. It is a free event.