Transcultural Asia: Movement of Art & Ideas across Borders

“Transcultural Asia” examines the way in which the cross-cultural interactions among artists, collectors, and intellectuals across Asia, Europe, and the Americas contributed to the establishment of art movements in a global context from the seventeenth century to the present. It comparatively discusses the following questions: How did artists integrate distinct aspects of diverse cultures into their own works of art, including but not limited to paintings, porcelain, architecture, sculptures, performances, installations, and photography? How did the idea of globalization shape the character of visual and material culture? How did artists and collectors pursue their cultural sophistication in response to the growth of new networks? This session invited papers that discuss the significance of transcultural exchange and to understand how artists and collectors served as a key agency to manifest their cultural identity and power across Asia and beyond.  

Session Convenor: 

Ja Won Lee,  California State University, East Bay, USA  


Doo Hee Chung, Yeungnam University, South Korea  

Uncovering the Traditions of Joseon Court Portraiture Through Portraits of Yi Bok Shin 

During the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897) court artists produced many portraits of royals, scholars, and other public officials. These portraits were used for a variety of cultural, religious, and governmental purposes. Throughout Korea’s turbulent history, most of these portraits were destroyed or severely damaged, and much of the historical documentation regarding them is no longer extant. Using a recent restoration project of a series of oiled paper sketches from the eighteenth century, which depict the government official Yi Bok Shin, this talk discusses the challenges of analysing, understanding, and preserving the remaining court portraits. These preservation and restoration efforts include research into historical and scientific documents, XRF spectroscopic data analysis, the use of microscopic imagery, and analyses of the line and colouring techniques. The step-by-step process used to create these sketches is discussed and illustrated using a reproduction that employed traditional techniques and materials, and novel features of the three sketches are identified. 

Ja Won Lee, California State University, East Bay, USA  

Objects as History: Ancient Ritual Bronzes in the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

This research investigates the screen of Ancient Ritual Bronzes currently located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with particular attention to the mobility of Chinese antiquities and their reinterpretation in late nineteenth-century Korea. It explores how Korean artists forged new creative achievements by integrating Chinese visual culture into Korea’s rich artistic practice, focusing on the complex dynamics of political, social, and cultural aspiration behind the emergence of the screen of Ancient Ritual Bronzes during the reign of Emperor Kojong (r. 1863–1907). As a compelling case study of cross-cultural interaction across Asia, it demonstrates that the royal family sought to illuminate their cultural identity through their encounters with Chinese antiquities, particularly when the Korean empire was faced with tense foreign relations. 

Fong Fong Chen, Lingnan University, Hong Kong  

Crossing Borders in the 1920s-1940s: Xu Beihong’s Art, Networks, and Transnational Memories 

This paper investigates how overseas travel facilitates cultural and intellectual exchange through the personal networks, exhibitions, and artistic practices of celebrated Chinese painter and educator Xu Beihong (1895-1953). During his lifetime, Xu crossed numerous international borders. Xu studied art in the early 1920s at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris before going on to work as an educator in Nanjing, Shanghai, and Chongqing. In the course of his travels to Singapore and India in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Xu grew new networks, organized exhibitions, and produced fresh works of art. This paper specifically focuses on Xu Beihong as a key agent in Sino-French and Sino-Indian artistic exchange, in order to examine the influence of cross-cultural interaction on the transformation of Chinese art, as well as his own cultural identity and legacy. 

Jelena Stojković, Oxford Brookes University, England   

Abstraction On the Move: Japanese Artists on the 1960s Italian Art Scene 

Art historical narratives about the relationship between Japanese and Italian art worlds in the 1960s habitually circle back to Michel Tapié, an influential French critic and curator, and his fascination with the work of Gutai Art Association. Following his initial trip to Japan in 1957, the first European exhibition of this experimental artistic group from Kansai region took place at Luciano Pistoi’s Galleria Notizie in Turin, where Tapié was based, leading to a continuous flow of artistic exchange and collaboration in the following decade. Much less is written about Abe Nobuya (1913-1971), the first Japanese artist to settle permanently in Rome in 1961, and the role he played in nurturing this relationship. Working not only as an artist, active in the international group ZERO, but also as a journalist and curator, Abe forged significant cultural links between the two countries. For instance, he organised the first exhibition of Italian contemporary art in Japan, in his hometown Niigata, in 1965, with over twenty high profile artists including Giuseppe Capogrossi, Piero Manzoni and Mario Schifano. 

This paper focuses on Abe’s life and work in Rome, mapping his unique importance as a Japanese abstract artist living in Italy during the 1960s. It details Abe’s close working relations with such prominent critics and artists as Giulio Carlo Argan and Lucio Fontana, and his involvement with the Italian art scene across Venice, Milan, and Rome. In addition, it considers the relevance of his work as a mentor to a younger generation of artists, including women painters and sculptors—Fukushima Hideko and Miyawaki Aiko for example—and the exhibiting opportunities he created for them in Italy during his life there. Against such a background, it draws a more nuanced picture of abstraction’s transnational character outside the well-known centres of twentieth century modernist art, such as Paris and New York, especially among the artists working ‘on the move’ between different places. 

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