Curators tour South Korea and
China's "thriving" arts scenes

Curator Balamohan Shingade says he discovered that studios were his “happy place” during the Asia New Zealand Foundation/Creative New Zealand’s recent Curators Tour to South Korea and China.

Watch a video of Shingade discussing the Curators Tour

Shingade, who is manager and curator at Malcolm Smith Gallery, Uxbridge Arts and Culture, Auckland, was one of three curators to take part in the three-week tour.

The other two curators were Chloe Geoghegan from Dunedin’s Blue Oyster Art Project Space and Ioana Gordon-Smith from Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Auckland.

During the tour, the trio visited studios, galleries, museums and artist-run spaces as well as visits to major international art festivals, building connections with arts professionals along the way.

Meeting artists was probably the highlight of the tour, Shingade says. “We got to see more than 56 exhibitions, two biennials and a number of studio visits, and I think this was the first time I discovered that studios are my happy place, that’s where I learn the most.”

He describes the arts scenes in both South Korea and China as “thriving" but says it is for very different reasons.

“It felt that the South Korean arts scene was very much supported, flourishing; it was saturated. I think there was a rumour more than 13,000 exhibitions opened in Seoul alone every year, including private galleries, public museums, artist-run spaces, so it’s very full.

“In China, it’s equally thriving but for very different reasons. It’s because they have, it seems, a lot more private money, a lot more private sponsorship and funding and along with that you get a lot of acquisitions and collections that are privately motivated."

Asia New Zealand Foundation director culture Jennifer King says one of the key reasons the Foundation runs the tours is to help curators make connections with arts professionals in Asia in the hope they will collaborate on future projects.

She says the tours have fostered a number of interesting collaborations since the first one was held in 2010.

"It's great to see the curators independently making contact with those they've met on tour after they've returned to New Zealand and eventually working together on projects." 

Shingade says that it was interesting to see how curators and artists in South Korea and China tackle issues that are topical in New Zealand.

He gives as an example conversations that are happening in the art world in China and South Korea around same-sex marriage and how curators are navigating the issue.

He says two curators he met in China really stood out, one of whom he has already approached to contribute to a publication he is involved with.

“So there’s a lot of parallel and we were excited about discovering those two people. So already we’re thinking about trying to bring exhibitions here or trying to show their work here.”

The curators waiting to board a plane to Shenzhen

Shingade says while New Zealand has institutions that provide great support to the arts, we could learn from South Korea and China’s arts scenes is the diverse ways that exhibitions are made.

“For example, a gallery that occupies an alleyway next to vegetable stands - how they can be folded into that conversation…Another example is how urban development and private property developers are the facilitators of art projects; so, those interesting and very diverse ways of making exhibitions we can learn from.”