Asian Art in the Age of Globalization

May 21, 2015 |
German art scholars Norbert M. Schmitz–a professor of aesthetics at the Muthesius Kunsthochschule, Keil; and Regina Hofer–an art historian specialising in Indian and Tibetan art, spoke at length about the influence of globalisation on art at event organised by the Siddhartha Arts Foundation (SAF) this January

Globalisation is the buzzword of today. There is hardly a discipline untouched by contemporary universalisation, and the arts are no exception. It was in this regard that German art scholars Dr. Norbert M. Schmitz–a professor of aesthetics at the Muthesius Kunsthochschule, Keil; and Regina Hofer–an art historian specialising in Indian and Tibetan art, spoke at length about the influence of globalisation on art at an event organised by the Siddhartha Arts Foundation (SAF) at the Himalayan Bank auditorium in Kamaladi, on January 8.


Schmitz’s lecture, titled “What is Global Art? Requirements of Contemporary Art in Asia”, focused on the process of globalisation in art with a special emphasis on Asian art. The scholar talked about paradoxes of the globalisation discourse in relation to art, the universalisation of art as well as ‘international modernism’, shedding light on contemporary global art practises in the process.

Hofer, meanwhile, discussed contemporary Tibetan art, a form which is seen as intertwining past conventions with a modern language of art. Her paper, “Contemporary Tibetan Art: Between Tradition and Globalisation”, explored the influences and techniques Tibetan artists have lately developed to ? nd a place for contemporary Tibetan art in the global arena.

Although the “conservatism of [Tibetan] civilisation” and its “nearly complete seclusion from any modern international influences”, Hofer articulated in her lecture, impeded Tibetan art from being established globally till the second half of the twentieth century, it has now become a form of art highly venerated in the world.

When Schmitz de? ned global art as universalisation, he meant that global art is the universalisation of art (modern and contemporary), and that such universalisation should be of “any social process which allowed or necessitated the formation of the art system”. Such social processes, and hence globalisation, can be understood only when one distinguishes between culture and civilization. For him, culture is “self-contained”; it is what transforms a civilization into a society.

Schmitz took the audience deep into the relation between culture and civilization, and brought them back to all the social systems and artefacts that make ‘art’ possible. His discussion of global art as ‘international modernism–repetition as obligation’, included an explained of art as an "an engine of globalization" and globalization itself as "nothing new substantially [that justifies the word "repetition" in the definition] but describes the global and growing triumph of the internal systems of logic of modern civilization." He further explained that art is a component that disseminates "modern civilization" to the "remote corners of the earth." As such, if art is a weapon to create modernism and, hence, "differentiation" among civilizations, says Schmitz,"art cannot be the expression of indigenous values of specific cultures”.


When he had made sure that the definition of global art was sufficiently described for the audience, he brought to the spotlight the feature of global art as a “product of modern processes of civilization and the result of the abolition of traditional patterns of aesthetic creation both in the Occident and the Orient as an increasingly independent differentiated subsystem of modern society”.

Here, he showed the paradox of globalisation and global art: Art has always been taken as a connected system in the world, but globalisation tends to "create tension" in the modern (and/ or globalised) society. Furthermore, Schmitz pointed out that art, 'like all power practices" has moral ambivalences, and hence the paradoxes. Through his paper, Schmitz scrutinized the paradoxical requirements of globalisation, especially in the Asian context. He explained the historicity of art terminology and its off-late Euroc-centric projections.

Hofer’s lecture on Tibetan art and its contemporary form, on the other hand, looked at globalisation as means of bringing about an amalgamation of cultures. The art historian believes that Tibetan art is influenced by three factors: its culture, the ways of the west and the different forms of Avant-Garde practices. Hofer reckons that at present, one can see the modern facade of Tibetan art, primarily due to the “exiled Tibetan artists living all over the world”. As she endeavoured to place the present Tibetan art in the global scenario, she showed multiple paintings, by artists like Gedun Choephel, Wang Shiming, Somani, Gonkar Gyatso, Gade, Kesang Lamdark among others, to show how they and other Tibetan artists have found new forms of expression through their art.

These paper presentations put forward different milieus of the global art world. When asked what the main objective behind the programme was, Sangeeta Thapa, chairperson of the Siddhartha Arts Foundation and director of the Siddhartha Art Gallery said, “We want to promote art culture in Nepal as much as possible. In this regard, talk programmes and lectures by art scholars help our understanding of global art, and hence aid the progress of our own art.”

The programme was graced by the presence of artists like Sujan Chitrakar, scholars like Abhi Subedi, and other art lovers. The audience also got to interact with the scholars via a questionanswer session, and it seemed that most of the attendants were benefitted by the event. The SAF was supported by the Danish Institute for Culture and Development in organising the programme.


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