Apollo is thrilled to present this year’s Apollo 40 Under 40 list, the ninth edition of the project and the first to focus on the Asia Pacific region since 2016. Much has changed over the last six years – the region is attracting increasing international attention as new art fairs bolster an alreadythriving gallery and museum scene. The 40 individuals and collectives celebrated here, all under the age of 40, are shaping the future of art, transforming how it is made, experienced, bought and sold in both local and global contexts. This year’s Apollo 40 Under 40 is supported by Athena Art Finance x Yieldstreet – serving the world’s art financing and investment needs since 2015. Below, Samuel Reilly introduces the project.
Last month, the international art world convened in Seoul for Frieze – an event for which anticipation had been building for months, taking shape in the minds and column inches of Western pundits as the moment South Korea would ‘arrive’ as a global art centre. Of course, many touched down to find that the city had long since ‘arrived’, with its well-established institutions and a vital gallery scene. What Frieze Seoul showed then, was not so much a city poised to become Asia’s global art market capital, but a local scene demanding engagement on its own terms.
With this year’s Apollo 40 Under 40 Asia Pacific, we are thrilled to celebrate 40 individuals and collectives, each under the age of 40, who are transforming how art is made, analysed, exhibited, bought and sold, from Seoul to Singapore to Siem Reap. Experts across the world provided a longlist of nominations, from which the 40 winners were selected by a panel of distinguished judges with broad and deep knowledge of art-making across the region: artist Lee Bul; Tony Ellwood, director of the National Gallery of Victoria; the acclaimed curators Shihoko Iida, Daehyung Lee and Carol Yinghua Lu; and director of Museum MACAN Aaron Seeto. We are hugely grateful to them for their time and expertise.
We have included those either born or based in the region, defined here as East Asia, South East Asia and Australasia; we have not considered those selected for previous editions of the Apollo 40 Under 40. A list of 40 individuals and collectives can include only a tiny proportion of the young people whose work is transforming the future of art across this region. But we hope that those selected represent something of the variety and vitality that is to be found in this part of the world.
The Apollo 40 Under 40, established in 2014, last took Asia Pacific as its focus in 2016. While researching for this year’s edition, it has been fascinating to take stock of how much has changed across the region in the past six years – but also, the continuities. To take one obvious example, reports of the demise of Hong Kong as a global art centre, in the wake of the national security law passed in summer 2020, have been commonplace. But as John Jervis wrote in the December 2021 issue of Apollo, the city’s status as a ‘cultural hub’, decades in the making, can persist ‘even as its aspirations to be a world city falter’. That has been borne out here, with the list highlighting animator Wong Ping, Billy Tang, the new director of Para Site, and Felix Kwok of Sotheby’s, who has done much to develop the city’s modern and contemporary art market over the past decade.
Of the ten ‘Artists’ on the list, three were born in Korea – a reflection, perhaps, of the degree to which Hallyu has reached the visual arts. Beyond their nationality, though, little connects the irreverent sculptures of Haneyl Choi, film-maker Heecheon Kim’s enquiries into new technologies and human cognition, and the ‘microbial speculations’ of TJ Shin, to borrow the title of a recent work. If there is any one thing that unites them, it is perhaps a sense of political commitment that extends to the rest of the list – whether that’s Melbourne- based Hoda Afshar’s portraits of asylum seekers, Bontaro Dokuyama’s efforts to shine a light on the more shameful moments in the modern history of Japan, or Thao Nguyen Phan’s elegiac installations charting the decline of the Mekong river in Vietnam.
Among the ‘Thinkers’ – curators, critics and academics – are those who, like Xiaoyu Weng in the United States, have staged exhibitions that reinforce the role of Asian artists in the story of modern and contemporary art on a world stage. As international, though very different is Forest Curriculum – an ‘itinerant and nomadic’ curatorial platform highlighting indigenous forms of knowledge and art-making from ‘the nature-cultures of the forested belt that connects South and South East Asia’.
The ‘Business’ section includes gallerists, art advisors and auctioneers. HeeJin Park, director of Gladstone Gallery’s new outpost in Seoul, represents the recent drive for global mega-galleries to set up shop in the city; there are also, highlighted here, a number of gallerists who have established their own spaces designed to foster local talent, whether in Bangkok, as with Sutima ‘Junko’ Sucharitakul’s Nova Contemporary, or Jakarta, as with Laksamana ‘Junior’ Tirtadji’s ROH Projects.
It has become commonplace to point to the number of young collectors in Asia. This has been borne out in our research for the ‘Patrons and Advocates’, though it is also striking how many of these have ventured into establishing their own private museums and initiatives – whether Vicky Chen’s Tao Art Space in Taipei, or, in Shanghai, the Macalline Art Center and the Longlati Foundation, set up by Che Xuanqiao and Zihao Chen respectively. Much has been made of BTS superstar RM’s burgeoning art collection, for which he is included here – should we be holding our breath for an RM Museum in Seoul?
Biographies of those featured in the Apollo 40 Under 40 Asia Pacific, as well as the judges, have been published here. There are also interviews with four of these individuals, to which we will add over the coming months with further conversations. We hope that you enjoy finding out more about these influential people.
Samuel Reilly is assistant editor at Apollo. Explore the entire list in depth here.