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Mar. 10, 2011

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New York Asia Week, launched by the auction houses in the early 1990s, presumes that people who are interested in Tibetan sculpture might somehow also be interested in Malaysian batik and Chinese contemporary. Twenty years on, this fiction is stronger than ever, perhaps because it's fun, the idea of looking at art made during the past three millennia on the world's largest and most populous continent.

Considering the beast, it's no surprise that New York Asia Week has turned into a cacophony of branding. What is it? When is it? What does it include? Well, so-called Asia Week New York 2011, Mar. 18-26, 2011, chaired by dealer Carlton Rochell, is the initiative of the two-year-old Asian Art Dealers New York (AADNY) while the contemporary Asian art scene comes together for Asian Contemporary Art Week(ACAW), Mar. 21-31, 2011, directed by curator Leeza Ahmady.

And just to make it all more confusing, neither of the above umbrellas incorporates the Arts of Pacific Asia Show, Mar. 24-27, 2011, organized by Caskey Lees at 7 West 34th Street (the Merchandise Mart building), or JADA Asia Week 2011, Mar. 19-23, 2011, the gathering of Japanese art dealers at the Ukrainian Institute of America. Trying to be helpful is the website for still another Asian Arts Week, Mar. 18-27, 2011, which lists more than 80 events as part of a PR initiative designed to incorporate everything, and more (like "Japan Fashion Now," which now closes at the Museum at FIT on Apr. 2, 2011).

And don't be confused by the dates listed on -- it's a leftover from 2010. 

With all this, it's tempting to just send you all to the websites, and let you sort it out yourselves. JADA, for its part, has prepared a downloadable brochure listing all the Japanese art shows and events in the city -- don't miss the newly discovered Hokusai painted scroll portraying a geisha holding her kitten (ca. 1805-10) at Sebastian Izzard Asian Art, or "Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art," Mar. 18-June 12, 2011, at Japan Society, organized by independent curator David Elliott and featuring 16 artists who move beyond the "kawaii" (cute) esthetic.

Asia Society, which holds its gala fundraiser on Mar. 21, 2011, is sponsoring one of the week's signature events, at least for fans of Indian modernism, on Mar. 23, 2011, when museum director Melissa Chiu interviews painter M.F. Husain (b. 1915) along with Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian. Admission is $15; advance purchase is recommended.

One highlight of the ACAW programming is a dialogue in the Guggenheim Museum rotunda on the subject of "International Biennials" between three notable curators: David Elliott (again), New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi curator Suzanne Cotter. The event is scheduled for Mar. 25, 2011, 6:30 pm; tickets are $10, and going fast.

After hitting the Gugg, you can zip down to the Rubin Museum of Art for Korean artist Atta Kim's "Monologue of Ice," an almost-six-foot-tall ice sculpture of a seated Buddha, designed to melt slowly in the museum lobby over a two-day period. The event begins at 6 pm, and continues overnight (!); admission is free.

New York's auction houses have their own versions of Asia Week, of course. Christie's New York has a series of six Asia Week auctions, Mar. 22-25, 2011, that includes the sale of about 200 works from the collection of Art Institute of Chicago patrons Marilynn Alsdorf and her late husband James Alsdorf -- including many items formerly on long-term loan to the museum. And among the top lots in the firm's Japanese art sale is a pair of recently rediscovered, six-panel 16th-century gold-leaf screens titled Southern Barbarians Come to Trade, which is expected to sell in the region of $4 million.

Star lots at the Asian art sales at Sotheby's New York, Mar. 22-25, 2011, include the Pearl Canopy of Baroda, ca. 1865-70, a luxuriant bejeweled canopy entirely embroidered with pearls, glass beads, diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds that was unveiled in "Maharaja" at the V&A last year (est. $3 million-$5 million), and a 10th century Khmer sculpture of an "athlete" that is a mate to the example in the Norton Simon Museum (est. $2 million-$3 million).

Ready for another art fair? Now in its 31st edition, the AIPAD Photography Showat the Park Avenue Armory, Mar. 17-20, 2011, gathers 79 dealers from around the globe, courtesy of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD). New exhibitors this year include Galerie f5.6 (Munich), Vision Neil Folberg Gallery (Jerusalem) and June Bateman Fine Art (New York). The gala preview on Mar. 16 benefits the Museum of Modern Art; tickets start at $100. General admission to the fair is $25.

One highlight is a 1963 photo of Mao Zedong, made in 1963 by an unknown Xinhua Agency photographer, and possibly the source for Andy Warhol’s famous Mao series, at the booth of Gary Edwards Gallery (Washington, D.C.). Charles Schwartz Ltd. (New York) presents a collection of 100 photographs and ephemera relating to the capture of President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis. (Last year at least one writer searched in vain for a photo of Lady Gaga; we'll see if she turns up in 2011.)

The lecture series includes “Photography Now: How Artists Are Thinking Today,” with dealer Julie Saul and artists Sally Mann, Shirin Neshat and Alec Soth (Mar. 19, 2011); and “AIPAD and the iPad: New Technology and Photography,” featuring Artnet Magazine contributor Barbara Pollack, dealer Jen Bekman and Scott Dadich, executive director of Conde Nast’s digital magazine development. Tickets are $10 for the panel discussions and are available on a first-come first-served basis.

Art Dubai, Mar. 16-19, 2011, now in its fifth year, presents about 80 galleries from 34 countries, in a show organized by fair director Antonia Carver. U.S. dealers making the trip to the UAE include Aicon, CRG, Frey Norris, Hosfelt, Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller, Marianne Boesky, Priska C. Juschka, and the Guild.    

In collaboration with the fair, the city is hosting its own "Art Week," whose related events include “Old Master Paintings from the Rijksmuseum” at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and special gallery tours. A local guide has been put together in collaboration with Time Out.

Brand new to the fair this year is "Marker," a section organized by Arnolfini curator Nav Haq and consisting of five “concept stands”: Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (Alexandria), Grey Noise (Lahore), Liu Ding’s Store (Beijing), and others. Also featured is "Art Park," an underground project space for film, video and talks that is now in its fourth year. Organized by Bidoun Projects, Art Park boasts retrospectives of two Egyptian artists, video artist Sherif El-Azma and Wael Shawky.

And Art Dubai includes a nonprofit "Projects" section, which debuts a series of radio dispatches from artist studios, co-curated by The Island, as well as a live mural project on the theme of “labor” by Ali Chitsaz and Mounira Al Solh(in collaboration with her fictional character, Bassam Ramlawi). For a complete list of projects, click here.

Confirmed participants for this year’s Global Art Forum, a platform for cultural debates and panels chaired overseen by Shumon Basar, include Artforum’s editor-at-large Jack Bankowsky, Documenta 13’s Chus Martinez, fashion designer Helmut Lang, Beijing-based art writer Philip Tinari and artist Francesco Vezzoli, among many others.

The fair also offers the world’s most generous art prize -- the Abraaj Capital Art Prize -- which awards a total of $1 million to five artists from the MENASA region (Middle East North Africa South Asia), plus one international curator. This year’s winners are Hamra Abbas, Shezad Dawood, Jananne Al-Ani, Nadia Kaabi Linke and Art Eclectic; their winning works go on view at Art Dubai. Applications for ACAP 2012 are now open, and the deadline for submissions is Apr. 30, 2011.

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