Gallery of Modern Art: The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9)

Yesterday I visited the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) to see The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9). This is the first time I’ve ever seen this triennial art show. I was expecting maybe two or three rooms displaying a small number of artworks. Instead, I was really surprised that the exhibition is in fact huge and spreads over two floors at GOMA plus has a presence at the Queensland Art Gallery. There were a few artworks in particular that caught my attention, which I will cover in this blog post. First though, here is some context.


The first Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art was held in 1993 at the Queensland Art Gallery. A new show is curated and put on display every three years (no surprises there). Today, and since 2006, the Triennial is held both at the Art Gallery and at GOMA. Both are located in Brisbane’s Cultural Centre.


What is great about this exhibition is that such a diversity of contemporary art is on display from across the Asia-Pacific region. The number of themes and messages it covers is quite remarkable. This means there is hopefully something that will be of interest to every visitor. Running alongside the exhibition is a broad and varied program of events and activities for both adults and children.

This APT series is regarded as being one of the most ambitious ever held. There are over 400 artworks by 80 artists to explore. This post will cover only a tiny fraction of what there is to see and do. I highly recommend taking advantage of the air conditioned gallery in Brisbane’s hot and humid climate and visiting to see for yourself.

‘For Kids’ Labels

If you have read my blog before you are probably all too aware that the biggest issue I have with art galleries is their labels. More specifically, the language they use and how it can be alienating to those who are not familiar with art terminology. I have also discovered quite a few galleries have bizarre kid’s labels.

In terms of the latter, GOMA have made more of an attempt than most to produce something both relevant and accessible. The labels are at a great height for a child and although they look incredibly similar to the more formal labels, they do have a colourful symbol and fish at the top. This is consistent across all the kid’s labels so even from afar you can see which artworks do and which don’t include them. They are even written in a language that I can imagine children understanding – revolutionary.


One final thing before sharing some of my favourite artworks. The layout of this exhibition is wonderful. Having basically the entire Gallery of Modern Art to play with, the result is that the artworks are well-spaced with no room feeling ‘busy’.

My friend and I quite effortlessly made our way through the exhibition, re-tracing our steps a couple of times to have a closer look at some of the artworks. When you can do all that without stopping to think where you are or what you have and haven’t seen, you know they’ve achieved a pretty successful layout. In short, it is a truly pleasant exhibition to wander through.


The following five artworks were my favourite.

1. House – Spirit, 2018 by Vuth Lyno

This is a really striking artwork to have at the ground-level entrance to the exhibition. Apart from the fact that it consists of many shrines, I wanted to know a little bit more about its meaning. The label doesn’t reveal anything, except for basic artist information. It was then I turned to the kid’s label and found it to be actually really informative. It explains how these shrines were taken from an apartment building, prior to its demolition, in the city of Phnom Penh. The kid’s label also mentions how common these shrines are in Cambodia and their function, to protect people from harm.



2. (untitled) giran, 2018 by Jonathan Jones with Dr Uncle Stan Grant Snr AM

There is going to be a pretty consistent theme running through this post. Considering the artwork labels contained quite limited information, I basically depended on the kid’s labels for context. In this case, the kid’s label reveals that over 1000 handmade objects were gathered to create this artwork including stones, emu eggshells, animal bones, etc. Each object then had a feather attached, allowing the entire artwork to appear as a flock of birds flying across the sky. The display is in a room all to itself. This is fantastic because it has so much impact that would have been ruined if other artworks were in the way.



3. Map of Technological Ethics, 2018 by Qiu Zhijie

This is, by far, my favourite artwork. GOMA has this huge blank wall running from the ground to the top level that is almost always used for large-scale projects. For APT9, the wall has had a map applied that highlights some particularly tricky ethical situations that have arisen in contemporary society. I’ve included plenty of pictures below so you can see some of the confronting issues raised.





4. UnMYthU: UnKIND(s) Alternatives, 2018 by Mithu Sen

When I first saw this artwork I was immediately drawn to the panel photographed below. The more you look at it, the more you will find. I only just noticed the skeleton hanging from a tree while writing this post. The aim of this artwork is to explore the in-between spaces of social conventions and interactions. I just aesthetically appreciate all the different components working together and the anatomical illustrations. And, of course, the fish that grow on trees.




5. 18/28: The Singhaseni Tapestries, 2017-2018 by Jakkai Siributr

Siributr has combined needlwork and textiles in order to share stories. In total there are five dresses with embroidery dedicated to the artist’s mother, grandmothers and aunts. The dresses belonged to his mother and the embroidered images you can see are family photographs that were discovered in his mother’s diary. Each dress is displayed hanging from some clear fishing line creating the illusion that all five dresses are floating above the platform.




There is so much more to see and explore, I hope you have the opportunity to visit.

The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9) is on at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art until 28 April 2019. Entrance is free.

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