You are here

Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art: An Anthology

Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art: An Anthology
Nora A. Taylor and Boreth Ly, eds.
Publication Year: 
Publication Number: 

This anthology explores artistic practices and works from a diverse and vibrant region. Scholars, critics, and curators offer their perspectives on Southeast Asian art and artists, aiming not to define the field but to illuminate its changing nature and its interactions with creative endeavors and histories originating elsewhere. These essays examine a range of new and modern work, from sculptures that invoke post-conflict trauma in Cambodia to Thai art installations that invite audience participation and thereby challenge traditional definitions of the “art object.” In this way, the authors not only provide a lively study of regional art, but challenge and expand broad debates about international and transnational art. 

For years, contemporary art in Southeast Asia was defined by Western standards during periods of Western colonialism, through comparisons of Eastern and Western artworks. This collection interrogates those definitions, as the writers consider how the works under study are related to place and how contemporary art frequently transects the boundaries established by nation-states. The studies in this volume are marked by vivid portraits of modern and contemporary regional artists and curators, whose paintings, sculptures, textiles, films, and exhibits variously reflect the influences of gender, diaspora, memory, trauma, politics, and colonialism.


Nora Annesley Taylor is the Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of Painters in Hanoi: An Ethnography of Vietnamese Art (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2004, and University of Singapore Press, 2009) and editor of Studies in Southeast Asian Art: Essays in Honor of Stanley O'Connor (Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2000), as well as articles on modern and contemporary Vietnamese Art. She is currently at work on a book project that examines documentation and narration in the work of contemporary Southeast Asian performance artists. 

Boreth Ly is Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Art History and Visual Culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has published articles on ancient as well as contemporary art, photography, and film of Southeast Asia and its diaspora. He is currently writing a book about trauma, displacement, and memory in the visual cultures of Cambodia and its diaspora in the post-Khmer Rouge genocide period. He was born in Phnom Penh and educated in Paris and the United States. He has written about Buddhist and Hindu visual narrative arts, films, and performance, as well as representations of gender, sexuality, and the body.


Sandra Cate, San José State University, Mills College, and Santa Clara University; John Clark, University of Sydney; Flaudette May Datuin, University of the Philippines, University of New South Walesand Australian National University; Patrick D. Flores, University of the Philippines, Vargas Museum (Manila), and National Art Gallery (Singapore); Kenneth M. George, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Boitran Huynh-Beattie, Australian National University, Melbourne University, University of Wollongong, and Fine Arts University of Ho Chi Minh City; Grant Kester, University of California, San Diego; Việt Lê, artist, creative writer, and independent curator; Lee Weng Choy, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong, and The Substation (Singapore); Ashley Thompson, University of Leeds; and Astri Wright, University of Victoria, British Columbia.


This collection of brilliant, multi-disciplinary essays offers entry points and perspectives from which we can begin to appreciate the shared attributes and histories of Southeast Asian art. Rich with information, these essays and their multi-faceted views of art practices, curatorship, ideologies, and infrastructures will be indispensable for an in-depth understanding of the ASEAN Community.—Professor Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, Deputy Secretary-General, Ministry of Culture, Thailand.

In its scope and range of intellectual interests, this volume is nothing short of pathbreaking in its approach to contemporary art in Southeast Asia, one of the most exciting fields of inquiry today. Of special interest is the broad methodological relevance of this volume to readers concerned with anthropology, art history, visual culture, religious studies, and political science—I have no doubt that this volume will be a seminal touchstone upon which future studies of contemporary art in Southeast Asia will be based. Provocative in the best sense of the word, this collection of essays does much to complicate our ever-evolving sense of what “contemporary art” means.—Professor Joan Kee, History of Art, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Co-editor, Contemporaneity and Art in Southeast Asia

What the reviewers are saying …

… a concentration of essays that together constitute a focused study of Southeast Asian artistic modernity … [The] volume utilizes a diverse selection of voices to articulate various social, cultural, and historical patterns, which, when compared as a whole, begin to lend shape to what otherwise is an amorphous body of artistic practices … [the volume draws] on a plurality of perspectives and hence styles of writing and analysis in order to create what feels like a dialogue between the various authors.—Pamela Nguyen Corey, Journal of Asian Studies

… the contributors have certainly provided stimulating and thoughtful discussions of the development of modern art and the current state of contemporary art in South East Asia … This diverse collection of topics and approaches results in a rather eclectic volume, although this could be seen as one of the strengths of the book, in that it provides multiple perspectives on the subject and engages the reader to think about different aspects of South East Asian art.—Farouk Yahya, South East Asia Research


ISBN (hardcover): 
Price (hardcover): 
ISBN (paperback): 
Price (paperback):