Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s examines the powerful role that artists across Asia played during one of the region’s most turbulent periods. The Cold War was one of many global movements that intersected with a constellation of regional and local contexts. The Vietnam War for instance was among a series of proxy wars waged in Southeast Asia leading to millions of deaths. The impact of these wars, along with changes within Asia due to rapid modernisation, the rise of nationalism, student activism, and democratic movements led to massive social upheavals in the region.
“Awakenings,” the title of this exhibition, refers to the emergence of a political consciousness amongst artists across Asia in response to this turmoil. They sought to radically change society, challenging authoritarian strictures and aesthetic conventions through their artworks. This exhibition draws connections between avant-garde art practices in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, thereby transcending national frameworks.