Curating Chinese Contemporary Art in an Australian Context

A panel discussion co-presented with the China Studies Centre and the Power Institute

24 March, 2015

In recent years, interest in contemporary Chinese art and artists has exploded in Australia and across the world. From local and international exhibitions in galleries, museums, and biennials to a significant presence in the auction and private markets, the audience for Chinese art in Sydney and across the country continues to grow. Moreover, Chinese artists offer a perspective on our East Asian neighbour not seen in the latest economic data or political reports.

Sydney’s interest in contemporary Chinese art is reflected in the number of galleries and collections dedicated to its study and display. This panel discussion, moderated by Dr Stephen Whiteman, Lecturer in Asian Art at the University of Sydney, will discuss recent and ongoing exhibitions of contemporary Chinese and Asian art with three of Sydney’s leaders in the field.

Beatrice Gralton, Visual Art Curator at Carriageworks; Aaron Seeto, Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art; and Suhanya Raffel, Director of Collections for Art Gallery of NSW will share their thoughts and experiences about what makes certain artists tick, the challenge of putting up exhibitions in a cross-cultural context, and what the future holds for deeper cultural engagement between China and Australia.


Chair: Dr Stephen Whiteman
Lecturer in Asian Art History, The University of Sydney

Dr Stephen Whiteman is a Lecturer in Asian Art History at the University of Sydney. Stephen holds degrees in art history and East Asian Studies from Brown University, where he earned his AB, and Stanford University, from which he received his MA and PhD. Before joining the faculty at The University of Sydney, Stephen taught art and architectural history of Asia at the University of Pennsylvania, Middlebury College and the University of Colorado. He has been a research fellow in Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC, and was most recently the A. W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, also in Washington.

Panellist: Beatrice Gralton
Visual Art Curator at Carriageworks

Beatrice Gralton is Visual Art Curator at Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia’s largest and most significant contemporary multi-arts centre. Since joining Carriageworks in 2012, Beatrice has organised major projects with artists including Zhang Huan, Ken Thaiday Senior, Romance Was Born & Rebecca Baumann, Christian Boltanski, Song Dong, Ryoji Ikeda and Nikhil Chopra. Her current projects include the major exhibition 24 Frames Per Second which opens in June 2015.

Beatrice has held positions at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, in Washington DC; the Embassy of Australia, Washington DC, and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Beatrice has an honours degree in Art History and Curatorship from the Australian National University, and a Masters in Art Theory and Administration from the University of New South Wales Art and Design. She has lectured in Australia and the United States and has published widely on historic and contemporary art.

Panellist: Aaron Seeto
Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

Aaron Seeto is the Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and is a curator of contemporary Asian and Asian-Australian art. Aaron Seeto’s curatorial work revolves around the Asia-Pacific region and the impact and experience of migration and globalisation on contemporary art practice.

Recent curatorial projects for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art include Yangjiang Group - Actions for Tomorrow (2015); Dad and Mum Don’t Worry, we are all OK – Song Dong (2013, in partnership with Carriageworks); The Floating Eye –Inter-city Pavilion Project at the 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012); The Day After Tomorrow - Shen Shaomin (2011) as well as projects with Yang Fudong - Estranged Paradise (2010); Qiu Anxiong- Nostalgia (2009), and Ming Wong - Vain Efforts (2009).

He sits on the Executive Committee of the Haymarket Chamber of Commerce. In 2010 he was appointed Curator for the City of Sydney Chinatown Public Art Plan. His most recent appointemnt is as Asian and Pacific Art Curatorial Manager at QAGOMA. He will be moving to Brisbane later this year.

Panellist: Suhanya Raffel
Director of Collections for Art Gallery of NSW

Suhanya Raffel joined the Art Gallery of NSW in 2013. Previously, she was at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, where she held many senior curatorial positions since 1994, including deputy director of curatorial and collection development from 2010 and acting director during 2012. She was instrumental in building its contemporary Asia Pacific collection and led its Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (since 2002) as well as major curatorial projects such as the Andy Warhol exhibition (2007-08) and The China Project (2009). Ms Raffel was a member of the Asian Art Council at the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2009-14), and serves on the boards of the Australia-China Council, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra and Griffith University Asia Institute, Brisbane.

Ms Raffel is responsible for all curatorial areas including Australian and international art as well as conservation, registration, collection management, exhibition management, photography, the research library and archives, and Brett Whiteley Studio