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10 Essential Artist Collectives in Asia You Should Know (Part 1)


10 Essential Artist Collectives in Asia You Should Know (Part 1)
Xu Zhen produced by MadeIn Company's solo exhibition 'Xu Zhen: A MadeIn Company Production' at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (image courtesy of UCCA)

Some of contemporary art’s most established artists have emerged from art collectives, and indeed the YBAs (Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin and Sarah Lucas, just to name a few) started out as a loose collective. With architecture collective Assemble named the winner(s?) of the prestigious Turner prize a couple of years back, artists working in groups have once again come to the forefront of the art world. Collectives can provide a nurturing environment for art production and foster a culture experimentation and mutual learning, which is why some of the most cutting-edge and interesting developments in art come from group efforts. In this article, we profile the first five of ten essential art collectives from Asia you should be familiar with.

  1. Island6 (六岛 Liù Dǎo)

    Established in 2006, Island6 is a Shanghai-based art collective comprised of artists, art directors, curators, as well as a technical team that ranges from 6 to 26 people at any given time. Their work focuses on hybridising technology and art in ways that are new and exciting; modern mediums such as LEDs, neon and lasers are combined with more traditional art forms like painting and paper cutting. Two dimensional paintings are brought to life through animated LED elements.
    "Make It Rain" by island6 六岛 (Liu Dao)
    RGB LED display, Chinese papercut (Jian Zhi 剪紙), paper collage, IR sensor, 8-bit microcontroller, teakwood frame, powered speakers / Unique Work / Price on Request
    Available on!

    The art collective is sponsored by Island6 Arts Center, an art gallery located in M50, Shanghai’s art district of Moganshan. Founded by Thomas Charveriat, The Arts Center provides all materials and hires the necessary skilled labour or technicians, including volunteers and interns, to assist art production.

    Island6 has presented work at the Louis Vuitton Cultural Space in Taipei and Macau, as well as Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai. They have also been shown at art fairs all around the world, including Art Paris, Scope Miami, Art Basel and Art Stage Singapore.
  2. Ace House Collective

    Iyok Prayogo (far right) with fellow members of Ace House Collective.
    Image courtesy of Mayo Martin

    Ace House Collective that was set up in Jogjakarta in 2011 is an artist collective that runs a non-profit initiative space – Ace House – which is active in the field of youth-pop culture that emphasises exploration in both theory and methodology, as well as expanding possibilities on visual art perspective.

    In 2007, there was an art gold rush in Indonesia, fuelled by a frenzied appetite for art collecting in Jogjakarta. Three years later there was an inevitable slow down in the market, which spurred Iyok Prayogo and other artists to bring back the spirit of experimentation and to develop a new way to create and present art through Ace House Collective. Indeed, in 2016 they produced ‘Ace Mart’, a 24hour mini mart that sold artworks alongside items regularly found in convenience stores, expressing the 24/7 nature of an artist’s life and the way in which artists work non-stop.
    Ace House in Jogjakarta
    Image courtesy of Ace House Collective

    In 2011 they showcased their project Tak Ada Rotan Akar Punjabi, an indexical presentation of their research into the West Indian diaspora community in Jogjakarta and won the first prize for Biennale Jogja’s Parallel Event.

    For more on galleries and institutions in Jogjakarta, check out out City Guide here!
  3. Phunk Studio

    PHUNK comprises of Alvin Tan, William Chan, Jackson Tan and Melvin Chee
    Image courtesy of We Are Singapore

    Singapore collective PHUNK Studio just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015, a testament to their long history in the local art scene. Comprising of four ex-graphic design students from LASALLE, a local tertiary arts institution, Jackson Tan, William Chan, Alvin Tan and Melvin Chee set out to form a rock band. However, they realised their strengths lay in graphic design and eventually swapped out their guitar for an iMac.
    "Love Bomb"s by PHUNK in their stduio in SIngapore
    Image courtesy of Street Thing

    They dabbled in t-shirt design and publication, before their magazine was noticed by the MTV team. Profits made from their commercial work was channelled into their personal art, which was picked up by galleries and commissioned by private and commercial clients. They developed their own unique ‘Phunk style’ that they have now become recognised for, blending and re-interpreting diverse influences such as “Japanese manga and otaku subculture, Western popular culture, art and design movements into a singular creative thought that reflects their multi-cultural identity, background and environment.”
    “Eccentric City: Rise and Fall” by PHUNK at the Singapore Art Museum exhibition 'The Collectors Show: Chimera'
    Image courtesy of The Huffington Post

    PHUNK has shown in galleries in Singapore and New York. They have also worked on various commercial commissions with international brands such as Comme des Garçon, Levis, Tiger Beer and Nike. In 2005 the Singapore Art Museum hosted their 10 year retrospective exhibition ‘A Decade of Decadence’.
  4. Ruang MES 56

    This building located in the Sultan palace neighborhood houses the photography initiative Ruang MES 56
    Image courtesy of Nafas Magazine

    Ruang MES 56 is a non-profit institution that was established in 2002 by a group of artists in Jogjakarta. It functions as a production laboratory and idea dissemination of art in the medium of photography that emphasises exploration and experimentation in both context and concept. Ruang MES 56’s aim is to “develop contemporary art discourse and visual culture, while also optimize art network in the South East Asia region” through initiatives such as residencies, discussions, exhibitions and projects.


    '2nd POS: Indonesian Artist's Portrait Series (Part One: Yogyakarta)'
    Image courtesy of MES 56

    Located in a former army house, Ruang MES 56 also provides residence for young photographers living and working in the space. Angki Purbandono, an established name in the Indonesian Contemporary Art scene has been actively involved in this collective along with Edwin Roseno and Wimo Ambala Bayang, who are all members. With a mixture of experienced artists and student artists, Ruang MES 56 is a melting pot of exchange and learning.

    For more on collectives in Jogjakarta, check out out previous article here!


    TROMARAMA consists of Febie Babyrose, Ruddy Hatumena and Herbert Hans
    Image courtesy of National Gallery Victoria

    Founded by Febie Babyrose, Ruddy Hatumena and Herbert Hans in 2006, TROMARAMA is a three-person artist collective that was set up in Bandung, Indonesia. Graduating from the Institute of Technology in Bandung, the three are among the first generation of artists who were confronted with the impact of the digital revolution in Indonesia during the early 2000s. The trio met in a music video workshop where they conceived ‘Serigala Militia’ (2006) for Seringai’s track of the same title and established TROMARAMA, referencing the “traumatic” experience of making hundreds of woodcut plywood boards.

    "Silent Dialectica" by TROMARAMA that is comprised of 1000 pieces of Maneki Neko parts, bell, gold thread, paper, plexiglass
    Image courtesy of TROMARAMA

    Fascinated by the illusion that emerges from a cross-over between the real life and the virtual, the collective actively engages with the idea of hyperreality in the digital, post-photographic age by developing responses to contemporary urban culture through various artistic mediums and media. In 2016 TROMARAMA’s monumental installation piece Private Riots was selected for Art Basel Hong Kong’s Encounters Section curated by Alexie Glass-Cantor. They have also held solo exhibitions internationally in institutions such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. the National Gallery Victoria in Australia, and the Mori Art Museum in Japan. TROMARAMA were also involved in the Liverpool Biennale Fringe in 2016 with a solo exhibition presented by Open Eye Gallery and Edouard Malingue Gallery, in which they transformed the interior of an ordinary private residence into an enigmatic, reflective space.

    "Private Riots" at Art Basel Hong Kong
    Image courtesy of TROMARAMA



To continue to find out who the final five in our list is, check out part two here!

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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