Tokyo. Photo: Balint Földesi, CC.

Mapping Museums from Hong Kong to Japan

By Charlotte Burns
This article was adapted from an edition of In Other Words.

T here has been a massive art boom in Asia over the past couple of decades, so here—ahead of Art Basel Hong Kong, and in one handy guide—are the private foundations, state museums and non-profits you should know about. Our list is not exhaustive, but we hope it provides a useful overview of the most important or innovative Modern and contemporary art institutions.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong. Photo: Alejandro, CC.

Hong Kong


The flagship project of the West Kowloon Cultural District, M+ has been highly anticipated since the concept was first announced almost 15 years ago. The new building is now close to officially opening, with the unveiling scheduled for early 2020. The museum, which will be housed in a 17,000 sq. m building designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron overlooking Victoria Harbor, is focused on 20th and 21st-century visual culture “from a Hong Kong perspective and with a global vision”. The collection was boosted by the 2012 donation from Swiss collector Uli Sigg of more than 1,500 works by 325 artists dating from the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), to the No Name Group (mid-1970s) and the Star Group (late 1970s), precursors of the Chinese contemporary art movement which began in 1979.

Para Site

Founded as an artist-run space in 1996—a year before Hong Kong was handed back from the UK to become a Special Administrative Region—this independent institution has long played a pivotal role in shaping the development of contemporary art in the region. Para Site has a reputation for staging edgy exhibitions of work by local and international artists, often exploring geopolitics.

Hong Kong Museum of Art

Tasked with the preservation of Chinese cultural heritage, the museum is managed by Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Currently closed for refurbishment, the museum is scheduled to reopen its collection of more than 16,000 objects—from Chinese paintings and calligraphy works to antique Chinese treasures—this coming November.

The restored former central Police station and the VIctoria Prison in Hong Kong's Central district. Credit: Boaz Rottem / Alamy Stock Photo

Tai Kwun

One of the most significant renovation projects in Hong Kong was unveiled last May: the Tai Kwun center for heritage and arts, situated in the restored Central Police Station compound. Born out of a partnership between the Government of the Hong Kong Administrative Region and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the project restored the station as well as the Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. Two new structures were designed by internationally renowned Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. Tai Kwun stages six to eight curated exhibitions each year, as well as public programs, a multi-disciplinary residency program open to local and international artists, and an extensive education program.

Asia Art Archive

The Asia Art Archive is one of the most valuable collections of material on the recent history of art across Asia. An independent non-profit organization founded in 2000 by Claire Hsu and Johnson Chang (who also founded the Hanart TZ Gallery), the mission of the archive is to act as a catalyst for new ideas through focused collecting of a wide range of material, from personal archives to documentation of key exhibitions and rare ephemera. It recently launched the Asia Art Archive Women in Art History Fund—an unprecedented initiative to support research about women in art in Asia.


Founded as an artist-run collective in 1986, Videotage is dedicated to the collection and promotion of new media art in the region. Its exhibitions and cultural programs regularly bring together artists, scientists, academics and technology professionals. Its Videotage Media Art Collection comprises video works and moving images as well as documentary materials relating to the development of media art, current affairs and social movements over the past 20 years.


Opened on 17 March, the Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile, which is managed by the MILL6 Foundation, is part of the largest privately-run heritage conservation project Hong Kong has ever seen: The Mills. The exhibition space is located in a disused cotton mill in the city’s former industrial district. The renovation of the complex was backed by the DH Chen Foundation and property developer Nan Fung Group. Fittingly, the program will revolve around weaving textiles.

Asia Society—Hong Kong Center

The Asia Society’s Hong Kong Center was established in 1990 as an affiliate of the Asia Society’s existing international network. In 2012, the Hong Kong Center moved into its current location on 13,000 sq. m of former British military buildings at the old Victoria Barracks. The heritage site was transformed into a cultural hub offering lectures, performances, film screenings and diverse exhibitions including work by Fang Zhaoling, Caravaggio and Yoshitomo Nara.


Shanghai. Photo: Dante Aguiar, CC.


Rockbund Art Museum

Founded in 2010 as part of the Rockbund Urban Renaissance project to revitalize and redevelop 11 historical buildings in downtown Shanghai, the Rockbund Art Museum is located in an area known as Waitanyuan, at the triangle where the Suzhou Creek flows into the Huangpu River. An international advisory committee of renowned curators and experts helped put the museum on the map, and its Art Deco building (built for Britain’s Royal Asiatic Society in 1932) was given an interior renovation by architect David Chipperfield.

The contemporary art institution has been playing a pivotal role in shaping Shanghai as the art capital of China, with solo presentations of work by leading Chinese and international artists including Cao Guo-Qiang, Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Huan, Song Dong, as well as Philippe Parreno, Félix González-Torres and Mark Bradford. The museum runs education and research programs and has presented the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award for Emerging Asian Artists since 2013.

Long Museum

Founded by collectors Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei, the Long Museum is a vast private museum occupying two spaces in Shanghai, one in Pudong and one on the West Bund. The collection houses traditional, Modern and contemporary Chinese art, as well as contemporary art from elsewhere in Asia and Europe. Its exhibitions draw from the collection and other institutions, focusing on the contrasts between Eastern and Western art, and between ancient and Modern.

Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue (2013) at the Yuz Museum’s “OVERPOP” exhibition. Image courtesy of Yuz Museum. © Camille Henrot.

Yuz Museum

Founded by the Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector Budi Tek, the Yuz Museum is a non-profit organization under the umbrella of the Yuz Foundation located on the West Bund in Xuhui District. The 9,000 sq. m museum, which was once an aircraft hangar, has staged ambitious exhibitions of international artists including Yang Fudong, Huang Yuxing, Liu Shiyuan, Random International, Andy Warhol and Alberto Giacometti since its opening in 2014.

The Yuz Museum’s collection includes some of the most significant examples of Chinese contemporary art to be found anywhere in the world; it is particularly focused on art made between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. The Western art holdings range from large-scale installations to German postwar paintings as well as work by young artists interested in public engagement.

During the In Other Words panel discussion “The Future of the Museum” during Art Basel Hong Kong last year, Tek announced an unprecedented collaboration between Yuz and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The partnership allows for the foundation to be managed by both the Yuz Foundation and the LACMA Foundation, with the condition that the entire collection remains in China.

Power Station of Art

The Power Station has quickly established itself as a local cultural landmark since opening in 2012. It is the first state-run contemporary art museum in mainland China and is home to the Shanghai Biennale. The museum is housed in a former power station located along the Huangpu River in Nanshi (which was the Pavilion of the Future in the 2010 Shanghai World Expo). It opened with work from the Centre Pompidou’s collection and has continued with a vigorous exhibition program, including solo presentations of important Chinese artists such as Yu Youhan and Li Shan, or shows in collaboration with other institutions.

Shanghai Museum

Founded in 1952 and originally housed in the former Shanghai Racecourse Club, the Shanghai Museum has been located in People’s Square since 1996. It features a collection of more than 140,000 pieces of ancient Chinese art including bronzes, sculpture, ceramics, jade carvings, paintings and calligraphy.

Aurora Museum

Located in a sleek six-storey building on the Pudong banks of the Huangpu, the Aurora Museum exhibits jade, sculpture and porcelain from periods throughout Chinese history. It was the first private art museum in the Lujiazui area of Shanghai, opening its 6,000 sq. m Tadao Ando-designed gallery spaces in 2013.

Powerlong Art Museum

The Powerlong Art Museum premiered its 23,000 sq. m building in the Shanghai township of Qibao in late 2017. The museum was established by Chinese real estate and development conglomerate Powerlong’s founder, Xu Jiankang. The museum, whose ten exhibition halls are accessed via a spiral ramp, displays work from 19th-century China through today.

K11 Art Foundation

K11 is a non-profit organization promoting the long-term development of China’s contemporary art scene through its partnerships, exhibitions, residencies and educational programs. The foundation has collaborated with a number of organizations around the world, including the Serpentine Galleries in London, MoMA in New York and the Palais de Tokyo and Centre Pompidou in Paris.

The Fosun Foundation building’s facade. © Alamy.

Fosun Foundation

This art hub showcases interactive contemporary art from around the world and is located in the Bund Finance Center, designed by Foster + Partners and Heatherwick Studio. It has a spectacular façade: a golden, rotating bamboo curtain designed to resemble both an ancient Chinese crown and a Western harp. The foundation’s multi-purpose space hosts talks, forums, film screenings, workshops and other public events.

HOW Art Museum

HOW Art Museum was established in 2017 as Shanghai’s first “night museum”, so-called for its late hours: you can visit the exhibitions (which have included work by Joseph Beuys and Julian Rosefeldt) until 10pm most days of the week. The museum was designed by the Chinese architectural firm Ares Partners and occupies 4,200 sq. m of exhibition space across three levels of the HOW Art Hotel building in Pudong’s ZhangJiang Hi-Tech Park.

Centre Pompidou Shanghai West Bund

One of the latest in the Centre Pompidou’s series of international expansions, the museum’s West Bund outpost is scheduled to open later this year (specific dates have not been announced). The gallery, designed by David Chipperfield Architects, is part of a long-term cultural cooperation project between France and China. More than 20 exhibitions and events are planned for the first five years of the museum, representing works from the Beauborg gallery and from the Chinese contemporary art canon.

Tank Shanghai

Beijing-born collector Qiao Zhibing, who made his fortunes in the entertainment industry, is one of China’s leading buyers of international contemporary art and the mastermind behind Tank Shanghai, an art museum and recreation facility built from five empty oil tanks on the shore of the Huangpu River. The project’s budget was an estimated at $15m and is part of the West Bund Cultural Corridor government initiative (which also includes the Yuz Museum and the Long Museum). The institution is celebrating its opening, scheduled for 23 March, with exhibitions of work by the new media art collective teamLab and Argentinian sculptor Adrián Villar Rojas.

Forbidden City from Jingshan Hill, Beijing. Photo: Dimitry B., CC.


Red Brick Art Museum

Red Brick was founded in 2014 at the heart of Beijing’s 798 Art Zone. The museum has 10,000 sq. m of exhibition space designed to evoke traditional Chinese courtyard structures (hence the name). The museum seeks to support Chinese contemporary art in dialogue with international scholars and artists.

Works by Izumi Kato at Beijing’s Red Brick Art Museum. Image courtesy of Red Brick Art Museum. © Izumi Kato

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art

The leading architectural firm OMA was behind UCCA’s new building in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, which reopened to the public in February this year. Founded in 2007 by the collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens, UCCA was sold in 2017 to a group of Chinese investors including advertising billionaire Jason Jiang. It now operates as the UCCA Group and is comprised of two distinct entities: the non-profit UCCA Foundation, which organizes exhibitions and research, and UCCA Enterprises, a family of art-driven retail and educational ventures. In the past, UCCA has introduced local Beijing audiences to work by international artists like Olafur Eliasson, Tino Sehgal and Tatsuo Miyajima, and has staged a focused series of Chinese contemporary shows.

Today Art Museum

Established by Zhang Baoquan, the CEO of the property company Jindian Group, in 2002, the Today Art Museum (TAM) is a private, non-profit organization that aims to promote contemporary Chinese art.

Guangzhou. Photo: jo.sau, CC.


Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art

Compared with Beijing and Shanghai, the arts scene in Guangzhou is a little more under the radar despite its long history of art production. Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art is a young institution located in the Guangzhou Redtory Art and Design Factory District, formerly an industrial area along the Pearl River. With more than 4,000 sq. m of exhibition space divided among six exhibition halls, it has been hosting exhibitions which are more avant-garde than the blockbusters often seen at longer-established institutions in Shanghai and Beijing. 2016’s “Time Test: International Video Art Research Exhibition” was a large-scale, research-based show which presented a historical overview of video art made in the West and East from different periods. RMAC runs a diverse public program comprised of talks, screenings, performances and concerts which attract large crowds of young people.

Guangdong Times Museum

The location of the Times Museum in Guangzhou is an intervention in itself. The exhibition space occupies the 19th floor of what otherwise appears to be an ordinary residential building. The museum has earned praise from artists for its dynamic curatorial approach, bringing interdisciplinary artistic practices together with research-based thematic exhibitions. The museum, which opened in 2010, also functions as a research center and think-tank exploring the social, economic and cultural environment of the Pearl River Delta region.

Shenzhen Skyline from Nanshan. Photo: Simbaxu, CC.



OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT) is a group of museums founded in 2005 and located in Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Nanjing and Shenzhen—the latter of which serves as the headquarters of the state-owned enterprise OCT Group. The institution organizes an array of exhibitions and public programs that place contemporary art in a global context. An example of OCAT’s cross-cultural mission, the large-scale group exhibition “Digging a Hole in China” (2016), which explored the concepts of Land Art in both Western art history and present-day China.

Design Society

Design Society, which opened last December, is a public institution committed to positioning design in relation to the societal, ecological and economic renewal in China. It is the first dedicated cultural design hub in China and the first collaboration of its kind between a U.K. institution (the Victoria and Albert Museum), and a Chinese partner (China Merchants Shekou). Design Society houses a V&A gallery that regularly shows touring exhibitions from the British institution, as well as site-specific installations.

Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Doug Sun Beams, CC.
Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Doug Sun Beams, CC.

South Korea

Arario Museum, Seoul

With its low ceilings and maze-like corridors, the Arario Museum houses the contemporary art collection of the Korean entrepreneur Kim Chang-Il. Originally an office building, the structure was transformed in 2014 to fit gallery programming. It now regularly displays works by artists including Nam June Paik, Hyung Koo Kang, Lee Ufan, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Sam Taylor-Johnson.

Art Sonje Center, Seoul

Art Sonje Center is a contemporary art museum located Seoul’s historic district. Since opening in 1998, it has aimed to act as a bridge between Korean and international art scenes. The center arranges foreign exchanges for local artists and frequently exhibits international art. It has a reputation for challenging and thought-provoking programs.

Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul

This private art museum is located in the heart of Seoul, within the former headquarters of a leading Korean newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo. The museum, which was founded in 1996, is home to South Korea’s only documentary archive of more than 400 films by artists from South Korea and beyond.

Amorepacific Museum of Art

The Amorepacific Museum of Art (APMA) opened in 1979 with the private collection of Suh Sungwhan, the founder and CEO of Korean beauty company Amorepacific Group. In 2018 the APMA debuted brand new facilities at the company’s headquarters in Yongsan, Seoul. David Chipperfield designed the building—including a huge garden space near the top of the building where works by Olafur Eliasson and Leo Villareal have been displayed. APMA also houses the Amorepacific Library of Art Project (apLAP) collection of exhibition catalogues, posters and promotional letters from international exhibitions.

Daelim Museum, Seoul

The Daelim Museum began as Korea’s first photography museum but has grown into an institution showcasing many aspects of design and contemporary art. It is located in Tongui-dong, a residential area near the historic Gyeongbokgung Palace. In 2016, the foundation opened a larger venue, D Museum, in the hip Hannam-dong neighborhood of Seoul.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul

Established in 2004, the Leeum comprises two entities housing traditional Korean art and Asian contemporary art. Museum 1 was designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta; Museum 2 by the French architect Jean Nouvel and the Samsung Child Education & Culture Center by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

Asia Culture Center, Gwangju

Located in Gwangju, this relatively young, state-affiliated institution aims to promote Asian culture through exchange, research and education. It opened to the public in 2015 and has a diverse year-round program at its various buildings. Its Arts & Creative Technology Centre runs labs, studios and residency programs for which it provides state-of-the-art equipment. It facilitates the creation and distribution of art, including the production of the acclaimed theater piece Ten Thousand Tigers (2014) by the Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen.

Museum SAN

The Tadao Ando-designed Museum SAN (Space Art Nature) opened in the mountains of Wonju, South Korea in May 2013, following the completion of a James Turrell installation at the site. Museum SAN prides itself on a connection to nature (its slogan is “Disconnect to Connect”) and Ando’s architecture guides visitors through the peaceful flower garden, water garden and stone garden attached to the main building. Permanently on display is the collection of the Hansol Paper company, consisting of hair ornaments, maps and other objects made entirely from paper. Museum SAN is also fitted with a print studio where visitors can observe and participate in the print-making process.

Tokyo. Photo: Balint Földesi, CC.
Tokyo. Photo: Balint Földesi, CC.


Yayoi Kusama Museum, Tokyo

The Yayoi Kusama Museum was founded by the eponymous avant-garde artist and is run by her foundation. The museum’s collection of her work is presented in two exhibitions each year, together with lectures and other public events. The museum promotes Kusama’s ethos of love for humanity and world peace through its programming.

Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

Having no permanent collection, Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum focuses on temporary exhibitions. In both small-scale solo and larger group shows, the museum exhibits primarily Asian contemporary artists and covers a variety of genres including fashion, architecture, design, photography and video. It is on the 52nd and 53rd floors of a 54-storey tower developed by the museum’s founder, the real-estate mogul Minoru Mori.

Arts Initiative Tokyo, Tokyo

A group of six curators and artists established this non-profit organization in Tokyo in 2001. It manages the independent contemporary art school MAD (Making Art Different), which focuses on curatorial studies, art and communication. AIT does not have a dedicated exhibition space but often collaborates with other institutions to organize shows.

HA13BB Naoshima, Japan-October 19, 2013: Naoshima island exposes several artworks at open air among them Yayoi Kusama's Yellow Pumpkin sculpture. Alamy Stock Photo

Benesse Art Site Naoshima, Seto Inland Sea

An ensemble of museums and art projects spreading across three islands—Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima—which lie in the Seto Inland Sea, Benesse Art Site Naoshima was initially intended to revive deserted islands that had been polluted by illegal waste dumping during Japan’s postwar economic boom. Backed by the publishing and correspondence-course company Benesse Holdings Inc., the project was conceived in the mid-1980s by the company’s founder Tesuhiki Fukatake and the mayor of Naoshima, Chikatsugu Miyake.

The first building to open was the Tadao Ando-designed Benesse House, which houses a hotel and the Benesse House Museum. During the 1990s the museum primarily exhibited outdoor site-specific works, including 1998’s “State of the Art” project where artists converted existing buildings into works of art. The Chichu Art Museum, which houses James Turrell’s light installation Open Sky (2004), opened in 2004 followed by the Lee Ufan Museum in 2010, dedicated to the Korean master. Both were designed by Ando, whose buildings have become as celebrated as the art they contain.

The project has since spread to Inujima and Teshima. The Inujima Seirensho Art Museum, containing only works by Yanagi Yukinori, opened in 2008; this was followed by the Teshima Art Museum in 2010 designed by SANAA co-founder Ryue Nishizawa. It houses only one work of art: Matrix (2010) by Rei Naito, a room formed of curved concrete walls with an aperture open to the sky.

The Setouchi Triennale, also known as the Setouchi International Art Festival, has taken place on the islands every three years since 2010. The 2019 edition is scheduled to open on 26 April.

Watari Museum of Contemporary Art

Designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta and opened in 1990, the privately-run Watari Museum of Contemporary Art is located on the edge of Harajuku and Gaienmae neighborhoods of Tokyo. Spread over several floors, the museum is focused on Japanese and international contemporary art—and well-known for its excellent bookstore.

Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Sakura

Located in Sakura, Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art grew from the collection of Katsumi Kawamura, the former president of the Japanese ink and resin manufacturer DIC Corporation. Kawamura began collecting Japanese and Western art in the 1970s. The museum now owns more than 1,000 works, including seven from Mark Rothko’s “Seagram Murals” series—paintings created by the artist in 1958 which are distinct in both format and scale from earlier works. These seven paintings all hang in proximity in the same room, as the artist intended, with the other nine of the series at Tate Modern in London.

Gallery Soap, Kitakyushu

Founded in 1997 in a former cake factory in Kitakyushu, Gallery Soap is an artist-run space that stages solo and group exhibitions of local and international artists such as Peter Halley, Takuji Kogo and Noritoshi Hirakawa.

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe City

The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art was built as part of Kobe’s “cultural reconstruction” project in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 1995. Founded in 2002, the municipal gallery has grown into a major resource for Japanese prints and paintings from the Hyogo Prefecture. The museum was built on six guiding principles: to serve as the core of new urban development; to inherit and expand on the former Prefectural Museum of Modern Art; to support artistic activities; to help create new art; to welcome the participation of the public; and to serve as a hub of international exchange.

Kyoto International Manga Museum

Kyoto International Manga Museum is part of a public-private partnership between Kyoto Seika University and the city of Kyoto, housed in a former elementary school. Since opening in 2006 its collection has grown to more than 300,000 items including Japan’s first children’s manga magazine, Shonen Pakku (1907), Meiji period magazines and caricature woodblock prints of the Edo period.

Lotus Lake in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Photo: miquitos, CC.


Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei

One of the largest contemporary art museums in Asia, this institution has staged and hosted international exhibitions since opening in 1983. It has hosted the Taipei Biennial since its inauguration in 1992 and since 1995 has organized the Venice Biennale’s collateral event for Taiwan, the Taiwan Pavilion.

National Palace Museum, Taipei

Formed largely from the collections of Chinese emperors, the National Palace Museum houses more than 600,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial art and artifacts including the famed Jadeite Cabbage carving from the 19th century. The museum also owns a vast number of paintings dating from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) through to the present-day. Originally established in 1925 in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the collection has been shipped and stored in various locations throughout the decades and is now housed in Taiwan. In 2011, the Grand Palace Museum Project was launched to grow its exhibition space in Taipei.

Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (MOCA Taipei), Taipei

The country’s first museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, MOCA Taipei is housed in a former elementary school that later served as a government building. The exhibition program showcases contemporary Taiwanese and international art. The institution is managed and operated by the Contemporary Art Foundation, a civil organization founded by entrepreneurs and commissioned by the government. In 2017, MOCA Taipei became the first Asian arts museum to host a major LGBTQ exhibition.

Taipei Contemporary Art Center, Taipei

Founded in 2010 by artists and cultural practitioners, this art space aims to showcase contemporary art and promote critical discourse. So far, it has held more than 400 events including forums, workshops and performances. TCAC also runs an “Artists’ Salon” program, inviting young artists to present their work and ideas to critics and curators.

South-East Asia



National Gallery Singapore

Singapore’s ambitions to become the cultural hub of South-East Asia are exemplified by the National Gallery, which opened its doors in 2015 after ten years of planning and construction. The massive institution is housed in the refurbished City Hall and former Supreme Court, symbolic landmarks of Singapore’s history. Since opening, the museum has staged major exhibitions in collaboration with leading international institutions like the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay. It also houses an important collection of ink paintings by late Chinese modern master Wu Guanzhong.

The Singapore Art Museum

Opened in 1996 in a restored 19th-century mission school building, SAM was the country’s first art museum. Situated in the heart of Singapore’s cultural district, it has since become focused exclusively on contemporary art. SAM has built a significant collection of South-East Asian contemporary art and in recent years has begun exhibiting international contemporary art as well. It regularly collaborates with other institutions and organized the Singapore Biennale in 2011, 2013 and 2016.

ArtScience Museum

The ArtScience Museum opened in 2011 in central Singapore’s Downtown Core near the Marina Bay Sands resort. Exhibitions at the Moshe Safdie-designed gallery explore the intersection of art and science such as the recent show “Into the Wild: An Immersive Virtual Adventure”, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the ArtScience Museum, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Singaporean artist Brian Gothong Tan and several technology companies (including Google and Panasonic) to explore the impact of deforestation in South-East Asia.

Rama VIII Bridge, Bangkok


MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai

MAIIAM is a young, private museum located in Chiang Mai. Housed in a former warehouse, it was founded by expatriate Parisian art and antiques dealer Jean-Michel Beurdeley, his late wife Patsri Bunnag and their son Eric Bunnag Booth. Their collection includes works by artists who have lived or worked in Thailand, such as Montien Boonma. Since opening in 2016 the museum has staged a number of temporary exhibitions on geopolitical issues.

Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

Visitor numbers at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) have boomed since its opening in 2007 when the center attracted 300,000 visitors (more than 1.7m people visited in 2017). The museum has just hosted the first Bangkok Biennale. Architects Robert G Boughey and Associates designed the building around flexible space and respect for Thai architecture and culture, criteria which are key to the institution’s mission. The center made headlines recently after protests from cultural organizations, artists, students and media succeeded in keeping BACC clear of direct government control until its contract with the city expires in 2021.

Ho Chi Minh Square, City Hall and Statue. Photo: bvi4092, CC.


The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Ho Chi Minh City

Founded in 2016 by the artist Ti-a, this center positions itself as a “factory” of critical ideas promoting contemporary art in local communities and supporting artists in their search for resources, visibility and support. Located in Ho Chi Minh City, it is built from shipping containers and runs a series of multi-disciplinary programs, from curated exhibitions and workshops to talks, screenings and performances.

MoT+++, Ho Chi Minh City

Previously known as Dia Projects, MoT+++ in Ho Chi Minh City is a conceptual art space currently expanding its Binh Thanh location’s footprint across three key areas: a contemporary project space exhibiting national and international art; an experimental artist’s studio; and a gallery space for installations. Existing initiatives include a hub for artists, curators, events and exhibitions in a converted factory at the city’s edge. MoT+++ is also known for its support for performance art and its residency program.

Jakarta Skyline. Photo: Rizky Maharani, CC.


Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Museum MACAN), Jakarta

MACAN is a museum of Modern and contemporary art located in Jakarta. The museum was founded in 2017 by the Indonesian philanthropist and art collector Haryanto Adikoesoemo, and its inaugural exhibition “Art Turns. World Turns: Exploring the Collection of the Museum MACAN” showcased works of art by international and homegrown artists.

Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta

Located in Jakarta, the Galeri Nasional Indonesia (National Gallery of Indonesia) was established in May 1999, housing a collection of works by both Indonesian and international artists. The gallery has mounted a series of successful landmark temporary exhibitions in a special building dedicated to rotating displays.

Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Azharsofii, CC.


Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur

Ilham is a public art gallery committed to supporting the development, understanding and enjoyment of Malaysian Modern and contemporary art. Beyond exhibitions, the gallery’s program extends to music performances, academic talks and film screenings.

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur

Opened in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur’s Perdana Botanical Gardens, this is one of the largest museums of Islamic arts in South-East Asia, boasting a collection of more than 7,000 artifacts. The 30,000 sq. m. gallery space houses exhibitions of textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, jewelry and craftwork, with highlights including detailed architectural models of the Great Mosque (Al-Masjid al-Haram) in Mecca and the Great Mosque of Xian in China.

National Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia’s National Museum is housed in a traditional Malay-style structure near the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur. The building was originally built by the British and Selangor state governments in 1898 but suffered bomb damage during the Second World War; the remaining structure was demolished in 1963 to make way for the new building. Designed by architect Ho Kok Hoe, UNESCO advised on the project to ensure the authenticity of the museum’s vernacular Malay architecture. Exhibitions at the National Museum focus on local history, cultural traditions and Malay craft.

National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur’s National Art Gallery, also known as the Balai Seni Negara, is located on the northern side of the city adjacent to Malaysia’s pre-eminent theater, Istana Budaya. Established by the Malay Art Council in 1958, the gallery exhibits paintings, sculptures and photographs by artists from Malaysia and other South-East Asian countries.

National Museum Complex, Manila. Photo: Judgefloro, CC.


The Ayala Museum, Manila

Run by the private Ayala Foundation, this museum stages exhibitions and programs related to design, contemporary art, music and history and houses a collection of archeological artifacts, textiles and ceramics.

Bellas Artes Outpost, Manila

Bellas Artes Outpost opened in the heart of Manila in 2017 as a satellite venue of Bellas Arts Projects, a non-profit foundation based in Bataan that supports the work of contemporary artists. The outpost is a non-collecting, non-selling exhibition space that aims to foster a discourse between Filipino and international artists.

Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Manila

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila sits on the city’s waterfront in a three-floor gallery space. It was originally founded in 1976 to give Filipinos access to international art, but in 1986 the museum shifted its focus toward highlighting more local culture. The institution has partnered with the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (the central bank) in recent years to strengthen the museum’s holdings in Filipino contemporary art.

Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila

The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) is part of the College of Saint Benilde’s School of Design and Arts in Manila. The institution has been recognized for its innovative curatorial practices: MCAD is non-collecting and exhibits contemporary art with a focus on Manila as context. Previous shows have included “Flatlands”, an exhibition addressing the impact of decolonization on urban environments; and “A Million Things to Say” by Filipino artist Pacita Abad. MCAD’s public programming supports its mission of “free access for all” and encourages visitors to engage with the work through a variety of workshops and seminars.

Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila

Like the MCAD, the Ateneo Art Gallery is a college museum that has garnered national and international attention. Recognized as the first museum of Philippine Modern art, the institution is affiliated with the Ateneo de Manila University. The collection surveys post-war Philippine art movements and, in addition to collecting and staging exhibitions of leading Filipino artists, the gallery presents the Fernando Zóbel Prizes for Visual Art and the Purita Kalaw Ledesma Prizes in Art Criticism annually.

Pintô Art Museum, Antipolo

Housed in Mission-style buildings in the historic pilgrimage city of Antipolo an hour outside of Manila, the Pintô Art Museum holds the collection of Dr Joven Cuanang, the former director of Manila’s private St Luke’s Medical Center. The museum was founded on the principle that art plays a diplomatic role in bridging distinctive nationalities, worldviews and communities.


Charlotte Burns is the executive editor of In Other Words. This article was additionally written by: Michele Chan, Vivienne Chow, Chelsea Perkins, Julia Vennitti, with Kaitlin Chan.

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