History of ACAW


The first edition of Asian Contemporary Art Week was launched in 2002, presenting the first ever symposium in the United States dedicated to addressing contemporary art and experiences of modernity in Asia. The event marked a major shift away from perceiving Asian art as derivative of Western art discourses, to that of sharing its specific critical contributions to the filed at large. One Renowned New York Times critic Holland Cotter pronounced the event as “a turning point for the discussion of art from Asia in America”.

ACAW 2002 symposium’s critical acclaim was followed by the launch of Dialogues in Asian Contemporary Art in 2003, which has grown to become a signature event during each ACAW edition. The program continues ACAW’s presentation of a broad range of artists, scholars, and curators to the public in order to dissect the most current issues, emerging trends, and new directions in the Asian contemporary art scene.

Initially primarily focused on East Asia, Independent Curator Leeza Ahmady became ACAW director in 2005 to help expand the presentation of artists from less-visible regions such as South East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Ahmady also engaged a broader range of institutions to join the consortium, attracting further participation by New York City’s larger network of galleries and museums to host ACAW programs. As a result, since 2008, participating artists from all regions of Asia has dramatically increased while the ACAW consortium has expanded to include the Museum of Modern Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Non-Asia specific galleries participating in ACAW editions have included Sikkema Jenkins, James Cohan, Jack Shainman Gallery, Winkleman Gallery, and many others.

In 2010 a number of New York City consortium members initiated a consortium of institutions in San Francisco, which has presented two ACAW editions in that city since.

Always at the forefront of the scene, ACAW has introduced a generation of emerging artists & art practitioners from Asia in New York, many of whom have become iconic figures in the Asian and the international art scenes.