Seeking Partnership with Government

by CHEUNG Mei Project Researcher

In major Asian cities, it has been a common phenomenon for young and experimental artists to carry their art projects in the alternative space they established. Among the participants of this conference, Cemeti Art House from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Big Sky Mind from Manila, Philippine, and Loop from Seoul, Korea, are names for the first time appeared on the list of cultural exchange programs conducting in Hong Kong. The visibility of these art spaces indicates also the uprising position of Asian cities in contemporary art world. In the conference we also find alternative spaces from cities that had already developed strong ties with Hong Kong in terms of cultural exchange. They are C.A.P. from Kobe and Ichi Ikeda Art Project from Kawagawa, Japan, Substation from Singapore, Bamboo Curtain Studio from Taipei, Comuna de Pedra from Macau, USEby from Melbourne, Australia, Beijing Artist Storehouse from Beijing and BizArt from Shanghai, mainland China.

Through the organization of this conference, an Asian network of alternative spaces had been formed. Also in this conference a conversation between Asian and Western participants, namely Mercer Union from Toronto, Canada, Trans Europe Halles and Mains D’Oeuvres from Paris, France, Betti-Sue Hertz from San Diego and New York, U.S., is invited. Undoubtedly there is a big difference between Asian and Western in the development of alternative art space. Alternative art space in the West appears in the speech of Betti-Sue Hertz, one of our panel speakers, as an art movement last for half a century in the U.S.; for Trans Europe folks it means 27 members in 19 countries, while alternative art space in Asian is still trying its steps. Alternative art space in Asia was emerged from a totally different soil to their Western counterparts and echoes different needs of artists.

Except Ichi Ikeda Art Project and Cemeti Art House Most Asian alternative spaces participating here were formed in the second half of the 1990s, the last two years specifically. They are not connected to the long history of the Western development. In stead of being a strategic counter force of the institutionalization of the art world, the development of alternative spaces in Asia is mainly a direct response to artists’ artistic needs. These spaces are practical rather than tactical.

According to the questionnaires answered by our Asian participants, the most immediate problem they are facing is lack of stable source of resources. Without a mature art market and a culture of active corporate sponsor in Asian Cities, government support is important to the survival of alternative spaces. The long-term relationship with government that alternative spaces seek to develop can be defined as a partnership between the two. How to deal with the government has become one of the major agenda of alternative space. Below we list out information provided by Asian participants on government relating structure of their city as a reference for the discussion in the conference.

Melbourne, Australia

Federal: Australia Council
State: Arts Victoria
Local: City of Melbourne
Providing funding only on project basis, the 3-level government structure, according to Danny Huppatz, representative of USEby, is criticized by art communities in Melbourne for not giving long term support to artists and art organizations. Most of alternative spaces in Melbourne enjoy very short life span. Mostly, alternative space is founded for a specific project. When the funding for the project was exhausted, the space gone.

Kawagawa, Kobe, Japan

Japan Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Relation
Japan Arts Fund, Agency for Cultural Affairs

Japan Foundation was founded in 1972 and aims at promoting cultural exchange. Japan Arts Fund was founded in 1990 and the annual budget for it is 61.2 billions Yen. It is a funding agency supporting various kinds of art activities. In private sector, Association for Corporate Support for the Art was founded in 1990 and aims at promoting the culture of corporate sponsor in art activities. In Kobe, Cultural Promotion Division of Citizen Service Bureau promotes art activities at city level. The city government had also set up a funding agency Kobe Citizen’s Culture Promotion Foundation.

Manila, Philippine

There is only one government body, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), dedicated to the arts in Manila. The NCCA operates directly under the President’s Office. According to Big Mind Sky, the Commission has been heavily criticized for not being able to reach out to artists and also for its lack of understanding of the real needs of artists. It is also difficult to get funding for NCCA unless the project is in accordance with "national interest".

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

According to Cemeti Art House, each region in Indonesia has its own cultural centre, including mainly a theater/ music hall, and a gallery space, supported by the Ministry of Art and Culture. The Ministry’s support to art and culture are mainly through the management of those cultural centers. There is no funding agency in Indonesia.


Cultural Institute is the major government body relating to art and culture. Under the administration of the Institute are the Cultural Events Department, Macao Chamber Orchestra, Macao Chinese Orchestra, Cultural Heritage Department, Studies, Research & Publication Division, Macao Conservatory, Macao Central Library, Macao Historical Archives, Macao Museum and Performance Classification Committee. The Cultural Events Department is responsible for organizing cultural activities and providing annual grant for cultural association. Besides the Cultural Institute, the Provisional Municipal Council is also responsible for providing funding but on project basis and managing the Macao Art Museum and Macao Cultural Center.

Seoul, Korea

Ministry of Culture and Tourism is the major government body relating to art and culture in Korea. National Theater, National Modern Art Gallery, Art Center, National Museum and Korean Culture and Arts Foundation are under its administration. Korean Culture and Arts Foundation is the major funding agency. It accepts applications for support of both programming and administration. It also manages cultural centers, including Fine Art Center, Art Information Center, Stage Art, and so on. Ministry of Culture and Tourism also accepts proposals for funding. In recent year, it offers a fix amount of budget specifically for supporting alternative spaces. It also manages Insa Art Space, a government-run space sharing same characteristics of alternative space.

Modified on Tuesday 27 July 2004