New art destinations to explore in the Asia Pacific region


As the holiday season beckons, many culture vultures are packing their bags and planning to visit their choice foreign destinations.

You just might want to go big this year end, and the good news is you don’t have to travel too far.

When it comes to immersing yourself in art and culture while on the move, you can look beyond the standard art galleries, especially in places such as Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, where new museums and art-driven spaces have been introduced this past year.

Why not explore hidden gems in big cities (not always overrated), art in nature (and meet Totoro) or an innovative and unusual art space (like a repurposed WWII fuel facility)?

We have rounded up a few museums, theme parks and public art locations that you can add to your itinerary on your travels.

GHIBLI PARK, NAGAKUTE, AICHI, JAPAN

Ghibli Park, which opened on Nov 1, offers a whimsical, fantastical world created by Studio Ghibli, the people behind beloved anime titles like My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

It might be difficult getting a ticket during these opening months, but this is the place to be if you are a Studio Ghibli fan or a Japanese pop culture fan. Among the many favourites, this theme park in Japan’s Aichi prefecture features a life-size No-Face seated on a train, a fluffy Cat Bus and the cuddly Totoro.

A soft toy of Ghibli caracter 'Totoro' is displayed in a shop at Ghibli's Grand Warehouse of the new Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture, Japan. Photo: AFP A soft toy of Ghibli caracter 'Totoro' is displayed in a shop at Ghibli's Grand Warehouse of the new Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture, Japan. Photo: AFP

Only three of the five planned areas have been opened this month, spread over 7.1ha of the 194ha park where Aichi hosted the 2005 International Expo. So there are more highlights on the way.

At the moment, visitors can check out the Hill of Youth, which is the gateway to the park. It features an elevator tower inspired by several Ghibli films including Castle In The Sky and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Reflecting the emphasis on nature and the great outdoors in Ghibli works, the theme part has large open-air areas, such as in the Dondoko Forest which evokes the peaceful surroundings of My Neighbour Totoro with walking paths and a giant Totoro figure.

People visit 'Satsuki And Mei's House' at the new Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture. Photo: AFP People visit 'Satsuki And Mei's House' at the new Ghibli Park in Nagakute, Aichi prefecture. Photo: AFP

The Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse is set to be a major draw when foreign visitors start arriving, with 14 sets from various Ghibli classics, like an alley from the opening scene of Spirited Away or the red velvet train seat in a carriage where No-Face sits, in the same animated film.

Studio Ghibli also operates the popular Ghibli Museum on the outskirts of Tokyo, which offers tickets at the beginning of each month, regularly selling out within hours.

PALACE MUSEUM, HONG KONG

For the richly historical and the opulent museum experience, you might want to mark this place down in your travel schedule. The Hong Kong Palace Museum, which opened in July this year, presents over 900 priceless treasures from Beijing’s Palace Museum in its inaugural exhibition.

These works of calligraphy and paintings on silk, dating back more than 1,000 years, are housed in a seven-story building in the newly developed harbour area arts district. Many of the artefacts are on long-term loan.

The Hong Kong Palace Museum is a collaborative project between the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Palace Museum in Beijing, a national museum housed in the Forbidden City in China.

Its opening commemorates the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China, after 156 years of British rule in the former colony.

The Hong Kong Palace Museum is a collaborative project between the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Palace Museum in Beijing. Photo: ReutersThe Hong Kong Palace Museum is a collaborative project between the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Palace Museum in Beijing. Photo: Reuters

There are a number of thematic exhibitions at the museum now, including From Dawn To Dusk: Life In The Forbidden City that illustrates the busy and well-regulated court life in the 18th century; Clay To Treasure: Ceramics From The Palace Museum Collection, which surveys China’s ceramic traditions, in particular the technical and aesthetic achievements in the Ming and Qing dynasties; and No Boundaries: Reinterpreting Palace Museum Culture, where six Hong Kong-based multimedia and interdisciplinary artists have created new works and interpreted the art and culture of the Forbidden City from a fresh perspective.

The opening of the Hong Kong Palace Museum commemorated the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China, after 156 years of British rule in the former colony. Photo: ReutersThe opening of the Hong Kong Palace Museum commemorated the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China, after 156 years of British rule in the former colony. Photo: Reuters

No Boundaries is part of the museum’s effort to celebrate the dynamism of Chinese culture and connect time-honoured traditions to the vibrant art scene of modern Hong Kong.

Many of the exhibits in the museum are on display in Hong Kong for the first time. In the long-term, the museum plans to regularly present special exhibitions featuring Chinese art and culture, as well as art from other parts of the world.

ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES' SYDNEY MODERN PROJECT, AUSTRALIA

On Dec 3, the Art Gallery Of New South Wales in Sydney, will open the doors of its new building Sydney Modern Project to the public.

Sydney Modern Project, the largest cultural development of the city since the Sydney Opera House almost half a century ago, is an expansion and revitalisation of the Art Gallery.

The Sydney Modern Project, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa), has almost doubled the exhibition space of the gallery, including new types of spaces for new thinking and new forms of art.

Artist Adrian Villar Rojas at the Tank in the new building at the Art Gallery Of New South Wales. Photo: Mim Stirling/Art Gallery Of New South WalesArtist Adrian Villar Rojas at the Tank in the new building at the Art Gallery Of New South Wales. Photo: Mim Stirling/Art Gallery Of New South Wales

For instance, the Tank, a WWII naval fuel bunker that has been repurposed into an immersive art space on the lowest level of the building. The inaugural commission in the Tank is Argentine-Peruvian artist Adrian Villar Roja’s The End Of Imagination exhibition, a sculptural experiment placed in a strange world of many impossibilities.

It also features a prominent new destination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, moving from the basement of the existing building to the ground level of the new building, the first gallery visitors will encounter when stepping into this expanded space.

Kathrin Longhurst’s 'Irrational' seen at the Archibald Wynne And Sulman Prizes 2022 exhibition at the Art Gallery Of New South Wales. Photo: Felicity Jenkins/Art Gallery Of New South WalesKathrin Longhurst’s 'Irrational' seen at the Archibald Wynne And Sulman Prizes 2022 exhibition at the Art Gallery Of New South Wales. Photo: Felicity Jenkins/Art Gallery Of New South Wales

There is an art garden linking the two buildings, where Wiradyuri and Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones has created an artwork that responds to the site’s history on Gadigal land. His bial gwiyuo (the fire is not yet lighted) artwork is a metaphorical exploration of the Indigenous concept of “country”.

Other commissioned work include Waradgerie artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s Narrbong-galang (many bags) which will fill the wall of the 20m-long loggia of the Yiribana Gallery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art; and Japanese art superstar Yayoi Kusama’s Flowers The Bloom In The Cosmos, an exuberant floral sculpture that will be visible day and night, on the new building’s terrace that overlooks Woolloomooloo Bay.

THE EVERYDAY MUSEUM, SINGAPORE

If you’re into how public spaces can be transformed into art and community destinations, then there is something new across the Causeway to keep in mind.

At Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar Distripark, you can check out the Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) The Everyday Museum, which brings art into shared spaces.

This is a long-term public art initiative presenting art projects and programmes across Singapore to inspire interest and curiosity in art.

With a goal to transform Singapore into an open-air museum and make art accessible to everyone, The Everyday Museum has launched its first series of site-specific public artworks by Ming Wong (Wayang Spaceship); Michael Lee (Creatif Compleks); and Hazel Lim-Schlegel and Andreas Schlegel, in collaboration with Neuewave (The Oort Cloud And The Blue Mountain).

Ming Wong’s 'Wayang Spaceship' is a site-specific installation, which explores Chinese opera and science fiction, is seen at the Everyday Museum in Singapore. Photo: Singapore Art MuseumMing Wong’s 'Wayang Spaceship' is a site-specific installation, which explores Chinese opera and science fiction, is seen at the Everyday Museum in Singapore. Photo: Singapore Art Museum

Wayang Spaceship, a site-specific installation that explores convergences between Chinese opera and science fiction, is presented as a reimagining of a mobile Chinese opera wayang stage. This work contemplates on the human condition and the evolving form of Chinese opera, through the figure of the scholar-warrior, a time-travelling consciousness who traverses memories of the past, present and future.

Creatif Compleks takes the form of a diagram about a hypothetical property development comprising various configurations of the artist’s home/studio. This is the artist’s reflection on the function of the artist’s studio within the arts ecology of a city.

Multimedia artist Michael Lee reflects on the function of the 'studio space' within the arts ecology of a city in Creatif Compleks. Photo: Singapore Art MuseumMultimedia artist Michael Lee reflects on the function of the 'studio space' within the arts ecology of a city in Creatif Compleks. Photo: Singapore Art Museum

Lastly, The Oort Cloud And The Blue Mountain: Edition Tanjong Pagar Distripark refers to Blue Mountain, an early 20th century painting by Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky and the Oort Cloud, an astronomical phenomenon first described in 1950 by Dutch astronomer Jan Oort as an extended shell of icy objects that exist on the outer reaches of our solar system. Pitching the distant Oort Cloud against the tangible state of the Blue Mountain, this work is a nod to the limit of sensing and comprehension.

Wayang Spaceship will be on display until July 2024, while the other two will run until the end of 2023.

“The Everyday Museum embodies SAM’s vision of turning every space into a cultural space, where art encounters in seemingly familiar spaces activate curiosity and imagination, as well as catalyse social interactions and conversations among communities. Our ambition is to have art woven into the fabric of daily life by engaging the public where they reside, through site-specific works and programmes that offer new perspectives on places, people, and society,” says Eugene Tan, director of SAM.

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