In this article, we discuss the importance of supporting Asian Canadian artists and opening a space for reflection on Canadian ethnocultural diversity and its representation in the art scene.


This question, central to Artasiam's mission, must be addressed. To do so, we must go back in time to better understand the origin of the project and its challenges. As far back as I can remember, I have always been passionate about Asian art and culture. During my studies in Paris on art market and cultural mediation, I naturally specialized in Asian art. Consequently, I did several internships in Asian art galleries and at the Cernuschi Museum (Museum of Asian Arts of the City of Paris). I had a wide choice when it came to finding an internship in this field. I, too, wanted to help promote Asian art in France, but the Asian art scene vastly developed there, both in terms of museums, art galleries and cultural centres. Since  2015, there has even been an art fair dedicated to it, Asia Now: Paris Asian Art Fair.


I arrived in Montreal in 2013 for my master's degree at the Centre for East Asian Studies (CETASE) at the University of Montreal. I wanted to discover all this effervescence around Asian art that I had experienced in Paris, but to my surprise I discovered that there were no museums or art galleries dedicated to it in Quebec. Admittedly, there is the Festival Accès Asie which strongly contributes to highlighting Asian Canadian artists' talents, but there is not really a structure in place to focus on their promotion on an annual basis. And yet, Asian communities are quite large in Quebec and contribute to the province's ethnocultural diversity. A seed germinated in my mind: “if there is not much on Asian art here, then there is everything to do.”


Numbers are there to support my line of thought. From 2017 to 2019, 63.5% of newcomers to Canada were born in Asia (including the Middle East). According to the most recent statistics (2016), 6,095,235 people in Canada are of Asian origin – 17.7% of the total population [1]. Immigration contributes, without a doubt, to the ethnocultural diversity of Canada, but we must showcase it, make their talents shine. And apart from the Asian Heritage Month, they must be given a space of visibility throughout the year.


Artists of Asian origin do not begin their careers with the same privileges, whether they are immigrants, racialized or identified as a visible minority. They may find themselves facing challenges that white Canadian artists will not encounter in their careers. There are still many systemic obstacles and the cultural milieu is no exception to the rule: there are few opportunities for the so-called diversity artists, and they do not have access to the same resources – especially if they are newcomers. This leads to a vicious circle where racialized artists have few opportunities, are not represented on the artistic scene and are less involved, held back from doing things by telling themselves that it is not for them. 


At Artasiam, what we want is to offer a space for self-expression for Asian Canadian artists, to promote and support them. Not purely showcasing Asian art, but art made by Asian Canadian artists. There is a difference. We want to fight stereotypes about what Asian art is or should be (read our article, “What is Asian Art?”). No, this art does not necessarily have to demonstrate a strong aesthetic identity linking it to its heritage. Some artists are inspired by it while others are not, it is their choice. It is not because one is of Asian origin that one should make art labelled as “Asian.” We stand by our position, and this is visible throughout Artasiam platform. Art made by Asian Canadian artists is rich and varied, and it is its different facets that we wish to show, far from all stereotypes.


What is important today is to create a community of Asian Canadian artists; to devote a platform entirely dedicated to them to fight stereotypes on Asian art; to instigate change on the Canadian artistic scene, and above all, to support them in their careers. It is not only during the Asian Heritage Month that we should celebrate, offer visibility and promote Asian Canadian artists, but all year round.


It is by starting with simple things, like Artasiam, that we can bring on change, together.

 

Footnotes

[1] “Asian Heritage Month… by the numbers”, 2021-05-06, Statcan : https://www.statcan.gc.ca/en/dai/smr08/2021/smr08_250

[2] Many scholarships or grants are still intended only for Canadian citizens or permanent residents, which considerably reduces their chances of obtaining financial support to develop their career.

Abstract Art Collection

Marilen Samuels, Nurturing, 2021

Regular
$200.00
Sale
$200.00
Regular
Sold Out
Unit Price
per 

Deloris Chen, Earth, 2019

Regular
$550.00
Sale
$550.00
Regular
Sold Out
Unit Price
per 

Seema Akhtar, La vie en rose, 2021

Regular
$200.00
Sale
$200.00
Regular
Sold Out
Unit Price
per 

Cherie Leung, Away we go, 2020

Regular
$235.00
Sale
$235.00
Regular
Sold Out
Unit Price
per 

Helen Tran, Where In What Form?, 2019

Regular
$180.00
Sale
$180.00
Regular
Sold Out
Unit Price
per