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The Sydney Asian Art Series


The Sydney Asian Art Series presents leading international voices on early, modern and contemporary Asian art.

The images of intense urbanisation that commonly depict contemporary life in China, India or Southeast Asia, for example, easily obscure the fact that most of the largest, most cosmopolitan and prosperous urban centres globally have historically been Asian. From Isfahan to Edo, Kaifeng to Kolkata—cities have been major subjects, patrons and audiences for all fields of art. Indeed, the arts are part of the very fabric of urban life. In 2019, four speakers will explore the intersection of art, film and architecture in a range of Asian cities, historical and contemporary, considering urban spaces as sites of taste-making and sensorial plenty, as models for imagined futures, as vessels for us to recognise shared pasts, and as stages for the formation of political identities.


Seeing Taste: Art, Cuisine and Urbanity in Safavid Persia/Iran

Sussan Babaie (The Courtauld Institute, University of London)

In the context of Isfahan, the capital city of the Safavid dynasty, Sussan Babaie examines the intersection of visual and gustatory experience as a self-aware obsession with ‘taste’, evidenced by works of art and historical cookery.

  • 6:00 – 7:30pm, Thursday 28 March 2019
  • Law School Foyer, University of Sydney Law School, Camperdown NSW 2006 


Kolkata ‘Rising’: The Politics of Place in Recent Bengali Cinema

Malini Guha (Carleton University)

In May, Malini Guha considers how location shooting in recent films set in the city of Kolkata goes beyond documentation to reveal the aspirations, desires and anxieties concerning the city’s global future.

  • Time and date: 6-7:30pm, Tuesday 21 May 2019
  • Location: F23 Administration Building, The University of Sydney, Camperdown NSW 2006


A History of Japanese Photography: Images of the City after Disaster

Yasufumi Nakamori (Tate Modern)

In August, Yasufumi Nakamori will present a lecture at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Nakamori is Senior Curator, International Art (Photography) at the Tate Modern.

  • Time and date: 2-3:30pm, Saturday 24 August 2019
  • Location: Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2000


Displaying Reform: Exhibitionary Architecture and the Early Reform Era in the People’s Republic of China

Cole Roskam (University of Hong Kong)

In September, Cole Roskam will explore how a history of exhibitionary architecture that starts in the 1970s in China and abroad contributed to the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to reposition itself relative to the world at large, through the redefinition of urban spaces.

  • Time and date: 6-7:30pm, Wednesday 18 September 2019
  • Location: Law School Foyer, The University of Sydney Law School, Camperdown NSW 2006


Presented by

This series of talks and events is co-presented by the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, The Power Institute, and VisAsia, with support from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Sydney Ideas. Originating in and celebrating the very latest and best scholarship in Asian art from around the world, this initiative complements the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ innovative exhibition program in Asian art, and the University of Sydney’s region-leading programs in the arts and cultures of Asia.


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Past Events 2019: ‘Art and Urban Cultures’







Lecture: Seeing Taste: Art, Cuisine and Urbanity in Safavid Persia/Iran

Sussan Babaie | Andrew W. Mellon Reader in the Arts of Iran and Islam, The Courtauld Institute, University of London

When | Thursday 28 March, 2019, 6pm
Where | Law School Foyer, University of Sydney

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Lecture: Kolkata ‘Rising’: The Politics of Place in Recent Bengali Cinema

Malini Guha | Associate Professor of Film Studies, Carleton University

When | Tuesday 21 May, 2019, 6pm
Where | University of Sydney

Watch the VIDEO



Tribute screening: Interview (1970) by Mrinal Sen

The film will be introduced by a leading scholar of Bengali cinema, Malini Guha.

When | Wednesday 22 May, 2019, 7.15pm
Where | Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of NSW






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The Shogun’s Silver Telescope: Art in the First English Encounters with Japan, 1611-1616

Timon Screech, Professor of the History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),University of London





Boxes Fit for Kings: Aromatic Gifts around the Late-Seventeenth- and Early-Eighteenth-Century Indian Ocean

Nancy Um, Professor in the Department of Art History at Binghamton University









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