by Stephanie Bailey

Why not simply posit modernity as the new historical situation, modernization as the process whereby we get there, and modernism as a reaction to that situation and that process alike, a reaction that can be aesthetic and philosophico-ideological, just as it can be negative as well as positive? —Fredric Jameson

In March 2017, I held a talk within the frame of the 11th Global Art Forum at Art Dubai that was written in response to the forum’s theme, ‘Trading Places,’ which considered the history of trade and its cultural impacts from the context in which the forum was being held: an art fair. A work in progress, this is a reworked, extended and at times corrected version of that talk: a condensed introduction to my ongoing study of the global network of art fairs and biennials as a microcosm of the art world industrial complex through which the processes of globalization and its affects might be observed.

But before I go further, I wanted to start by introducing myself. I was born in Hong Kong a year before the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, which ensured the return of the city to China in 1997 after the territory was ceded to Britain in the mid-nineteenth century as a result of the first Opium War—a conflict that expressed the British Empire’s thirst for Chinese markets. On paper, I am half-British, half-Chinese—a child of empire, and a hybrid product of a violent history in which trade forms a central plotline. This condition was the subject of an issue of LEAP magazine that I guest edited in 2016, which considered art after identity politics in the 21st century, when cultural hybridity and historical complexity have come to define people on personal and collective levels—a complexity that, as Anders Kreuger and Nav Haq have noted, the art world is not always capable of handling, despite it being a space of transcultural exchange where hybrid bodies intermingle.[