Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

The reading room and library at Centre A began in 1999 with contributions from artists, researchers, and curators both locally in Vancouver and internationally. The reading room emerged out of the need to collect a body of literature on Asian art practices, and by extension creating transnational ties with international arts communities. Past curators at Centre A have made significant contributions in collecting publications that reflect and engage in conversations concerning contemporary Asian and Asian diasporic art practices, and the artistic relationships between North America and Asia.

Centre A’s reading room includes the Fraser Finlayson Collection of rare books on Classical Chinese and Japanese Art with publications dating back to the late 19th century. Included in the reading room are also recent publications that have been donated by galleries, artists and artists collectives, and curators. In addition, we house monographs, artist ephemera, exhibition catalogues, art criticism writings, and artist’s books that have contributed to the diverse livelihood and possibilities of the reading room as a site of cultural production. Some publications in the reading room include books by Ai Weiwei, Santiago Bose, Yayoi Kusama, Mona Hatoum, Reena Saimi Kallat, as well as other notable artists.

Researchers, curators, artists and art institutions have generously contributed to the reading room to enrich the democratization of literature, the production of knowledge, and maintaining the reading room as an accessible public resource in Vancouver’s Chinatown. At Centre A, we house an array of publications that have been created for public programming initiatives that have engaged Vancouver’s arts community. These publications have been critical in facilitating dialogues and conversations concerning globalization, cultural identity, and the role of the arts under various political conditions.

Access our online database HERE.

Reading Room Activations

In 2020, we are pleased to continue our Reading Room Activations series that was launched in fall 2019, aiming to restate the Reading Room’s role as a site of critical engagement and knowledge sharing, with monthly picks by Centre A’s friends and guests.

What’s On:


“The Centre A Library’s Monthly Picks for November 2021 combines theoretical volumes and exhibition catalogues that span across themes of globalism, migration, and art criticism. OCTOBER: The First Decade, 1976 – 1986 brings together a selection of some of the most important and representative texts of the journal’s first ten years, a period of break-through of the newly established periodical. You can find texts by Rosalind Krauss, Homi Bhabha, or translations of Georges Bataille. Simon Sadler searches for The Situationist City among the detritus of tracts, manifestos, and works of art that the Situationist International (SI) left behind. From 1957 to 1972, SI, the artistic and political movement worked aggressively to subvert the conservative ideology of the Western world. The 7th Gwangju Biennale: Annual Report is an excellent document of the biennale curated by the legendary Okwui Enwezor that gives a snapshot of his revolutionary vision. Para/Site, a leading contemporary art centre in Hong Kong, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and the book from our library, Para/Site 1996 – 2000, can give you a glimpse of how it all started and how the centre has been developing in the first four years after its establishment. Finally, the exhibition catalogue of Kim Sooja, “Conditions of Humanity,” brings you into the world of the contemporary Korean artist and explores themes of migration, feminism, traditions, and contemporaneity, as well as Sooja’s unique aesthetics.”

The November 2021 Monthly Picks are assembled by Centre A’s Curatorial Assistant Intern, Alexandra Tsay.

Past Activations:


“The Centre A Library’s Monthly Picks of October 2021 is inspired by the current exhibition, Revolving: a family tale. The multimedia exhibition revisits the semi-colonial history of the Iranian oil industry by Sona Safaei-Sooreh. The materials chosen from the library in relation to the exhibition explores Iran’s history and the practices of Iranian artists as they navigate between traditions and modernity. Come and explore these tiles at our Reading Room during our gallery hours (Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 6 pm).

In The Promise of Loss: A Contemporary Index of Iran and Safar Voyage: Contemporary Works by Arab, Iranian, and Turkish Artists, and Iranian Contemporary Art, various artists delve into the historical and social context behind the development of both traditional and contemporary Iranian artistic practice while addressing topics such as colonial history, revolution, migration, diasporic identity, and many more. Akbar Nazemi: Unsent Dispatches from the Iranian Revolution, 1978-1979 directly examines the impact of colonialism and imperialism on Iran and the subsequent revolution seen through the lens of the artist in his 2005 exhibition with the same name. Finally, both Archeshir Mohassess: Art and Satire in Iran and Jamelie Hassan’s Smurfstan‘s stylistic approach use humour and a method to address social, cultural and political issues that greatly aligns with the works in the current exhibition.”

The October 2021 Monthly Picks are assembled by Diane Wong, Centre A Library and Exhibitions Assistant. 


“The Monthly Picks of February 2020 aspires to accompany Centre A’s current exhibitions, which has dove into the complex world of the undefined, with books experimenting by swerving in and out various modes of thinking, works unbound by multicultural exposure no longer tethered to geography alone. These books do not give us an easy answer to the awkward, misunderstood and often glazed over the question of “assumed identities.” From a fantastic book of essays centred around Fiona Tan’s imaging works deconstructing and unravelling Third Culture individuals alienated by pre-existing models of cultural identification; Moataz Nasr’s works heavily contextualized by the city of Cairo, simultaneously adopting approaches with an awareness to globalization and hyper-assimilation, as curator Simon Njami describes as “surmounting the trap of essentialism”; investigations into an imaginative world of aging as a woman with Miwa Yanagi in her prolific photo series “My Grandmothers”, accompanied by poems, proses and essays by Harumi Niwa and David Elliot. To supplement group monographs featuring works exploring our work of change in culture, science and technology. 

I hope these readings will provide us with a glimpse into realities present yet shadowed – a look through the lens of those who are products and aftermaths of the dynamics of post-colonial ideologies, and from therein learn to raise questions further than vertical visuality.”

Stephanie Wu is an interdisciplinary maker and thinker who is currently based in Vancouver, BC. She completed her BFA in Photography at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2019 with a complex series of works investigating the ideas of ‘pseudo-space’ and ‘hyper-reality’ within the discursive language of photography, most often manifesting in a diverse material practice including photo-sculpture, installations and curatorial experiments such as Open Source Arts.


Looking back to look forward: Has modernity completely eradicated tradition? How much of the tradition do we acknowledge within our modernity? These questions have been inquired occasionally in Asian art landscapes. One of the main reasons for such inquiry is perhaps because of the intensified transition of the social, cultural, and political milieus throughout the last century. This selection of exhibition catalogues and art history books contemplates how contemporary Asian artists are encountering both tradition and modernity in their art practices. These readings also explore their aesthetic inquiries against the backdrop of tenuous externalities that are constantly evolving even now. These picks initiate new dialogues to locate the tension between old and new, and their convergence and divergence.”

Mohammad Zaki Rezwan is a graduate student at Simon Fraser University, researching South Asian arts. He has been working as a Curatorial Assistant Intern at Centre A since September 2019.


Supported by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council

A program of the Art Book Week by Vancouver Art Book Fair

Chapters Across the Pacific: Zines from Social Movements in Asia is an exhibition that brings Asian artists/activists together, using ‘zines’ as a vessel to transport their experiences and aspirations across the Pacific. The trans-regional dialogue is comprised of over 50 zines from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Macao, drawing attention to topics in freedom, democracy, worker’s rights, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. The selection of zines in this exhibition highlights and investigates the current social and political climate of Asia.

“Zines have long been used as a platform for marginalized voices, not only by fan communities and artists, but also by activists and citizens wanting to express their concerns. Zines are ‘portable ideas’, usually appearing as DIY booklets featuring affordable material and cost-effective printing. They are often not-for-profit, or free to distribute and circulate. Yet their unpolished nature doesn’t diminish their role as a vehicle for sharing ideas and amplifying calls for action.”

Zine Coop is an indie publishing artist collective that promotes zine culture in Hong Kong Since 2017. It provides support for zine-making and distribution, connecting artists with book fairs while serving as a bridge between distributors and potential readers.

Hong Kong Arts Development Council fully supports freedom of artistic expression. The views and opinions expressed in this project do not represent the stand of the Council. Centre A is financially supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver. The content of this project and its associated events does not reflect the views of the Government of Canada and Centre A.


“This selection of monographs and exhibition catalogues of Japanese contemporary artists is centred around the book Consuming Bodies: Sex and Contemporary Asian Art, particularly, on the contributions of Yoshiko Shimada, who addresses the appropriation of traditional art practices by a world-renowned art movement that is deeply embedded in consumerist culture in her a critical examination of the complicity of Japanese soft power campaigns in the obfuscation Japan’s colonial history. These books aims to supplement the reading of this volume, which, through a collection of essays by artists and art historians, examines sex and consumerism in Japanese contemporary art in relation to the history and culture of the country, by illustrating the juxtapositions that it creates of the works that further the aims of the state, employing elements of Japanese culture that are universally celebrated with those that are critical of it, engaging contentious issues in Japanese history.”

Hania Ilahi is a volunteer at Centre A, involved in the construction of its Asian Artist Database. Hania will be graduating in the Spring of 2020 with a double majoring in Art History and Asian Studies from The University of British Columbia.

The reading room is open to the public during gallery hours. Please email [email protected] if you need any additional information, and be advised before you visit that we have a no scent policy.

As an integral part of not only Centre A, but Vancouver’s art community more widely, we would like to ask the community for your ongoing support and contribution to the reading room. Click here to make a donation to the reading room, or visit our volunteer page to sign up as a cataloguer.