Two overlooked Asian artists who left a mark on Modern British art celebrated with UK exhibitions

This article was first published by the Art Newspaper.

In 1989 the artist Rasheed Araeen issued a challenge to the British art establishment in the form of an exhibition. The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain at London’s Hayward Gallery featured 24 artists of Asian, African or Caribbean heritage (including Karachi-born Araeen) who had made careers in the UK but were still, he contended, racially excluded from the “citadel of Modernism”. Leading newspaper critics were sceptical, even scornful, with one concluding: “For the moment, the work of Afro-Asian artists in the west is no more than a curiosity, not yet worth even a footnote in any history of 20th-century western art.”

Today is another story. Two bastions of Modern British art are now devoting exhibitions to diasporic artists who were connected, in different ways, to The Other Story exhibition: Li Yuan-chia (1929-94) at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge and Kim Lim (1936-97) at the Hepworth Wakefield.