This essay positions the rapidly changing field of contemporary art in Southeast Asia, and the shifting structure, dynamics and influence of the region’s contemporary ‘art worlds’ and ‘art publics’. It seeks to open up new horizons and frameworks for understanding the particular character of art worlds and art publics in Southeast Asia by being especially attuned to the local contexts and histories of contemporary art in the region and their particular ecologies. We contend that while contemporary art worlds and art publics in Southeast Asia might bear similar structures and dynamics to contemporary art worlds and publics elsewhere, they are nevertheless indicative of culturally specific and localised developments. Indeed, the various past and present practices and mediation of art and its publics in the region are suggestive of the ways in which art worlds take on nuanced character and meaning in Southeast Asia, are diversely configured and imagined, and are multiply located and complexly interconnected. The worldliness of these practices are, moreover, indicative of the ways in which Southeast Asian artists continue to respond to the exigencies of the everyday and the political economy of survival in an increasingly challenging world.