A subtropical island balancing between hi-tech industrialization and ancient tradition, Taiwan has seen phenomenal progress in the late 20th century – and the arts were no exception. Revealing one of Asia’s best kept art secrets, we seek out Taipei’s best contemporary galleries, proving that the Taiwanese capital is a booming and fascinating creative centre.
With only five years under its belt, Gallery 100 has managed to cause a sensation in the local art scene. It often organises themed exhibitions, where established and up-and-coming talent comes together in a heterogeneous and vibrant mosaic which can include everything from the distinctly Chinese poetry, calligraphy and painting of Chiang Hsun to the structuralist sculptures of Szumin Kuo, via the surrealist Neo-Japanese snapshots of Araki Nobuyoshi.
A fairly new space, since opening in 2011 Galleria H. has sought to add forward-looking pieces to the artistic puzzle. Despite representing a fair amount of young Taiwanese artists, the gallery is more concerned with work that constructively interacts with the present, laying down the steps for the future to move forward, than any particular geographical affiliations. Among its roster are abstract painter Sheau-Ming Song and his minimalist, muted palette, and visual experimentalist Kun-Feng Chen, who blurs reality with saturated colours, in the spiritual crossroads between painting, photography and new media.
With three decades of existence already behind it, the Asia Art Center has by now spread its wings towards Beijing and Singapore, as well as establishing a second Taipei branch. On the way, it has promoted its philosophy; that drawing from the rich Asian heritage is a vital step towards future evolution. Naturally, in appearance, works like Liao Yuan’s marginal cartoon-y characters, Li Hui’s laser and metal artworks, or Chen Wenling’s psychologically disturbed sculptures, have nothing to do with Asian legacy – but they all found a place in the Center’s tight-knit community. Persevering through many obstacles, the Center is committed to supporting its artists, and creating, as a result, monumental shows like Greatness of Spirit: Li Chen Premiere Sculpture Exhibition in Taiwan –probably the region’s most ambitious open-air sculpture exhibition to date.
Taking its name from the year photography was invented, 1839 Gallery, Little Gallery and Little Shop are a united trio dedicated to bringing great photography to a wider public. The team is passionate about connecting emerging Taiwanese artists with the world, through both local and foreign fairs, exhibitions and open calls. It also consistently provokes cultural dialogue with international talent, through various programs of exchange. In the shop, books on Ansel Adam’s serene black and white landscapes sit alongside Diane Arbus’ unusually commercial magazine work, while at the Little Gallery the latest exhibitions of up-and-coming photographers, such as Chie Murakami’s ‘Japanese Girls’ exhibition, provoke reflection and debate.
Whether freely depicting local artistic vision, or exchanging ideas with international institutions and connoisseurs, both the Tina Keng Gallery and the TKG+ creative platform welcome all things related to Asian art. Photography, installation, painting or mixed media, modernist or historically-minded; the types of expression within Tina Keng are many and varied. From established Chinese painters Zao Wou-Ki and Lin Fengmian, to pioneering local media artist Yuan Goang-Ming, and other young talent experimenting with the Taiwanese quotidian, the gallery’s generous space, in Taipei’s Neihu District, sets the stage for a dynamic regional artistic presence into the 21st century.
Forming an intriguing new art district in the vicinity of the Taipei Fine Art Museum, Aki Gallery focuses on emerging contemporary artists from around the globe. As member of the Taiwan Contemporary Art Link (TACL), an international marketing platform for local artists, it joins three other Taipei galleries, focused on the promotion of new Taiwanese artists for greater strength and visibility. TACL this year also organised the first Contemporary Hotel Art Fair, ‘Young Art Taipei’ (YAT), which promoted artists under 45. That is how Lian Yu-Pei’s porcelain oddities and Lee Chen-Dao’s feisty, colourful girl paintings found a platform to prove their strengths to the world.
Two floors of exhibition space open up to all forms of Contemporary Chinese Art at Ping Art Space, which combines unique art with a distinct surrounding lifestyle. A large supporter of young talent with an original vision, the gallery’s director Hsu Chih-Ping backs up artists he believes in with both exhibitions and high-quality publications, propelling them towards international recognition. Shichinohe Masaru’s highly imaginative children paintings meet with Ren Zhe’s mythical bronze sculptures and the ironic pop blends of KEA in an unlikely mix that is both inspired by Chinese legacy and pop madness.
The team of the Fish Art Center uses creativity in ways to colour and inspire everyday reality. Representing only a handful of artists, it also aims to build bridges with international creative talent and galleries with a true passion for art. Represented artist Huang Mingchun established red, yellow and green as the primary colours of light, bringing up different mixtures of blue straight on the canvas; two of his paintings, The Return of Grace and Come On!, have been purchased by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. Lin Chiahung’s unsmiling children paintings, on the other hand, have won great acclaim (plus an entry to the museum’s collections), by inviting us to see, with their gloomy eyes, ‘Beneath the Aloofness’.
Initially focusing on modern art, Galerie Grand Siècle has concentrated, in time, on Taiwanese contemporary work, with an emphasis on new media. Taking its artists to fairs from Barcelona to Miami and Cologne, it has had a consistent international presence for years. As a result, young photographers like Ting Ting Cheng, whose work revolves around the concept of foreignness and life in the margins, have found their way into international acclaim, as well as a place in several private collections.
Right in the heart of Taipei’s emerging cultural community, J. Chen is one of the latest additions in the promotional arena for Asian Contemporary art. Its roster has already expanded from local creative talents, to artists from Singapore and Japan. With exhibitions like A New Form of Material Revolution from Contemporary Artists like the inventive Hung Shiaopei, to the humorous, flamboyant designs of the Singaporean collective PHUNK and Yayoi Kusama’s Silkscreen on Canvas, J. Chen is set to bring new rules to the Taiwanese art game.