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Half-Blue 2013 | © Wen Hsin
Half-Blue 2013 | © Wen Hsin

Taiwan Hosts Asia's First Major LGBTQ Exhibition

Picture of Ciaran McEneaney
Updated: 12 September 2017

When Taiwan’s high court ruled that its current marriage laws were unconstitutional and that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, the world’s media brought the island nation into the spotlight. Another groundbreaking event looks set to do the same. From September 5 to November 5 of this year, Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art will host Asia’s first major LGBTQ art exhibition.

To the casual observer, it would be easy to connect the two, but the fact is that “Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now” is an exhibition that was more than two years in the making.

Co-presented by Sunpride Foundation (a not-for-profit organization that promotes art from both the LGBTQ community and those connected to it), the exhibition will feature 50 works by 22 ethnically Chinese artists from across the globe such as Jimmy Ong, Wu Tsang, Samson Young, and Taiwan’s own Wen Hsin.

The Room at the Top of the Stairs 1983 | © Fu-Sheng Ku

Sunpride founder Patrick Sun maintains however that regardless of this being a decidedly global coming together of artists, Taiwan and Taipei, in particular, was always the first choice to host the exhibition. As one of Asia’s most socially progressive nations, Taiwan was an easy choice, and the recent high court ruling has only highlighted what a good decision this was.

Ferocactus Peninsulae V. Viscainensis 1997-98 | © Martin Wong

This unprecedented exhibition heralds the dawn of a new era for the LGBTQ community throughout the region as it signifies a breaking of the current status quo of quiet tolerance with no actual rights.

Indeed, as the first major exhibition of its kind in all of Asia, there’s a definite sense of pride in the Taiwanese LBGTQ community. Not only does their judicial system protect them, as evident by the high court ruling in May, but their government supports their right to express themselves freely. An enviable position to find themselves in and a beacon of hope for those less fortunate.

Man Hole 2014-2016 | © Chun-Ming Hou

Sun feels that having the exhibition held in a public institution is incredibly important. According to the Sunpride founder not only is it a massive vote of confidence by the Taiwanese government in the LGBTQ community but it also opens the exhibition to a broader audience.

Curator Sean Hu, a local LGBTQ rights activist, points out that the importance of the exhibition being held in a government museum should not be understated. He said “Being accepted by the government, we’re more influential to the whole of society in promoting LGBTQ issues. We also wanted to push the government to further protect equal rights.”

Timed perfectly to coincide with both Taipei Pride (Asia’s largest gay pride parade) and Art Taipei (Asia’s oldest art fair) there’s a quiet confidence that the exhibition will be nothing less than a resounding success. But Sun won’t stop there. He has plans to bring the exhibition on the road and feels that his hometown of Hong Kong is more than ready for such an important event.

Hu also feels that countries such as Korea and Japan will be great hosts for the exhibition while bringing it to China and Thailand may help the local LGBTQ communities there, and artists, in particular, break new ground giving them a voice that has until now fallen on deaf ears.

Buck of Freedom 2015 | © Shih-Pin Hsi

It’s a testament to the change that Taiwan has undergone in recent years that it is now seen as the shining example in a continent still stuck in the doldrums when it comes to LGBTQ rights. There aren’t many in Taiwan that would have expected such an exhibition to take place on these shores but thanks to the help and vision of pioneers such as Sun and Hu, the local LGBTQ community now has another ‘first in Asia’ moment to take pride in.

Museum of Contemporary Art, No. 39, Chang’an West Road, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103