Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 21 January 2013

The success of the Art Taipei 2012 confirmed Taiwan’s growing influence as a contemporary art hub. It also highlighted Taiwans background as the cultural cross-road of Asia, connecting as different realities as China, the South-Pacific area, and the Middle  East.

The Gateway to Asia

When considering Taiwanese culture and society, one cannot fail to notice how Taiwan’s place on the World’s map has determined  its fate in history.

A Crossroad, a Gateway, a Meeting Place: all definitions that apply to this “Kingdom of High Mountains”, emerging from the clash between gigantic  continental plaques to stand as bridge connecting the powerful northern empires of  China, Japan, Korea, and the kaleidoscopic world of South Pacific.[1]

In time, people from the West reached Taiwan to trade, preach, or invade: the island’s destiny being manifested in the many names given to it: Liuqiu, Takasago, Formosa, and finally Taiwan.[2]

Like all crossroads, Taiwan was a theatre for wars, conflict and invasions. At the same time, on its shores peoples and ideas met, blended, and evolved creating a unique environment. It is remarkable that none of actors involved in Taiwanese history was ever passive: cultural evolution went side by side with industry, creativity, and exchange, be it of goods or ideas.[3]

Today, Taiwan’s fate is reflected in its multicultural society, and its thriving cultural industry.

The rise of Asia as the World’s first art market is prompting  Taiwan to invest into initiatives exploiting its position as the cultural crossroad of Asia-Pacific.

Many factors favour  the Taiwanese endeavour: while the country shares a strong bound with China, the different political climate permits to artists and scholars to engage into aesthetic and social critique.

Taiwan’s vivacious and innovative environment  attracts collectors and investors,  who see this island in the hearth of East Asia as a cultural laboratory where ideas and artists coming from China and the emerging countries of South Pacific can be appraised and promoted.

With the 50% of the population under 30, in Taiwan Cultural industry goes hand in hand with education.

Cities like Taipei, Tainan or Kaohsiung hosts prestigious universities and world famous museums like the Taiwan National Palace Museum or the MOCA.

Taipei is also the venue of various cultural events with an international resonance as the Digital Art Festival and the Taipei Arts Festival.[4]

Public participation is seen as necessary to develop  a specific Taiwanese discourse on art, focusing on humanizing high art, bringing it closer to the public, transforming it into a channel to convey and share personal histories and emotions. [5]

Explaining and sharing, a necessity springing out from the multicultural background of Taiwan, is now turning into an advantage as the rise of the Asian art market requires artists, dealers, and collectors to engage into dialogue and education.

Speakers SO Jin Su, Kerimcan GÜLERYÜZ and KEONG Ruoh Ling having their open dicussion
with the moderator, Jimmy LU,after the "Market Report" session. (Courtesy 2012ATF)

The Ups and Downs of Asia’s ascent

The success of Art Taipei 2012 (9 – 12 November 2012), providing a showcase for World famous artists as well as young Taiwanese and Aboriginal artists,[6]confirms the soundness of the Taiwanese approach to cultural promotion.[7]

The fair also offered to art market researchers, representatives of Asia’ top art galleries, and scholars the opportunity to meet and discuss the rise of an Asian market for contemporary art, and the consequent possibility to found a common Asian discourse on contemporary art.[8]

The Art Taipei Forum 2012 was organized by the Taiwan Art Economy Research Centre, a research body under Taiwan Art Gallery Association. The 2012 edition saw the participation of art experts and dealers from China, Korea, Hong Kong, and Germany. The presence of speakers from Turkey, Dubai, and Iran confirmed the cultural link between Taiwan and the Middle East Art market.

The forum opened with a discussion on the current Asian attitude toward art and the art market.

The debate was conducted by two renowned scholars: Ms. Hsieh Su-Chen, director of Today Art Museum , Beijing [9] and Professor Victoria Lu, one of Asia’s most prominent art critiques and curators, serving as curator at Shanghai MOCA as well as teacher  at Shih Chien University in Taipei.[10]

Ms. Hsieh explained how the growth of contemporary art market in Asia is offering to artists and academics the possibility to get free from Western cultural canons.

However, the lack of a well defined sociology of the arts is slowing down the emancipation process.

Moreover, the recent economic  boom has lead to a subversion of the “art pyramid”, whereas an artist’s success on the art market is now employed as a meter to assess artistic value.

According to Ms. Hsieh, history of art has been replaced by history of market.

The consequence it that even governments tend to look at art market trends when it comes to allocate funds.

Such a “market-subservient” attitude is preventing  the development of effective cultural policies nurturing Asian talents and cultural values.

For example, China has not yet developed a consistent donation policy: collectors do not obtain taxation benefits when they donate artworks to public institutions.

Moreover, while Chinese museums and art-centres are endowed with generous portions of land, they must repay the loan with huge financial profits.

As a consequence, cultural industry (art museums side-products and services) tends to replace cultural production, design and creativity are give prominence over fine arts.

03 professor-SO-Jin-Su2012ATF Market-ReportWhile the tumultuous economic growth is bringing China to become the world biggest producer and consumer of art, young artists and innovative art dealers must struggle for visibility.

Rather than leaving patronage once again to Western collectors and organizations, Asian countries should work together to apply a common strategy for the protection and promotion of art.[11]

Ms. Hsieh’ stance was corroborated by Professor Victoria Lu, who  stressed the value of Asian collectors’ criteria, seen as complementary and opposed to Western culture:  the appreciation of fine craftsmanship opposed to “Damien Hirst phenomena”,  and the love for traditional themes and motifs counterbalancing the Western myth of innovation.[12]

The mission of Taiwan as cultural mediator and  model for Asian partners was examined during the discussion.  Both speakers defined Taiwan as the ideal partner of China in the effort of forming a new generation of cultural professionals. The Taiwanese’s educated mind-set could prove beneficial  to the Chinese art market, helping  young artists as well as collectors to develop a responsible approach to art.[13]

In particular, the role of the Art Taipei as a showcase  for the whole Asia-Pacific region was examined by Professor So Jinsu,[14] President of the Art Market Research Institute of Korea. (See photo above)

While analyzing the trends of Asian Cultural Economy, Professor So confirmed the status of Taiwan as the most popular art fair venue in Asia. 

The reason of such a success is Taiwan’s traditional role as a bridge connecting the two “sides” of Asia: the affluent art markets of China, Japan and Hong Kong  and the emerging realities of India, South Pacific, and South East Asia.

Taiwan’s art market and cultural scene have been also benefiting from  the growing presence of artists and art galleries from the Middle-East and the Arabic Peninsula.[15]

As to confirm this, the Art Taipei Forum 2012 was chosen to present the Empire Project, an Istanbul-based initiative promoting contemporary art in those countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire. [16]

At the Cross-Road of Future

The second day of the Art Taipei Forum, the discussion focus shifted on the newest developments in art, bestowing an active role on collectors, and the necessity to employ galleries as new learning spaces.

Mr. Escher Tsai, Director of Dimension+, Mr. Wolf Lieser, Director of the Digital Art Museum in Berlin, and Mr. Nicholas Chang, General Manager of D2C Taiwan, discussed the rise of digital art and its impact on the collecting and the art market.[17]

The speakers agreed the digital media is going to transform the very essence of the creative process, permitting to express all forms of art (music, literature, visual art) through a common carrier: a digital code and a computer device.

Art is becoming “soft”: the smart-phone replaces the workshop and the gallery, communication replaces creation.

While this opens a new world of possibilities for artists and promoters, art dealers and collectors will be forced to re-invent their role. In the specific, it will be necessary to revise marketing policies concerning copyright and sales, as a generated digital code loses its uniqueness (and its market value) once is copied.

Again, Taiwan has the opportunity to be at the forefront of art marketing innovation.

With a thriving computer industry and an established community of digital artists[18], Taiwan offers the ideal environment  to art professionals, educators and policy-makers  working to set common guidelines for the new media art market.

Taiwanese institutions could also take advantage of their close ties with art galleries in the Middle East, that have already  adopted a new marketing strategy, focused on education and the collectors’ direct engagement in the promotion and protection of art.

Mr. Arash Amir Azodi, former Art Director of RIRA Gallery in Dubai[19], identified the capacity to combine marketing with education as the key quality determining the success of contemporary art dealers. In the same way, Mr. Haro Cumbusyan, Director of Istanbul Collector-space[20], presented  the future model for contemporary art galleries. Rather than being just showcases for big names,  art galleries will serve also as exhibition spaces for private collections. Art dealers will be called to expand their role, becoming cultural promoters encouraging the public to learn more about art before buying. The ultimate goal is to form a new generation of collectors, more discerning and educated, who will  provide patronage to young artists.

The soundness of the new Asian Line Asian Main Line discussed in the Forum seemed to be confirmed while walking through the Fair stands: huge crowds of Taiwanese as well as foreign visitors, collectors, students, and young families. All different, all enjoying art and wishing to see and learn more.

The very fact that contemporary art could attract a vast, popular audience speaks volumes about the potential and energy of the Asian cultural milieu.

Even more, the success of the Art Taipei 2012 underlines Taiwan’s potential to attract culture and business alike, turning into a truly international creative hub.

Asia and South-Pacific are entering the 21st century with a new awareness of their cultural potential, Taiwan is called, once again, to stand at the centre, connecting and supporting all actors coming into the scene: as a stage, a bridge, a meeting  point where thoughts, feelings, and stories converge to be told, shared, and sent forth into the future.

(All photos courtesy of 2012ATF)


 

[1] Li-Cheng Lu, Hsueh-Yi Chien, and Chen Ming-Ta, (eds.) Our Land, Our People: The Story of Taiwan (Taipei, 2012) p.33

[2] Li-Cheng Lu, Hsueh-Yi Chien, and Chen Ming-Ta, (eds.) Our Land, Our People: The Story of Taiwan (Taipei, 2012) p.33

[3] Li-Cheng Lu, Hsueh-Yi Chien, and Chen Ming-Ta, (eds.) Our Land, Our People: The Story of Taiwan (Taipei, 2012) p.54

 

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