|A midsummer visit to Art Taipei is an annual event for many Taiwanese. Contemporary Japanese artworks with anime and manga as their subjects are especially popular. (photo by Chuang Kung-ju)
In the wake of a nationwide design craze, Taiwan is now entering an era of art mania. As Art Taipei entered its 18th season this year, the time-honored exposition joined expos in Hong Kong and Seoul as one of Asia's Big Three art exhibitions.
The numbers tell the story. Art Taipei 2011 broke many records this August: with over 700 artists and more than 3,000 artworks from 66 countries and 127 art galleries featured, the number of visits jumped from 40,000 in 2010 to 45,000 this year, and total transaction volume increased sharply from last year's NT$450 million.
At this year's Art Taipei expo, renowned Taiwanese artists including Tsong Pu and Lee Min-jong turned out in force, and celebrities like film director Tsai Ming-liang and designer Aaron Nieh came to pore over the exhibits.
Works of contemporary art have fetched a pretty penny at international auctions in recent years, and growing numbers of amateur and professional collectors is a global phenomenon, so it's more important now to understand how to turn contemporary art collection into a bona fide lifestyle. What makes Art Taipei 2011 different from prior years is its "One Love, One Art!" theme, aiming to shed itself of the pandemonium of art speculation and refocus art collection onto the art itself as well as the enjoyment and inspiration that art provides.
This year there's been no shortage of masterpieces by Chagall, Picasso and Warhol on display, easily worth millions, but more down-to-earth artworks with affordable price tags have also increased in number.
Worthy of our attention are superb yet inexpensive works of art coming out of Japan. With artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami showing brilliant results on the international stage and garnering increasing favor among Taiwan's public, such works have become fine choices for the beginning collector. Visitors to the galleries could see Yayoi Kusama's famous Pumpkin and Infinity Net series, as if on display in her own little exhibition.
Galerie Nichido vice president Chieko Hasegawa, who has taken part in the expo for two years in a row, remarks that she was stunned by the Taiwanese people's passion for art. She maintains that widespread anti-Japanese sentiment in mainland China means that Japanese art hasn't been bid up by the recent wave of art speculation there. As such, works by cutting-edge artists Ryo Yoshikawa and Ishitsuka Takanori remain at reasonable prices, suitable for collection by ordinary salaried workers.
In fact, this wave of art mania has been brewing for quite a while: attendance at major art museums has been growing annually, and artworks have even spilled out into surrounding communities and underground walkways, indicating increasing acceptance among the public. The reason for this is that Taiwan's art market has enjoyed a head start over other Asian countries: Taiwan's art gallery facilities and promotional channels are already well developed, and there are numerous collectors with matured tastes, core advantages of Taiwan's art industry.
Art Taipei 2011 also showcased the burgeoning trend of new media art. The majority of the eight young artists of the Made in Taiwan: Young Artist Discovery exhibition employed video and new media, demonstrating that the use of imaging technology for narrative expression has become an axis of the thinking of a new generation of artists. For instance, Din Chin-chung's Vacant Room makes use of a crane allowing images of a halo of light to rotate together with its surroundings, the malleable and unstable nature of light conveying the possibilities of interaction between light beams and space.
Part of the intrigue of art is that it can be incorporated into life, sparking an aesthetic sense in people and business. The cultivation of aesthetic sensibility is clearly visible at this annual artistic gathering.