Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Making waves in the art world

As the head of the National Palace Museum, Lin Mun-lee holds a rare degree of influnce over the direction of Taiwanese art

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stills from films and images of installation pieces from CO4 Taiwan Avant-garde Documenta II

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL CULTURE AND ARTS FOUNDATION

The incoming chairperson of the National Culture and Arts Foundation will have a tough act to follow when Lin Mun-lee (林曼麗) resigns from the post at the end of this month.

The foundation's current chairperson and deputy director of the National Palace Museum, Lin is well respected in the art community, by both administrators and artists, for her dedication to the future of Taiwan's contemporary art scene and the major accomplishments she has made during the past 10 years.

As the former director of Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), Lin is accredited with launching the first Taipei International Biennial in 2000. She is also responsible for putting out an international call for curators at Taipei's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

"When a lot of mature work and ideas accumulate in the contemporary art scene, you need to bring it up and surface it so that it can be viewed by the public. And, more importantly, to give Taiwan artists an opportunity to share their work and ideas with artists from around the world," she said.

Lin stepped down from her position at city-run TFAM in 2000, two years after Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) replaced President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as Taipei City mayor.

Lin said her decision to leave the museum was not due to her political affiliations -- she is often cited as being a DPP supporter -- but because she realized her intention to stay independent and unaffected by any government influence was unrealistic.

"Whether as an art educator or administrator, you must be totally independent of any government situation. I decided to stay on as the museum director after Chen left [as Taipei City mayor] to demonstrate that I could work independently of any government authority."

When Ma became mayor, however, Lin said she felt her actions were subject to scrutiny as having DPP undertones.

"Everything I did at that point had many obstacles. So in the end I had to leave," she said.

One museum's loss, however, is another's gain. Lin's experience running a contemporary art space is now spilling over into her current position at the palace museum. Often touted as a tourist highlight, but seldom visited by locals and rarely, if ever, thought of as a place to see contemporary art, Lin said her biggest difficulty in rejuvenating the museum is changing people's perceptions of it.

"There is no debate that the collection at the NPM is one of the best in the world, but the museum is not. Art must relate to the people. The major problem is not the collection but that it doesn't have any connection with people living in this era," she said.

Along with the proposed external renovations of the museum set for 2006, Lin is also working on the presentation of works at the museum, or in her words, "translating the items into a language that can be understood by contemporary society."

She has already invited several local artists, as well as foreign experts, for feedback on how to develop the space.

While the overhaul of the museum sits high on Lin's list of priorities, the establishment of an additional national contemporary arts center is also a priority.

Having just recently met with the minister of the Council for Cultural Affairs, Lin said she had raised the issue of the possible construction of a Guggenheim museum in Taiwan. The Guggenheim Foundation, incidentally, dropped its plans for a Taichung branch on Friday.

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