Ever since Eslite Bookstore's Dunnan Branch (敦南誠品書店) opened its doors 24-7 in 1999, herds of unlicensed street venders regularly congregate at night on the pavement outside, fashioning the public space into what locals now call the Dunnan night market. The hawkers, which include designers and artists parading their hand-made creations such as ornaments, jewelry, toys and T-shirts, need to keep their eyes peeled as the police regularly swoop in to issue fines for those that can't scurry away quick enough.
From tonight until Oct. 28, the police will not be a problem for 30 stalls which were selected from 125 entries and have been granted permission to peddle their merchandise every Friday and Saturday in a three-month long art fair to be held at the adjacent Shin Kong building's (新光大樓) forecourt. In addition weekend activities will offer help to visitors who want to learn how to make their own handmade gadgets.
In the digital era when mass-produced commodities have lost the uniqueness of handcrafted goods, one-of-a-kind handmade items have enjoyed a comeback at art markets.
“Art markets are in vogue now as lots of people try to get in on the handmade business. We want to help develop this creative process, and hopefully it won't be like the Hello Kitty craze that comes and goes without registering,” Kristy Cha Ray Chu (曲家瑞), one of the three judges who picked the successful stalls told Taipei Times.
Chu, the director of Shih-Chien University's (實踐大學) Institute of Fashion and Communications Design, said art markets serve as a stimulus for young designers and artists by broadening their views and creativity through exchanges.
“It's a place where everybody can create. During the selection process, we were truly impressed by the explosion of creativity and among students and nine-to-five office workers of all ages. They designed so many imaginative items that can be used in daily life… . Yet compared to art markets abroad, where distinctive art works are abundant, local artisans are still limited in term of ideas and varieties. We want to encourage greater diversity,” Chu said.
To be fair, Eslite Bookstore's art fair was unlikely to happen unless someone else had already taken the lead. In 2003, the annual Guling Street Book and Art Fair (牯嶺街書香創意市集) first opened a stage for prospective designers and artists. Last year alone, the two-day event attracted 40,000 visitors.
Campo Life Art Carnival (CAMPO生活藝術狂歡節) began life last year as a visual-audio fair and has grown to become an art fair, flee market combined with music and film shows by independent artists screened every second Saturday from 2pm to 10pm each month. “Beginning this February, we saw a sudden boom in the number of applicants for the art market. There are over 200 submissions for each event and many of them are from the south and some came from Hong Kong. It's amazing that young people are flying from Hong Kong to Taipei to visit Campo,” said A-li one of the two event organizers.
Answering to the need for a space to voice creativity among people in other regions around the island, A-li and his partner Lin Hsin-yi (林欣儀) took the event on tour to Taichung, Kaohsiung and Tainan this summer to encourage other cities to open their own art markets. Campo will return to Taipei on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10 at the Taipei Cinema Park (台北主題公園) in Ximending (西門町).