Thu, Sep 21, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Street Art finds a home

AMPM Gallery is taking back the street by putting graffti onto its walls

By Robert Near  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Sparse and white, AMPM is an ideal space for Taipei street artists to display their work.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DBSK1

BAPE, Proton, K-Swiss and Motorola are companies that manufacture completely different products — clothes, TVs, shoes and mobile phones — but all have worked with street artists to promote their wares.

In a world obsessed with cool and the next big thing, forward-thinking companies are desperate to impress trend-setting buyers. One of the easiest, and most successful, ways to do that is to associate their products with high-profile artists, and the cooler the better.

In Taipei, local street artists Reach and Ano tagged Proton TVs. UK legend She1 did a live painting for Royal Elastics in May. And K-Swiss flew out Fremantle and Grand High from France and the US respectively for K Spray 2 in April. Breaking away from this commercial trend, AMPM Gallery is taking back the street by hanging graffiti on its walls.

The appropriation of street art by company marketing machines sits awkwardly with an art form that is viewed as vandalism by authorities and the practitioners of which often break the law.

Despite its proliferation on the Internet, and use in slick PR campaigns, graffiti and stenciling retain a rebellious streak. Sharing that belief in rebelliousness, even if sometimes misplaced, like-minded artists have created grassroots communities.

DBSK1, a foreign graffiti artist living in Taipei, opened AMPM Gallery in March last year as a venue to showcase street art, free from the glare of authorities.

DBSK1 and his old crew, Asia Nites, were frustrated with the availability and quality of places to display street art. They aimed to display less commercial forms of street art than big companies were using to market their products. "I'm not against [these corporate shows]," said DBSK1. "An artist, to a certain extent, has to support themselves and I understand doing crossover stuff. But it makes the scene more commercialized," and thus, "softer." What's lost, then, is the street edge or style. Through exhibiting work by local and foreign artists, AMPM aims to reconnect street art to unconformity, even if it is displayed in a gallery.

Exhibition information

What: NotebookWhere: AMPM Gallery, 4F, 24, Alley 55, Neijiang St. Alley, Ximending, Taipei (台北市西門町內江街55巷24號4樓). Call: (02) 2389-2896When: Saturday from 7:30pm until 11pm

On the Net: www.dbsk1.com


All of AMPM’s four shows so far have featured local talent. Love Hotel, the gallery’s first show, exhibited the work of 22 artists. The second, featured Beans & Bueller's twisted, yet cute, puppets roaming a post-apocalyptic city. AMPM’s last show displayed photography by Kent Dylan and finished yesterday.

So far, the shows have attracted a peculiar mix of foreigner party people, local graffiti kids, hipsters, and middle-aged spectators. "It's really cool; I really like [the mix we've got]," says DBSK1. "But it's not consistent. We want to hype" the venue and take it to the next level, to educate the general public about the art that's happening in their city.

AMPM’s Notebook exhibition starts Saturday and examines the artistic process. Over 20 artists' notebooks will be posted throughout the gallery, allowing viewers a rare glimpse into each individual's personal world and their creative process. Attendees are encouraged to take along their own sketches. The show of rough drafts, sketches, and random, spontaneous work provides a unique insight into members of Taipei’s art scene.

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