It was Sugimoto’s first trip to Taiwan. Given that he’s Japanese, this sounds strange, though in reality he has been based out of New York for the past 35 years.
Several people I spoke with felt that more of the New York art world will find Taiwan before long.
“Taiwan is an island. Its collectors are traders in all sorts of world markets, so they have a very high acceptance when it comes to all kinds of art,” said Eslite Gallery’s Chao. “In the late 80s, they were collecting mainly early Taiwanese paintings, then in the 90s they moved on to Chinese contemporary, and in the last seven or eight years to Korean and Japanese artists. Now, some are starting to look to Russia and the Middle East. In most Asian buying trends of the last 20 years, they’ve been at the fore.”
Referring to the sluggish economy, Chao continued, “Of course people are a little more conservative now, but wealthy people still have money. Some of them use this as an opportunity.”
Lin says about 70 percent of the collectors at Art Taipei are Taiwanese, with others coming from Hong Kong, China, southeast Asia and Japan.
“I will admit,” says Lin, “during a recession people prefer to buy masterpieces and traditional works.”
This year, Art Taipei introduced a new “Art Classic” section, mainly for 20th century Chinese painting and sculpture. Hinting that the year’s solid sales performance wasn’t due only to contemporary art, Lin added, “Those galleries did quite well.”