GRASPING AT REALITY
As at all art fairs, the work represents a bit of a free-for-all. The predictions of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard came to mind. He saw unrestrained capitalism and the extreme proliferation of images parts of a single phenomenon and feared that total immersion in images would leave us unable to grasp reality altogether. Art critic Jed Perl saw this happening at least within the frame of the art world and gave art fairs much of the blame. He coined the term “laissez faire aesthetics” to describe a total relativization of aesthetic and moral values in art.
Yet while wandering through the 61 hotel suites of Young Art Taipei, with paintings perched on beds and windowsills, one could pick up threads that are weaving the mindset of a new generation. These young artists are preoccupied with childhood and claim a view that is intentionally naive, representations of sexuality included. There are too many images of young boys or girls to count, and as a rule they are shy, withdrawn and solitary. Often, they are surrounded by some sort of fantasy space, dreamscape or animals. Browsing the galleries was like flipping through different versions of the same children’s book.
There were also frequent tinges of surrealism, but not the world-inverting surrealism of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte. In Old Person 1 (舊的人一), Wu Yu-ting (巫宇庭) painted a little girl ballerina with the head of a fish. Lin Shihyong (林世雍), one of three artists given an independently juried award at the festival, painted nostalgic scenes of rural Taiwan in which all the people had heads of bananas. Dreaming Naoko/Night of Carnival by Mitsuru Watanabe looked like it could have been painted by the great, naif post-impressionist painter of fantastical allegory Henri Rousseau: It shows a schoolgirl with a Hello Kitty shoulder bag asleep and floating above an autumnal wooded landscape and carnival people.
These are not necessarily great paintings, but they do have uncannily similar themes: childhood, dreams and a desire to remain naive. And there were many more such works. And they sold.
CULTIVATING ARTISTS AND COLLECTORS
Within the three days of Young Art Taipei, nearly 600 prints, drawings, paintings, sculptures and photographs were sold for a total of almost NT$30 million. The total was down only slightly from last year, the drop attributed to the poor economy by organizers.
“The goal we set for this fair at the beginning has been achieved to a certain extent,” said gallerist Rick Wang (王瑞棋), whose Aki Gallery was one of the original organizers of Young Art Taipei in 2009.
That goal was developing a market for young, untested artists and cultivating a new group of collectors, especially individuals making a first-ever purchase of contemporary art.
“Now I think we need to upgrade,” Wang continued. “We need to not only catch all those youngsters, we also need to fulfill the expectations of serious collectors.”
Young Art Taipei director Richard Chang (張學孔) meanwhile said that the fair saw no negative effects from its proximity to Art Basel Hong Kong.
“This fair is for young artists and inexpensive works,” explained Chang. “International collectors for expensive artworks will go to Hong Kong next week. By comparison, almost all the collectors here are local. It is a completely different market.”