Lu seems pretty clear: “This is not an art site, but a tourist site,” she tells me at the venue. She’s not the first to say so.
“The works chosen [are] largely those most suited to the layout of the Taiwan Pavilion venue — those that could integrate and bring out the best in the venue, but not necessarily the most outstanding works,” writes Chen and Hu in their introductory essay. So, as a Chinese expression has it, the feet are cut to fit the shoes.
Yet looking at Lu’s curatorial statement, and the displayed works, it is clear that the audience they want to attract are professional critics, curators and artists. The problem is, they don’t usually show up.
Should it stay or should it go
In an editorial headlined “Art Biennials: Heading South?” for the UK’s ArtReview, Chris Sharp writes that with over 100 biennials throughout the world, Venice is increasingly seen as no longer king of the hill.
“Venice is not necessarily where you are going to see what’s new. If you want to make discoveries … you’d be better off going to Taipei, Marrakech or Montevideo,” Sharp says.
When asked if Taiwan’s participation at the Venice Biennial is worth it, Lu says “not in its current form.”
“They are not helping artists, not helping the career of curators. [TFAM] invests so much money, but with very little benefit.”
Ultimately, the best way for Taiwan to boost its soft power is to reconsider what art can do and represent it in a solo exhibition of talent without raising political issues, unless they are somehow internal to the art itself. In other words: art should come before politics. Only then will it be able to attract the audience it wants while bringing in the intended benefits of international recognition.