Sun, Nov 03, 2013 - Page 11 News List

Going global

With almost half of the booths taken by international dealers, Art Taipei is heading for another successful year. But the strategy of internationalizing the art fair may have the consequent effect of marginalizing local artists

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

It also offers local galleries a view of the professionalism of their international peers.

Indeed Chang has worked hard to increase the professionalism of galleries locally so as to improve their reputation internationally.

Since reforms were made in 2011, the number of international galleries has increased by 48 percent, and last year they outnumbered local ones for the first time in Art Taipei’s history. But as Taiwanese collectors and fair organizers turn their gaze outward, will local artists be marginalized in the process?

Whose buying?

It’s common knowledge in Taiwan’s commercial art circles that few non-Taiwanese — Chinese-Indonesian businessman Bedi Tek being a rare exception — buy Taiwanese art. Sure, there are the impulse buys, where a collector likes a work and it’s cheap.

Chang argues that bringing international galleries — and their collectors — to Taiwan will increase sales of local art.

Yet gallerists tend to agree that with the exception of a few artists (video artist Chen Chieh-jen 陳界仁, for example, or sculptor Li Chen 李真), foreign buyers “don’t collect contemporary Taiwanese art,” Lin says.

Foreign galleries and museums aren’t interested in exhibiting the stuff either.

Tina Keng (耿桂英), whose eponymous gallery deals in marquee artists such as Zao Wou-ki (趙無極) and contemporary Taiwanese new media art, says she’s been trying to collaborate with European and North American venues for years.

“[European and American galleries] are more than willing to show their contemporary artists in my gallery. But they don’t want my artists,” Keng says, adding that most Western galleries perceive the financial risk as too great — a dilemma that extends to Taiwan’s public art institutions.

“The sales just aren’t there,” Keng says.

David Lin agrees. He says it isn’t difficult to sell contemporary Taiwanese art if it’s priced under NT$500,000.

“NT$1 million is the ceiling,” he says. “And if the artists can’t sell for more, then galleries don’t have the money to promote them [at art fairs and biennials] overseas,” Lin says.

Though he represents several Chinese artists, Lin says “most of the art I show at Art Taipei is by Taiwanese artists because it’s the only chance they have to exhibit in a big show.”

Government subsidy

Concerned about the marginalization of Taiwanese artists, TAGA has lobbied the government to step in and help. Citing as examples South Korea, whose government offers generous subsidies to its galleries, and Singapore, whose government underwrites much of Art Stage Singapore, Chang says that the government should increase funding for visual art.

At a public hearing last year, independent curator Hu Yung-fen (胡永芬) questioned the gap between the government’s funding for visual arts, which he says amounts to NT$200 million, and the culture and creative industries, which received NT$10 billion from the National Development Fund alone.

A third way

There may be other alternatives, however. The Asia Art Center has been very successful at collaborating with corporations at home and art foundations abroad. For its recent Li Chen exhibition in Paris, they received support from Evergreen Group (長榮集團) and collaborated with the European-based Global Art Center Foundation, which they also teamed up with for a collateral exhibition at the Venice Biennial.

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