If you look at Taipei from an artists’ perspective, you would probably see an empty canvas of bleak walls in dire need of an aesthetic makeover. In fact, there are so many grey walls in Taipei that you would need an army of artists to get the job done. As it turns out, POW! WOW! had exactly that vision and put together an army of painters, illustrators, and graffiti artists, and all together they are ready to paint murals on walls throughout the capital.
The week-long arts festival, which began in Hong Kong and then spread to Hawaii, invites high-profile international artists and encourages them to collaborate with local artists to create murals with a cultural theme. It’s a process that usually happens behind closed doors, but the festival will turn Taipei into an open-air gallery of urban, street, contemporary and graffiti-inspired murals that anyone can watch.
“Walls tend to be faceless and voiceless,” said Jasper Wong (王翹楚), curator of the alfresco art show and Pow! Wow! founder.
“No one pays attention to them. They stand muted in the landscapes of our lives. Murals give these walls life. It gives them [a] voice... I’ve seen firsthand how it has transformed neighborhoods.”
Cartoons, portraits and graffiti of Taiwan’s culture and art history will be depicted through small and large-scale murals. But the underlying theme is gathering people, beautifying neighborhoods and educating youth through art, says Wong, who is especially excited to throw unprecedented global exposure at local artists and introduce Taiwan to a larger worldwide community of artists and art lovers.
“Pow is the impact art has on people, like a punch in the face,” Wong said of the inspiration. “Wow is the reaction a viewer has from the art. [It] describes a gathering to celebrate music, art and culture.”
Larry Chen (陳正浩), POW! WOW!’s regional director in Taiwan, says that city officials were first apprehensive when he showed them his plan. But with a little help from the American Institute in Taiwan, Chen hooked up with Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Liu Wei-gong (劉維公), and the event started to come together, with a slew of venues throughout the city donating their walls to artists. The Taipei City Zoo, for example, is celebrating its 100-year anniversary and the mural there will be inspired by animal-related themes.
Whether residents will warmly welcome the urban influenced art remains to be seen, but one way or another, the festival will provide Taipei with a week of live art led by cultural tastemakers, movers and shakers.
The festival runs at various locations throughout Taipei City from today to June 2. A complete listing of times, dates, venues, and artists are available on the web: www.powwowtaiwan.com.