Hong Kong’s economy may be feeling the strain from months of frequent protests, but Taiwan should not think of replacing the financial hub’s role in Asia’s art market.
Instead, Taiwan should “positively determine” its own strengths and “identify the reasons why Taipei makes sense” as a destination for international art galleries and buyers.
That’s what Magnus Renfrew, founding director of Taipei Dangdai, wants to tell players in the local arts scene.
Photo: Davina Tham, Taipei Times
The Hong Kong-based Briton was in town last week to announce the gallery roster for the second edition of the contemporary art fair, which will take place from Jan. 17 to 19 next year. He previously served as founding director of Art Basel in Hong Kong, one of the region’s most prominent art events.
“The reasons for doing a fair in Taipei cannot be problems elsewhere,” Renfrew told the Taipei Times, referring to speculation that the unrest in Hong Kong could open a window of opportunity for Taiwan.
He said Taiwan would benefit more by concentrating on its own advantages, including the presence of important collectors and Taipei’s attractiveness as a travel destination.
With more than 28,000 visitors and sales of individual artworks that reached into the millions of US dollars, the organizers of the first Taipei Dangdai in January this year have hailed its debut as a success.
Renfrew and newly-appointed co-director Robin Peckham said it has been exciting to play a part in raising the profile of local artists, and to see the international art world galvanize around Asia.
“We’ve all known for a long time that Taiwan’s art infrastructure and content [are] virtually second to none,” said Peckham, a Taipei-based American curator and writer. “In terms of the balance between museums, private collections, commercial galleries, non-profit curatorial spaces and artists’ production, they’re all extremely strong.”
Renfrew said that Taipei Dangdai does not see itself as being “directly in competition” with art fairs in other major cities in the region. But when asked how Taiwan could help the art market along, he said that simplifying the tax structure for artwork transactions, or even doing away with such taxes altogether, would be the best way.
“The auction market has a happy home in Hong Kong” because its relaxed tax and export policies make it “a very beneficial place to transact,” he added.
The second edition of Taipei Dangdai in January next year will feature 97 galleries, up from 90 this year. The list includes leading international galleries like Scai the Bathhouse, Kaikai Kiki, Artinformal, Levy Gorvy, Eva Presenhuber and Kamel Mennour.
Taiwan’s art scene will be represented by 22 home-grown galleries and showcases of several local artists, including the late abstract artist Li Yuan-chia (李元佳) and digital art collective Luxury Logico.
Visitors can also look forward to more public programming, as Taipei Dangdai explores ways to get art “out of the halls and into the city,” Renfrew said.
“Primarily, collectors will be driven by the quality of the gallery list, but what makes them have the best time is when they have the opportunity to discover... the cultural offerings of the city,” he added.
This year’s Kuandu Arts Festival (關渡藝術節), which opened on Sept. 23 and runs through Nov. 29, is focused on music. Under the theme “Joy of Music,” a nod to the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, the program features performances by seven symphony orchestras as well as several Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA, 國立臺北藝術大學) student and faculty shows, in addition to the annual film and animation festivals. However, there is still room for other performing arts, and two productions this weekend and next at the university in the hills of Taipei’s Guandu area (關渡) feature students from the
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