President of UNESCO-affiliated body reaffirms his support for Taiwan

By Noah Buchan  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Dec 04, 2013 - Page 1

International Art Critics Association (AICA) president Marek Bartelik repeated his support for Taiwan’s continued participation in the UNESCO-affiliated body amid concerns that China’s future entry could marginalize the nation’s status.

The AICA is currently the only UNESCO-affiliated organization where Taiwan uses its full name in the title.

“When I was elected I said that there would be no changes in terms of who belongs to AICA and who doesn’t belong to AICA,” said Bartelik, who was elected president of the organization two years ago.

However, with the Gambia’s recent severing of diplomatic ties with Taiwan and rumblings that Honduras might do the same, AICA Taiwan (中華民國藝評人協會) has expressed concerns that China’s entry may result in Taiwan’s isolation.

“China continues to exert pressure. It’s critically important that Taiwan retains this kind of profile in this international body,” AICA Taiwan president Tseng Shui-ping (鄭水萍) said.

Bartelik said the fears are overblown.

“As long as I am president — and it’s not just me, but it’s a kind of general understanding of the nature of our organization — [there will be no changes]. We are implicated in political situations, but it doesn’t mean we will be bending to one side or another,” Bartelik said, adding that AICA’s strength lies in the fact that “we treat everyone equally,” he said.

Art critics in China have expressed interest in becoming part of the AICA, Bartelik said.

However, he did not say if Taiwan’s current status in the organization was part of the discussions.

AICA currently has branches in 63 member countries, representing 5,000 art critics from around the world.

Taiwan became a formal member in 2001 under the name AICA Taiwan/Free Section, UNESCO, UN, but it was changed to AICA Taiwan in 2004, the same year the nation hosted the organization’s world congress.

Bartelik said Taiwan remains an important chapter as the organization deepens its reach into Asia, which he said is under-represented, while taking into account the variety and diversity of art criticism throughout the globe.

“It would be wonderful if one day we had a president from Asia,” he said.