Sun, Nov 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cultural invasion by Guggenheim Museum feared

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TAICHUNG

While some academics support the planned establishment of a NT$6.4 billion branch of the Gug-genheim Museum in Taichung, others expressed strong objections at a symposium held at Tunghai University yesterday.

Those who object are mostly worried about a cultural invasion and the danger of an American cultural hegemony taking root.

Wu Chin-tao (吳金桃), an assistant professor in fine arts from Nanhua University, said that the museum was not about culture but rather about politics. She described the museum as a "political animal."

Wu said that Taiwan had long been a cultural colony and this time the country was once again accepting the US export of elitist culture.

"But if Taiwan's modern art is not good enough, Guggenheim won't rescue it," Wu said.

Wu also expressed concern about the activities of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation's other museums and urged the public to carefully consider whether the museum would really benefit the city, as the city government promised it would.

She said that the number of visitors at the foundation's most successful branch, in Bilbao, had been decreasing every year since its opening, and that the New York museum was laying off employees amid deteriorating financial conditions.

Associate professor Li Yeh-cheng (李謁政) of Nanhua University's Institute of the Environment and Art said that while the local media was commending the foundation's performance in Bilbao, there was no guarantee that it would have the same effect in Taichung.

"Moreover, Taichung is not ready to receive the numerous international and local visitors the museum is expected to bring due to its lack of an international airport, a mass rail system and other infrastructure," Li said.

On the other hand, Ni Tsai-chin (倪再沁), the dean of Tunghai University's Department of Fine Arts, who wrote Taichung Mayor Jason Hu's (胡志強) culture white paper, said that the Guggenheim Foundation should not be forced to shoulder the huge responsibility of promoting and rescuing Taiwan's modern arts.

"Taiwan spends thousands of millions of dollars every year on military purchases and diplomacy, and compared to that the budget for the museum is very small," Ni said.

He said that Taichung should take advantage of the opportunity of opening the museum, and that the public should remember that Bilbao would have been nothing if it had not had a Guggenheim museum.

Shih Chan-an (施長安), a lecturer from Huafan University's Department of Architecture, supported Ni.

He said that the museum would offer Taichung economic and cultural benefits and that people should not worry about the number of visitors the museum would attract.

"The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao had 130,000 visitors in its first year, but Taichung will definitely exceed that number. The number of visitors to the pottery museum in Sanhsia (三峽) has already exceeded that number this year," Shih said.

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