Yu backs Taichung's museum bid

DEVELOPMENT: Mayor Jason Hu won some financial support for building a Guggenheim branch, but denied his meeting with the premier was personally motivated

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, Aug 19, 2003 - Page 3

Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday agreed to grant Taichung City NT$3.2 billion toward its planned establishment of a NT$6.4 billion branch of the Guggenheim Museum and will decide within three weeks whether to grant the city NT$2 billion more.

"We don't have any problem with funding the city half of the construction cost since it's a pledge made by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁)," Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) quoted Yu as saying.

"But we have to make sure that we can afford the additional request of NT$2 billion and that the additional funding won't create any backlash from neighboring counties and cities," Liu quoted Yu as saying.

Yu made the remarks yesterday morning while receiving Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) at the Executive Yuan.

Hu's visit comes one week after his meeting with Chen, who pledged that the central government would shoulder half of the museum's construction expenses.

Painting Yu's decision as "acceptable," Hu took the opportunity yesterday to shrug off media speculation that his visit was politically motivated.

He stressed that his visit was aimed at boosting the interest of his city and that of central Taiwan.

"I feel like the most expensive gigolo in town with a NT$5 billion price tag placed on my forehead, as many have interpreted my visit today as a political gambit for my personal gain," Hu said.

As a KMT member, Hu said there is no doubt that he has his own political agenda but it is inappropriate for the media to mix it up with his capacity as Taichung mayor.

"As mayor, my job is to do my best to fight for the best interests of my city and this shouldn't be mistaken for the interests of my party," he said.

The recent friendly interactions between the DPP administration and local KMT chiefs have caught media attention. Hu is part of what the media calls "Ma-Li-Chiang" (high horsepower, 馬立強) to describe the three popular KMT government chiefs deemed to have promising political careers.

The three characters are taken from the names of Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Taoyuan County Commissioner Chu Li-lun (朱立倫) and Hu, whose Chinese name is Hu Chih-chiang.

To fund the additional NT$2 billion, Liu said the Cabinet may include the project in its three-year, NT$300 billion public-construction project or the five-year, NT$500 billion public-construction project -- if the city gets the museum.

"The bottom line is, however, that the additional funds don't overlap with other cultural re-sources or result in disparity of cultural resources allocated in northern, central and southern Taiwan," Liu said.

The Solomon Guggenheim Foundation is studying the feasibility of the planned museum. If it agrees, Taichung will become the first city in the Asia-Pacific region to have a Guggenheim subsidiary.

The Guggenheim has branches in Venice, Berlin, Bilbao, Las Vegas and New York.

Like the Bilbao facility, the Guggenheim Taichung would exhibit a significant amount of contemporary Asian art, including that of Taiwan.