Taiwan in My Eyes
By Magnus Renfrew
The art world has changed out of all recognition over the last decade. Most notably the art world is now global, with Asia taking an ever more important role. Galleries from the US and Europe are now understanding the importance of engaging with collectors from Asia. Likewise, the most sophisticated collectors are now collecting across geographical and cultural bounds searching for discoveries and fresh perspectives. Galleries from Asia are more active on the global circuit and standards across the board have increased. Galleries understand that they are judged on their weakest artists and their weakest exhibitions, and so are now striving for excellence in all their activities that can set them apart from the competition. The greater role of the gallery also, of protecting an artist through giving them psychological distance from their market is more widely recognized, as is the importance of promoting the practice of artists beyond merely selling objects.
Whilst Hong Kong has become the global touchpoint for the art world, other domestic markets around Asia are yet to reach their full potential. Whilst each cultural context is different and holds its own unique possibilities, some universal values of transparency, and systems of quality control, are yet to be widely employed. An open and competitive application process not only gives the best galleries from Asia and beyond the comfort level that the context in which their gallery and their artists will be displayed adheres to the same sense of curatorial and critical rigour that they hold dear, it also provides re-assurance to both experienced and aspiring collectors that the work on view is of the highest standards. The imprimatur of quality that such a selection process brings can provide the comfort for the new collectors of contemporary art to begin the first step on their collecting journey.
Taipei is exceptionally well placed to become a key fixture on the international art calendar. Taiwan has one of the most established gallery scenes in Asia, an array of strong cultural institutions and museums as well as one of the most credible Biennials in the world today.
Our aspiration is not to try and compete with other fairs elsewhere, but to try and present a vision that is unique to Taipei and that presents to the best advantage its rich and diverse attributes. When traveling constantly to try and persuade galleries, collectors and other members of the international art community to attend the inaugural edition of Taipei Dangdai in January, the first instinctive response from them is positive - 'I love Taipei - I love the people and I love the food'. Taipei is not a hard sell. People are looking for an excuse to come to the city, and our sincere hope is that Taipei Dangdai can be the focal point and excuse for the art community from around Asia and beyond to visit the city to see the art fair and to discover the breadth of cultural activity that Taipei has to offer. And this is a key point, perhaps the key point: for visitors planning their schedule for the year it is not only the quality of an art fair that can attract them it is also their enjoyment of the wider offerings of a city that can persuade them to choose one city over an array of other options. Whilst an art fair should only be one part of a rich cultural scene, one of the things that an art fair can do at its best is to galvanise the local community and to create a moment that puts the spotlight of the international art world on a city.
Over the past decade in almost every conversation that I have had with galleries from across Asia, and with those from the US and Europe, the strength and sophistication of the Taiwanese collector base and their activity on both the gallery and auction markets are commented upon. Yet we believe there is still further potential to bring new entrants into the market. Sometimes the art world can be a little self-referential and intimidating. We believe that this should not be the case and want to encourage the full spectrum of visitors to engage with art. Art is about the human condition, the shared challenges we face addressing common issues of love, loss, sex, death and man's inhumanity to man. Artists are trying their best to make sense of the world and their place within it, as to a degree we all are. In an ever-faster-paced world, where we have less and less time to step back and reflect, artists can put up a fractured mirror to our world and help us to look at the world in a different way. That is something that can add value to all of us. Art is not just about pretty pictures - it is about ideas. Likewise, in addition to the commercial exchange that an art fair can bring, the best and most critically engaged art fairs can also provide a context for the exchange of ideas, and it is our hope that the art fair can be an opportunity to foster connections and for stakeholders to hatch plans for new projects with each other.
Art and culture form a hugely important part in city branding and are often used to assert sophistication, livability, and connectivity. Art and culture provide a context which fosters cross-disciplinary thinking, which is crucial to innovation. In a society after being in the throes of shifting from a manufacturing based economy to services based economy the projection of a vibrant cultural scene can demonstrate that Taipei is ready for business.
Building an art fair is at once a hugely exciting and very daunting task. Ultimately, the level of success and impact that an art fair can bring is determined not only by the fair organisers but by the degree of commitment of the best galleries to bring their best material, and by the cultural community within the host city doing everything that they can to take advantage of this unique opportunity to present the very best of their activities to the international audience attending. Taipei Dangdai's aspiration is to lift the lid off the possibilities that Taipei so clearly already has. It is a constant learning experience for us and we are so grateful for the patience of stakeholders with our questions, and the warmth with which the local community has embraced us and our aspirations, and to the galleries from Taipei and beyond who share our long-term vision that it will be possible to create something meaningful and resilient for the years to come. This first edition of Taipei Dangdai is very much the first step on a longer journey. There are no shortcuts, and there are a lot of hard works to do, but we are honoured and thrilled to have the opportunity to share our passion for this great city with a wider audience and to bring the best galleries and artists from around the world to Taipei.
We look forward to welcoming you to Taipei Dangdai in January.