The true success of Taiwanese collectors lies in their number and that they often hide in plain sight. In addition to the two previous articles on collectors that detail presidents of powerful enterprises and multiple collector groups scattered but linked throughout Taiwan, potential collectors can include individual private collectors, presidents of public companies, doctors, engineers, investment bankers, entrepreneurs and white-collar workers. Number is often the subtle clue to understanding Taiwan’s true power and potential in the world of art collection. Take the modern and contemporary art lots of Hong Kong’s two largest international auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s for example, Taiwanese collectors often contribute 20 to 30% of these big auction houses’ total revenue of modern and contemporary art every year, which translates to at least 2.5 billion HKD (around 10 billion NTD). In other others, Taiwanese collectors spend around 2 to 3 billion NTD every year. If primary market (galleries) and secondary market (auction houses) each take up 50% in the international art world, Taiwanese art collectors can put in at least 4 to 6 billion NTD every year. This is the hidden financial prowess of Taiwanese art collectors.
What’s precious about Taiwan’s art collection scene is that there are generous art lovers in all fields who disperse knowledge and experiences of art collecting amongst friends, and a ripple effect ensues. For instance, Yao Chien, renowned musician and columnist for ARTCO MONTHLY & INVESTMENT, is a private collector. His hobby has prompted his friends in the music and entertainment industries to join him in the world of art collection. Every time he becomes engrossed in a different category of art – from old Taiwanese oil paintings, 20th century Chinese art, Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art, Western modern and contemporary art to classical oil paintings by Western old masters – Yao is always keen to share his discoveries with friends. Renowned television host Mickey Huang is another one of these examples. He is especially invested in emerging artists’ work, possibly one of the first collectors to see the rise of art figurines that have caused quite a stir in the art market in recent years. Rudy Tseng, famed filmmaker who retired early from the industry, is one of the columnists for ARTCO MONTHLY & INVESTMENT as well. Tseng is one of the first artists to collect works by the YBAs (Young British Artists), and swiftly maneuvered his way into collecting 20th century Chinese art, Asian contemporary art and Western contemporary art. His favorite artists include Lee Mingwei, Tehching Hsieh, Haegue Yang, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Danh Vo, Su-Mei Tse, Charwei Tsai and more. As an avid art lover, Tseng is extremely diligent in his studies of art; from Western artists to emerging artist, he can pinpoint the unique styles of each different artists, thus became a favorite amongst collectors to seek consultations from.
There are prominent collectors in every field in Taiwan. For thirty years, there has been a different representative figure of each era when it comes to doctors. In fact, doctor Wu Yin-Chang eventually founded a gallery because of his love for art, becoming one of the first gallery owners from Taiwan to open a gallery in Shanghai. Doctor Chen Chun-Ying is a collector of Ju Ming, Chen Yin-Pi, Cai Zhisong and Southeastern modern art who has also influenced his son to begin his own collection. Doctor Bo-Wen Chen started with collecting paintings then progressed to video art and installation pieces, amassing works by artists including Shi Jin-Hua, Tsui Kuang-Yu, Bill Viola, Su-Mei Tse, Shi Jinsong and artists of different fields. Doctor Wu Chun-Hsien of Tainan is, in fact, the first collector at Soka Art Center when it was first founded; from 20th Century Chinese art to contemporary art, his passion for art remains undimmed to this day. Doctor Lin Chin-Yi, who has a practice in Tainan as well, even rebuilt his women and children’s hospital to become an art hospital filled with artworks, and supported Japanese artist Miwa Komatsu’s first solo exhibition in Taipei by collecting a work by her. They have devoted their time and efforts – perhaps on some level, art can be the best vitamins for doctors.
Outside the circle of doctors, the number of collectors is even higher in the real estate industry. Chao Su-Chien, president of Bravogrid Enterprise, and his wife Chen Shu-Chen are collectors of Wu Guanzhong, Wu Dayu, Zao Wou-Ki, Sanyu and other 20th-century Chinese art masters, as well as Taiwanese and Chinese contemporary artworks; they are an exemplar of real estate tycoons and major art collectors who keep a low-profile. President of Dahin Development Chang Yu-Neng is one of the driving forces behind the presence of artworks in property developments; he collects sculptures from around the globe suitable for buildings’ communal spaces and is a renowned collector of artist Paul Chiang’s work. Managing director of Win-Sing Construction Jenny Yeh is also a VIP collector visible in recent years; she funded the reconstruction of Wang Da Hong’s old residence (currently known as Wang Da Hong House Theatre) on the south side of Taipei Fine Arts Museum; she has also funded and taken over the running of DH Café, truly making her a dedicated collector. Many owners of real estate or construction corporations are in fact art collectors, the same can be said for southern Taiwan; for instance, director of Fuly Construction Chen Tsung-Tu and managing director of Jian Shan Construction Hsu Chih-Yao are both avid art lovers. Chen Tsung-Tu went on to build Remarkable Cultivation Art Museum in Tainan; The museum has partnered with major galleries to hold exhibitions of outstanding quality and given Tainan a private art museum of true elegance.
Closely associated with real estate and construction is the industry of interior design where collectors overflow. Their innate design talent allows them to exactly pinpoint the arrangement of artwork in relation to space, making them consultants whom many art lovers rely upon. David Tan, managing director of Trendy International Interior Design, is the most renowned of them all. His collection began with Asian modern and contemporary art than Western contemporary art, he has even personally funded young Taiwanese artists’ careers in recent years, encouraging them to pursue their ambition in the art world. Without a hint of exaggeration, most if not all Taiwanese interior designers love art, and it has become only a matter of how extensive their collection is. Former interior designer Richard Chen decided to become an art consultant simply because of his great fondness for collecting art; to leave behind his career as an interior designer, Chen can be said to be the exemplar of an art-mad designer.
Equally significant are collectors in the field of technology industry. In addition to Barry Lin, the most renowned collector and president of Quanta Computer Inc., each collector is famed for a particular collection. For instance, the president of Thin Chang Corporations Chuan-Hsin Deng is most renowned for his Chu Teh-Chun paintings along with works by Zao Wou-Ki, Wang Huaiqing and works by numerous other Asian modern and contemporary artists. CEO of LITE-ON Group Danny Liao has been focused on emerging Chinese contemporary artists in recent years, as if observing and targeting these distinctly unique young Chinese contemporary talents from a venture-capital perspective. President of ViewSonic James Chu is a recent but significant art collector. He began his collection with Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun, Chao Chung-Hsiang, Sanyu, Walasse Ting and other masters, then moved onto emerging contemporary talents; gradually but steadily, he is expanding a collection uniquely his and accumulating a formidable collection.
The financial industry is also a force to be reckoned with. Sung Hsueh-Jen, the low-profile former vice president of Goldman Sachs’ Asia Division, is a major collector of Asian modern and contemporary art. Vice-Chairman of Asian Pacific district of JPMorgan Chase Carl Chien and his wife Virginia Hu are influential collectors as well. In fact, Virginia Hu, being a huge art lover, has collected works by Makoto Fujimura, and proceeded to establish Artrue Gallery in both Taipei and Tainan to promote more artists. In addition to these two investment bankers, there are many more others who do not wish to reveal their names and they remain valued clients of multiple galleries in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. For instance, Richard Lin, whose work has been increasing in value in recent years, is supported and boosted by the endorsement of Taiwanese investment bankers. Collectors are ubiquitous in Taiwan and are found in many more fields of work. Each in their line of work, they continue to devote their love and passion for art.