Art Taipei Ups the Ante with Influx of International Galleries
“We don’t want to make it the biggest fair in Asia; we want to make it the most important in Asia,” said Art Taipei’s new executive director Emerson Wang, at the outset of the fair’s 22nd edition, currently underway at the Taipei World Trade Center.
This year sees a marked increase in participating galleries, as well as a palpable broadening of horizons: of the 168 galleries showcased at this year’s fair, 38 are new to the event—all of which are from outside of Taiwan. The expansion is a timely one for Asia’s longest-standing art fair, which has historically served as a stage for predominantly local galleries. Newcomers from China, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan confirm Art Taipei’s position as a strong regional contender in what’s becoming an increasingly crowded arts ecosystem. The fair’s preview day saw a contingent of mostly Taiwanese collectors, buoyed by significant numbers from Japan and, increasingly, China. Collectively, they spent a reported $4.6 million on opening day, with a further flurry of sales during Friday’s public opening.
Organized by Taiwan Art Gallery Association, the fair features a plethora of local galleries, with key venerable veterans returning for this year’s edition. They include regional stalwart Tina Keng Gallery, whose prominent booth close to the fair’s entrance presents works by established modern and contemporary artists, as well as emerging Taiwanese talents represented by sister gallery TKG+.
Two Chinese artists, father and daughter Peng Xiancheng and Peng Wei, steal the show. The latter’s scroll painting—all modern shan shui, adorned with auspicious bats and butterflies—sold for CNY 1,950,000 (US$308,588) during the fair’s VIP preview. Hot on the heels of a month-long exhibition at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, where she was also shown alongside her famous father, Peng Wei is certainly one to watch.
Also boasting venues in Taipei and Beijing, Lin & Lin is faring particularly well at this year’s event, with six sales on preview day calling for an early rehang of paintings by Liu Shih-Tung, Liu Wei, and Shen Liang. Meanwhile Lai Chiu-Chen’s punchy, cartoonish acrylics on canvas continue to garner attention.
Bucking the trend for primarily figurative works is Osaka’s ARTCOURT Gallery. In particular, Yasuaki Onishi’s Vertical Volume (US$16,800)—squishy cylinders of polyethylene sheeting rising and falling like hot air balloons—is drawing crowds. Overhead, Kozo Nishino’s gently swaying bridge-like structure Space Memory (2014, US$75,000) rounds out the pleasingly monochrome booth. This year marks ARTCOURT’s second stint at Art Taipei, with the gallery’s mainstay of architectural artworks and installations appealing to younger collectors. (In general, however, collector demographics trend older at this longstanding fair.)
Similarly seeking to offer something a little different is Adler Subhashok Gallery Bangkok, where mixed-media works, mainly by Thai artists, span from an accessible $6,000 up to $25,000. “Thai artists are now at international market level, but still low in price,” explained co-director Armelle Cohen. “Southeast Asia is very interesting, and I think for collectors here [in Taiwan] it’s something different, but they can also recognize something familiar, something about themselves.”
From across the East China Sea, galleries spanning Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong boast a strong presence at this year’s fair. Particularly noteworthy is Qiu Zhijie’s The Map of the Near and the Far (CNY 510,000, US$80,690) at Galleria Continua. Nearby, Tobias Rehberger’s colorful wax clocks are drawing curious—and oftentimes confused—crowds at Galerie Urs Meile. Created especially for Art Taipei, they’re directly opposite the artist’s mind-bending Die Welt kurz vor Erfindung des tiefen Tellers (2014), one of five works from the fair’s Public Art section. “Collectors here are very educated about art and less speculative,” said co-director René Meile. “Taiwanese collectors really do their homework!”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Emerson Wang. “Taiwanese collectors are quite conservative. They take time to study the background of the artist, they are not so quick to say, ‘I want this, I’ll buy it!’” The fair director adds, however, that this tendency towards research doesn’t ultimately mean they shy away from new artists: “They also need something new. What we’re doing is bringing fresh artworks to them. We don’t want to only follow collectors’ tastes—you have to get in front to tell them what is new.”
With that in mind, the fair’s Futures section features 16 galleries showing artists under the age of 35. The area also comprises “Made in Taiwan,” a showcase of emerging local artists, including Chen Pei Xin, Chung He-Hsien, and Tseng Chien-Ying, among others.
Undergoing something of an evolution, from an important-yet-contained regional highlight into what Wang describes as an “international Asian art fair,” Art Taipei is set to broaden further still, with galleries from Germany, France, Italy, and the U.K. already confirmed for next year’s event. Nonetheless, the executive director is mindful of ongoing economic shifts, particularly those in China: “So far we haven’t seen changes, but we still worry about it,” he says of the recent economic tumult. “Maybe next year it will have more impact, but for now I have not noticed.”