Art Market

Taipei’s Community of Collectors Has Turned the City into a Leading Art Hub

Reena Devi
Oct 22, 2021 5:05PM

Jeng Jundian, installation view in “The Rose of Time” at TAO ART, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and TAO ART, Taipei.

Up until the late 1990s, Taiwan had been a crucial center for selling and buying art in Asia. In the decade that followed, however, collectors and dealers began to shift their attention towards Hong Kong and mainland China, as the booming markets in these cities offered exciting opportunities for expansion. These days, with the help of a network of new and established galleries and international art fairs like Art Taipei and Taipei Dangdai, Taiwan’s capital city is steadily making a comeback as one of Asia’s leading art hubs.

Another key factor driving this recent momentum is an active and diverse community of local collectors. Among them are seasoned veterans like Victor Ma, Pierre Chen, Robert Tsao, Barry Lam, and Leo Shih, as well as a growing number of younger, globally savvy players like Jay Chou and Leslie Sun, who have brought a great deal of international attention to their country’s art market.

Hsu Yunghsu, installation view in “Monad—Epimorphism” at Double Square Gallery, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Double Square Gallery, Taipei.


“Historically, Taiwanese collectors have been predisposed towards Asian modern art and Asian antique objects,” explained Yuki Terase, former head of contemporary art, Asia, at Sotheby’s. “In the last two years or so, a new generation of younger collectors and self-made entrepreneurs are gravitating towards international contemporary art.”

According to Sean Hu, director of the contemporary art space Double Square Gallery, Taiwan’s collecting culture is as old as the country itself. “From generation to generation, there have been important collectors who have supported the art market of Taiwan over the past 70 years,” said Hu. “Art collecting has always been a strong force that supports artistic development in Taiwan, and that is why I think Taiwan has become a leading art platform in Asia.”

Hsu Yunghsu, installation view in “Monad—Epimorphism” at Double Square Gallery, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Double Square Gallery, Taipei.

These days, private collections can include everything from Old Masters to contemporary art market favorites, including works by Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hirst. Shelly Wu, director of Tina Keng Gallery and executive director of TKG+, described Taipei’s collectors as being known for their deep knowledge and appreciation of a broad range of art forms. “Their global perspective has led the local art scene to interact with the global art community, and to gradually become part of it,” she said.

While most local collectors prefer to maintain a low profile compared to their regional counterparts, part of what makes Taiwanese collectors highly impactful is their inherently proactive approach.

So Yo Hen, installation view in “Good night, see you later,” at TKG+, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and TKG+, Taipei.

Veteran art collector Rudy Tseng shared one recent example. “Lee Mingwei is an internationally well-known artist known for his participatory installations,” he explained. “There’s a very solid group of collectors trying their best to support him when he gets institutional or museum exhibitions. Last year, he had a solo show at Gropius Bau in Berlin and we [the collectors] formed a task force team to sponsor the catalogue printing. The show then toured to Munich.”

Meanwhile, collectors like Vicky Chen are contributing to the local art ecosystem by opening their own art spaces. Chen, whose collection of contemporary art originates from a shared interest in collecting with her father and is informed by growing up overseas and traveling the world, launched Tao Art in 2020. Located in Taipei’s Neihu district, the space was designed by renowned Japanese architect Jun Aoki.

Wu Chi-Tsung, installation view in “Seeing Through Light” at TAO ART, 2021. Photo by Yu Tzu Chin. Courtesy of the artist and TAO ART, Taipei.

“With the launch of Tao Art, I have been able to establish more connections with artists and collectors,” said Chen. “In recent years, more and more young people are drawn to the mysterious world of art and are interested in starting their own collections.”

Chen explained that Tao Art is also a platform for artists to explore different ideas and possibilities. By the end of this year, the space aims to launch a new program offering young artists and art students the opportunity to work together with art professionals to create exhibitions.

Growing up overseas and traveling also played a significant role in shaping the collecting habits of Jenny Yeh. The founder of Winsing Art Place, Yeh shared that she would often go abroad for exhibitions and that, at first, her collection consisted mostly of works from outside Taiwan. However, around 2012, she began to look towards local contemporary art and observed strong new concepts by Taiwanese artists that were worth supporting and paying attention to. One of her favorite artists is Yuan Goang-Ming: “He is a very outstanding video and installation artist and one of the pioneers of early video art creation in Taiwan,” she said.

Philippe Parreno, installation view in “Philippe Parreno” at Winsing Art Place, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Winsing Art Place, Taipei.

In establishing Winsing Art Place a little over two years ago, Yeh created a space where Taiwanese artists could communicate with the world while also providing a space for locals to see international art without having to travel overseas.

Having such a strong collector base proved to be advantageous for Taipei during the pandemic. As Terase observed, “The art market shifted gears on multiple unprecedented levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas in the past, people went to the art, art had to go to the people, so to speak. [Cities such as] Taipei and Seoul have always had deep collector bases, so it is only natural that international galleries would seek out these cities to bring art to their clientele who can no longer travel as freely.”

John Yuyi, installation view of “Eye Sees No Lashes” at TAO ART, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and TAO ART, Taipei.

Additionally, at the onset of the global pandemic, Taiwan established effective control measures, with a considerable number of art spaces and museums continuing to organize exhibitions and events in compliance with prevention policies. It was only until this past summer, when cases of the Delta variant surged, that spaces were forced to close temporarily or only be open by appointment.

Despite the current setback, collectors like Chen do not see the momentum of the local art market quelling anytime soon, especially with newer generations of collectors, such as herself, who mostly studied, grew up abroad, and were exposed to diverse cultures. “Nowadays, having access to all kinds of information and the ability to combine our personal experiences with the philosophies passed down by previous generations, we are lucky to have a wider horizon,” said Chen. “[It makes us] more proactive and bolder when it comes to art collecting.”

Reena Devi