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Interview with Emerson Kun-Sheng Wang, Art Taipei's Executive Director

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Interview with Emerson Kun-Sheng Wang, Art Taipei's Executive Director

The Artling spoke to Emerson Kun-Sheng Wang, the Executive Director of Art Taipei's 2015 edition, about changes to the fair's format and what we can expect in the coming years. 

 

What can we expect to see from the 22nd edition of ART TAIPEI this year? What are some of the key developments from previous editions?

21 years has passed and ART TAIPEI has come to its 22nd edition, thus we would love to present a brand new image of ART TAIPEI for people to see. In the previous years the focus was generally on the connection and intersection between art and life. However the movement of art has transitioned from the traditional to the contemporary which enshrines the importance of cross-border and inheritance. It is also what we would like to focus on this year. 

In addition, we are looking to deepen the collaboration within the Art scene in Taiwan, and hopefully to consolidate the bonding within Taiwan’s art field. On the other hand, through the process we hope that the local Taiwanese will be able to see the most brilliant artworks from around the world during a period of just a few days. 

Bird's eye view of the 2014 edition of Art Taipei

Is there an over-arching theme or curatorial guideline for the fair? Tell us a little about your selection process. 

The over-arching theme is cross-border and inheritance.

The selection process was conducted under an open and fair mechanism. This year, we have 3 international juries, and 12 domestic juries, in total 15 juries; after two rounds of jury sessions, according to the grades ranking, we came to decide the galleries that would be participating in the fair. However, I would like to emphasize that it’s not about if a gallery is good enough or not, but about the priority since each year the number of galleries applying always greatly exceeds what we expected. So it is not that a gallery is rejected because it is not good enough. 

The overall selection criteria include that the gallery has to be established for more than 3 years, that the gallery has healthy cooperation and relations with artists, and that the gallery has to curate at least 5 exhibitions annually. By setting these criteria, we hope to encourage the galleries to establish a sound cooperation mode with artists 

"Reverse of volume" (2012) by Yasuaki Onishi
RG_Glue, polyethlene sheeting, other
(Photo:Nash Baker; Image courtesy of ARTCOURT Gallery)

For the first time, ART TAIPEI will take over the entirety of the Taipei World Trade Centre which is a big change. Why the decision to scale up? Are there plans to continue to grow in the next few years?

As mentioned before, each year we receive a great number of applications, and this year we hope to incorporate more willing galleries into this annual fair. However, this doesn’t mean that we compromise the quality and standards of the fair. 

On the other hand, we don’t just view ART TAIPEI as a commercial fair, but an inviting space for people. As a result, we run this space in a whole new way. To grow bigger doesn’t means we merely care about the number of participating galleries; instead, the aim is to provide a more comfortable space for the viewers and spacious room for gallerists to better plan and execute the exhibitions. In other words, it’s not only the number of participating galleries that increase but also the space for galleries, which can reach up to 150 meter squares. By doing so, the galleries will have much spacious room to showcase artists’ works and to present a more inviting space for the viewers. And we’ve devoted much space to plaza-like areas for public art instead of just cramming up the space with more gallery booths. For the next year, we will continue to maintain this arrangement and the scale in order to create the new micro art city, ART TAIPEI.

"Wing" (2013) by Saad Qureishi
Birch, plywood
(Image courtesy of Gazelli Art House)

Formerly known as the 'Young Artist Discovery' section, this year's 'Future' section will look to promote emerging artists under the age of 35. How did this come about? Any artists who we should watch out for in particular? 

Actually the 'Future' section is a complementary version for 'Young Artist Discovery'. 'Young Artist Discovery' was aimed to present Taiwanese young artists as in the ‘Made in Taiwan’ section this year. Our decision to plan a section for international galleries to present young artists in the form of solo exhibitions resulted in the 'Future' section. So this year, 8 Taiwanese artists will be presented in the ‘Made in Taiwan’ section and 8 international artists in the pairing section, ‘Future’. 

‘Made in Taiwan’ has reached its 8th edition, and the results have been exceptional. We invite young artists to show at ART TAIPEI and furnish an opportunity to learn how to present their work on such a large scale. It provides them with the novice experience to work with galleries, so they will be prepared for the future international opportunities. Actually, this section showcases a wide range of artworks by Taiwanese artists, from traditional ink painting to the latest new media creations, which demonstrates the rich diversities among Taiwanese young artists and that they are not just following a certain trend. 

The purpose of ‘Future’ is to encourage galleries to present potential artists of 35 years old and under. By doing so, we hope it serves as a reminder that we have to look to the future instead of lingering on the already-famous stars.   

 

The 'Frontier' section will feature galleries presenting art in "new genres" and innovative multi-media formats, such as digital art, interactive art, sound art and installations. How do you think these genres will be received?

New media art is our main focus of the year. The main concerns of these genres are that people usually don’t know how to collect these works and that people considered these genres of works to be exclusive for museums or for non-profit organization space. However, by far, many collectors with visions are collecting video art as well as new media artworks. So we would love to seize this opportunity to create the section to urge galleries to turn their attention from the turnover of the fair generated to these promising new artists.

And also we hope to enrich the overall exhibitions at ART TAIPEI. To take this vision a step further, we’ve also organized talks on topics such as collecting new media art and collectors’ experience sharing. By doing so, we try to fulfill some of the other important purposes of an art fair, including education and promotion.

Besides, this time we collaborate with Jaguar to present Jaguar Asia Tech Art Prize. After 3 rounds of jury sessions, we’ve chosen 5 finalists. The Grand prize winner will be announced on October 29. 

The reason behind this is to make ART TAIPEI as more than just an art fair but a forerunner in the field to encourage the creation of new media art. 

Visitors to Art Taipei 2014 watch Japanese artist Shintaro Miyake draw live at the fair. 

This year's edition includes the launch of the new 'Premier' section, can you tell us more about it? 

Usually when we talk about premier, we think of movies. In the same light, we also want to implement this idea on ART TAIPEI so that people won’t feel they’ve seen the artworks somewhere else already. 

It will be a feature if galleries present works made for ART TAIPEI; at the same time, we can also think of ART TAIPEI as a special debut stage for these works that allows them to draw more attention than a solo exhibition. By doing so, we expect to make ART TAIPEI a hotspot for galleries and artists to promote their artworks. ART TAIPEI may elevate the quality of the fair and, the galleries and artists may as well promote themselves. Everyone wins.

In fact, to some extent, this section is fused with the conception of curation. Yet, instead of solely incorporating main concepts and arranging the presentation of artworks, the curation concept of an art fair needs to be seen in a bigger picture, with the overall planning in mind. 

"Balance girl" (2014) by Yoshitomo Nara
 Woodcut
(Image courtesy of Der-Horng Art Gallery)

The exhibition halls will be designed by local architects HOM Liou and Bruce Wang, and the fair has been given a new visual identity through the work of Li Meng-Chieh. What is the rationale behind focusing on design and how do you hope for that to impact the fair?

This year we want the visual identity to appear younger. The black background gives off a cool tone and a fashionable sense. The 4 color patches stands for the four main sections on its own, so the visual identity can be viewed respectively and as a whole. 

As for the space design, we aimed to create a comfortable space, a place for people instead of merely a commercial space. We’ve even taken the design of café areas into consideration just in order to provide visitors with a complete show experience. 

We expect the exhibition floor to reach the standard of a museum space. Although the fair only lasts for a few days, we really anticipate to make ART TAIPEI 2015 a micro-city of art. Additionally, what we do this year will serve as an example for the participating gallerists next year as the gallerists might know how to choose suitable works and to present their works accordingly to match with the bigger exhibition space, and they are expected to present the exhibitions with a curatorial concept.   

"Site 2015-3" (2014-2015) by Yi Wang
 Mixed media on canvas
(Image courtesy of Aike-Dellarco)

What are some of the challenges that you face with the art scene in Taiwan? How has the local landscape of collectors and artists changed over the years?

Despite the fact that the development of the art scene in Taiwan continues to grow, and the number of art trade is rising, the challenge is that ART TAIPEI has to keep close ties with the gallery industry to ensure the quality of artworks presented.

Painting still remains a preference for lots of collectors, yet as mentioned in a previous question, quite many collectors with visions shows interest to other kinds of artworks.

 

What do you think of your role as an art fair within the local Taiwanese art ecosystem? 

ART TAIPEI is actually affiliated to Taiwan Art Gallery Association (TAGA) and Taiwanese galleries are our association members, thus the mission of ART TAIPEI is to grow and learn along with the Taiwanese galleries. 

ART TAIPEI is devoted to inviting more international galleries to participate, which gives a chance to Taiwanese galleries to join an international fair without travelling and offers a valuable opportunity for Taiwanese galleries as well as galleries from over the world to learn from each other. Thus, Taiwanese galleries really value ART TAIPEI. 

Furthermore, TAGA has joined the Asia-Pacific Art Gallery Alliance (APAGA), and the president of TAGA has been elected as the Secretary General of APAGA of this term. We thus expect to further strengthen the collaborations in this region and provide Taiwanese galleries a bigger platform for exchange and conversation.

 


About Emerson Kun-Sheng Wang

Emerson received his BA in Sociology in Taiwan and MA degrees in History & Theory of Modern Art in Europe. Previously, he worked as a gallery manager. From 1998 to late 2012, Emerson lived in Europe and studied in the UK, the Czech Republic and Germany. He worked with museums, galleries and arts centres after graduation, and managed a Europe-Asia arts exchange programme. He was also invited to serve as a visiting researcher/curator at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea. During that period, he also worked as a columnist and Europe correspondent for art magazines, as well as an operation manager and chief editor.

Emerson returned to Taiwan in December 2012 as an independent curator and an art critic.

Since April 2015, he has served as the Executive Director of ART TAIPEI.

Emerson aims to bring fresh ideas to ART TAIPEI – the longest-standing art fair in Asia, founded over 20 years ago – to lead ART TAIPEI towards a more curatorially focused fair, merge the art market with the academic and become an international art world with a strong focus on Asian contemporary art.

 


 

All images courtesy of ART TAIPEI

Any views or opinions in the interview are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

 

 



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