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Taipei Dangdai: The return of painting

Upbeat contemporary art fair concludes with emphasis on color, creativity in post-COVID world

 "The Interruption I & II" by Madeleine Pfull at Taipei Dangdai. (Taiwan News image)

 "The Interruption I & II" by Madeleine Pfull at Taipei Dangdai. (Taiwan News image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) —By mid-afternoon on Saturday (May 13), crowds milled about noisily in front of a dozen local and international galleries near the entrance of Taipei Dangdai Art & Ideas.

Paintings and other works on paper took center stage at Taipei Dangdai, almost to the exclusion of other contemporary mediums like photography, installation art, and sculpture.

Many of the 90 galleries at the art fair presented carefully curated selections, choosing works by just a few artists on their roster. A few galleries, however, took a more lackadaisical approach, relying upon back room stock and rotating artwork to spur sales.

An oversized polka dot pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama, and sculptural figures by the recently deceased artist, Ju Ming (朱銘), were the few sculptures at the art fair, everything else was wall mounted, ranging from colored fields to whimsical portraits.

At times, too much color can be overpowering, and sometimes the simplest things draw attention. “Everyone likes something that moves,” said Goedele Zwaenepoel, gallerist with Belgium’s Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

She was referring to a simple kinetic sculpture made of intertwining triangles made by U.S. artist George Rickey in 1975. The sculpture swayed left and right like the hands of a clock, blown by air from the overhead air-conditioning system.

Behind this slight sculpture were a half-dozen abstract paintings offered by the Vervoordt Gallery which explored texture, color, and space. Vervoordt Gallery ascribes the primacy of art work and objects, and uses it as a basis for undertaking high profile private projects such as collaborations with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.

Founded by Axel Vervoordt, the gallery is largely responsible for influencing their minimalist style in home decor and fashion popularized by Kardashian and West.

“Axel started as an antique dealer and did this for about 50 years. As the market transformed, he opened an art gallery with his son in 2011. He does some designs for private projects, but only after intensive consultation and shared vision with the client does intake begin," said Zwaenepoel.

The only public project Vervoordt has undertaken was the Tribeca Penthouse at the Greenwich Hotel in 2020, where he utilized a popular Japanese design trend, wabi-sabi, with rough hewn wooden furnishings and neutral colors.

Taipei Dangdai: The return of paintingWork by the late “King of Kowloon.” (Taiwan News image)

While Vervoordt Gallery caters to the rich and famous, other galleries cater to more democratic tastes such as public art and graffiti. For example, work from the “King of Kowloon,” Tsang Tsou-choi (曾灶財) (1921-2007), was presented by the Lucy Chang Fine Arts in Hong Kong.

A gallerist explained that Tsang's work on paper was largely done in red and black marker in his later years, when he was forced to live in an elderly care center and the strong scent of ink bothered his fellow seniors.

The gallergist noted that much of his work was nonsensical, such as expressing himself as heir to an imaginary birthright which led to nothing more than a spring of artistic creativity and the defacing of public property and space with repetitive characters which have no meaning other than being decorative.

Hanart Gallery Founder Johnson Chang (張頌仁) was also familiar with the “King of Kowloon” and had included such work in a previous exhibition of typography and lettering. Today, he was busy launching “Constellations,” a book by U.S. art publishing house Rizzoli.

The book launch is historic as it is the first time this leading publisher has released work focusing on Taiwanese artists. The book features the lives of two intertwining artists, deceased painter Yeh Shih-chiang (葉世強) and installation artist, archivist, and photographer Yeh Wei-li (葉偉立).

Taipei Dangdai: The return of painting

Two large scrolls by contemporary artist Bingyi. (INK Studio image)

But the biggest buzz was generated around INK Studio from Beijing, which exhibited two huge landscape scrolls, “Cold Mountains in Dancing Snow” and “Secluded Forest in Flying Waterfalls” (2021-2023) by Bingyi (冰逸).

INK Studio Gallery Assistant Rae Wan (萬洳憶) said that the mission of this Beijing-based gallery is to feature contemporary works that use ink as an artistic medium. COVID has forced the gallery to go without an exhibition in Beijing for three years, though it has kept busy by staying active in international fairs and exhibitions.