Friday, November 30, 2007

Yoko Ono's

My blog posts clearly seem to reflect my mood.

Today it is simply . . .

i m a g i n e

p e a c e

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Men, Women and Gender Equity in the Arts

When I’m not art critiquing, I’m writing TOEFL tests. Recently I wrote about the lack of gender equity in the STEM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. However, once consciousness was raised and intervention programs occurred, the scores and interests of both boys and girls vastly improved.

And so it is for the arts. Without a Guerrilla Girl-type consciousness, the art world is still having women underrepresented in gallery and museum exhibitions and under-reviewed in print media. See for a similar discussion.

Unfortunately, this is not an issue that was resolved in the 20th century, but still ongoing. As artists, critics, curators, art consumers, etc., we need to be aware of this disparity and work on improving the gap as it will just make life better for everyone.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Chinese Art is Hot Now, Very Hot

Cai Guo-Qiang's fireworks extravaganza at the APEC meeting, Shanghai, 2001. Photo courtesy

According to, Hong Kong Christie's brought in $US 108.3 million on the first day of a five-day sale.

Cai Guo-Qiang's work, a set of dynamite drawings commissioned for APEC sold for HK$74.2 million.

Christie's recent sales show that Chinese art is hotter than Western art.

Of course, as an art audience we shouldn't be seduced by dizzying prices, but try and understand the value of art, and I don't just mean the market value.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ullens Center for Contemporary Art opens in Beijing

In 1985 to conceive of Beijing as a center for contemporary art would have been a fanciful and preposterous idea. How much the world changes in such a short time-frame.

An ambitious art space opened earlier this month. The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) founded by the Belgian baron and baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens is in a huge factory building, Bauhaus style in the popular 798 art zone.

This is the only non-profit privately funded art organization in China. Architects Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Ma Qingyun renovated the 8,000 square meters with 31 foot-high ceilings. Famed curator and critic Fei Dawei is the newly appointed artistic director.

The inaugural exhibition '85 New Wave: The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art focuses on the time period where it was extremely difficult for artists to make avant-garde works and which prompted an exodus of artists to the west such as Huang Yong-ping to Paris and Xu Bing to New York.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Taipei Biennial 2008 Curators: Vasif Kortun and Manray Hsu

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum announced yesterday that the Taipei Biennial 2008 curators are Vasif Kortun and Manray Hsu.

The exhibition is slated for September 2008 so it can hook up with the other biennials that take place in Asia during that time period.

Vasif Kortun served as director of the Istanbul Biennial in 1992 and 2005 and was curator of the Turkish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1998.

Manray Hsu was the 2000 Taipei Biennial co-curator. At that time, despite numerous entreaties from the museum, his curatorial essay never materialized, so the 2000 Taipei Biennial catalog was published along with the 2002 Taipei Biennial catalog. Hey, he’s got a second chance. Will Manray Hsu write a curatorial essay this time around?

Here he claims to have a PhD from Columbia University:

But strangely enough, his published dissertation never shows up in database searches.
Gasp! Could Manray Hsu be spreading falsehoods about his credentials?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Taipei Biennial 1998 -2008

Having the dubious distinction of seeing all the Taipei Biennials since its inception in 1998, I am posting an excerpt from my article in Yishu, March 2007 issue, where I discuss that the lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum acts as a barometer.

Lobby as Social Barometer

The way artworks are installed in the cavernous lobby of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum for its biennials acts as a barometer for the social and cultural climate in Taiwan. One only needs to examine the lobby installations of subsequent installments of each biennial to get a true picture of Taipei’s social, economic, and artistic climate.

In 1998, for the first biennial, titled Site of Desire and curated by Fumio Nanjo, Dean E-Mei’s beaded Taiwan dollar curtain was suspended from the bank of escalators. Korean artist Choi Jeonghwa’s obese inflatable golden goddess statue, whose wings flapped, added to an atmosphere of excess that was akin to walking into a capitalistic arcade where the unabashed pursuit of money, market, and riches was waved in everyone’s faces. This paralleled the hope and excitement that Taipei residents felt at the time. There was a new mayor, and promises of riches seemed to be within grasp. The sense of opulence and optimism, with a bit of chaos thrown in, created a lively biennial. Cai Guo-Qiang’s bamboo structure of advertisements enveloping the outside and moving inside of the museum, combined with Hou Chun-ming’s erotic woodblock prints, created a mini scandal in the press, while Cai’s missile-shooting performance hinted at a promising future.

The 2000 biennial, The Sky is the Limit, curated by Jérôme Sans and Manray Hsu, created a more welcoming lobby. The entire floor was covered with Michael Lin’s pink-hued floral painting, while huge balloons of Jun’ya Yamada’s participatory calligraphic strips floated overhead. The dynamic conversation between these works created what seemed like a cozy space rather than a stuffy institution, encouraging visitors to forget politics and the economy and to just enjoy life.

In 2002, with the Great Theatre of the World, curators Bartomeu Marí and Jason Chia-chi Wang exhibited Rita McBride’s Arena, a large grandstand that transformed the lobby into a theatre space so that audience members became both performer and spectator, thus making the lobby an open forum for discussion.

Barbara Vanderlinden and Amy Huei-hwa Cheng’s 2004 Do You Believe in Reality?
combined Chang Yong-ho’s voyeuristic viewing platforms, providing a kind of privacy that was similar to placing a peep show in a big public area. With Kuo I-chen’s shadow of a real plane flying overhead, they created a lobby filled with marvel that made one want to look up in the air. The juxtapositions of works and viewing areas created a sense of shifting perspectives between reality and illusion.

For 2006, Dirty Yoga curated by Dan Cameron and Wang Jun-jieh, the placement in the lobby of solitary dark objects that did not interact with each other, that seemed solipsistic and bleak with little communication taking place among them, coincided with the Biennial’s own snubbing of the September convergence of other Asian biennials.
The combination of Regina Silvera’s black footprints pasted all over the museum’s façade, Daniel Ortega’s portable black obelisk on wheels, Nari Ward’s tarry snowman, Eko Nugroho’s black wall drawing, and Katharina Grosse’s pile of spray-painted dirt, unwittingly created an uncomfortable and uninviting atmosphere that left only one place to sit, a lonely bench sticking out of the dirt of Grosse’s soiled painting.
This dreary atmosphere seemed to symbolize the public’s feelings about the current status of Taiwan: black and cancerous.
Stay tuned for Taipei Biennial 2008!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Paul McCarthy's 10 Inch Gig

Here's some art you could sink your teeth into. And I'm not referring to the ten inches!

I'm talking about chocolate. What do you think I was talking about?!

Paul McCarthy transformed the Maccarone Gallery into a chocolate factory. His company Peter Paul Chocolates LLC is producing 10 inch, one pound chocolate Santas - in time for the holidays.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Art and the Hello Kitty Syndrome

Image courtesy of Sotheby's/AP.

Jeff Koons' stainless steel sculpture Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) recently sold for the whopping price of US $23.6 million.

Then there's the (C) Murakami retro currently at LA MOCA with its Louis Vuitton shop and high commerce marketing tie-ins.

Art at the high end of the market functions a lot like the famed Hello Kitty image.

Hello Kitty does not have a mouth, so her face does not show emotion. It gains strength and resonance by viewers who read their own psychological readings into it. The Hello Kitty image is like a mirror and reflects the viewer's own empty wishes and desires back.

Don't you think Koon's Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold), for example, operates in a similar vein? It is fairly vapid in meaning and seems to reflect back its ostentatious feelings of wealth to the viewer (potential owner), kind of giving a metaphorical pat on the fat cat's back "greed is good; wealth is good. Don't think too much."

Writer Andrew Berardini writes on his blog ( about not being swayed by the art market and for the need for holding art to the same standards of literature:

"When market decides quality, and curators get in bed on this to satisfy trusties something wicked this way walks. These definitions can be based, somewhat, on the same definitions as literature. Art that is made for a high-end market with little actual significance and of substantially lower intellectual quality or complexity are the pulp. Complex art works of rich intellectual quality are the literature."


Thursday, November 15, 2007

International Public Art Project in Kaohsiung Harbor

Here's a stock photo of Kaohsiung, the second biggest city in Taiwan located in the south.
There is an open call for artists for its International Competition of Public Art Project in Kaohsiung Harbor.
The submission deadline is December 17th, 2007.

For more details, check the Kaohsiung Harbor Public Art Project official website on The site says that this is the first time to have a public art project for harbors in Taiwan and that competition between Asian harbors is "ferocious." Hmm, does Taiwan need its very own Merlion?
If you get frustrated by that site's lack of English information, then contact the project manager Wang Yuling at .

Good luck!

Murakami's MOCA Retrospective

Art. Fashion. LA. Hollywood. What's not to love?

The Takashi Murakami retrospective (isn't he too young for a retrospective) recently opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and was organized by chief curator Paul Schimmel. (Read Schimmel's Out of Actions, a great overview of performance art from around the world.)

Artforum discusses Murakami's emphasis on bodily fluids in his sculptures, installations and animations.

Here, you can see videos and download a gallery guide to the exhibition.

In spite of the high visibility of Murakami's imagery, it was still hard to find good downloadable images. This one comes from the Saatchi Gallery site.

Some online detractors are grumbling about the blatant commercialism as there is a newly opened Louis Vuitton shop on the premises, but I think if it brings more people into the museum and makes art part of their lives, that's fantastic and hopefully that will drive up the pay rates for art critics too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"The Hammer" by Carl Sandburg

I have seen
The old gods go
And the new gods come.

Day by day
And year by year
The idols fall
And the idols rise.

I worship the hammer.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Art World Scandal

Somedays, the arts pages resemble the sports pages in terms of misdeeds. The Nov/Dec issue of Art AsiaPacific has good coverage on the recent art scandal that rocked Seoul, Korea.

It turns out that Shin Jeong-Ah, the chief curator at Sungkok Art Museum lied about having a PhD from Yale. And her BFA and MBA degrees from the University of Kansas turned out to be fraudulent too.

When this came to light, Shin's curator position and her appointment as artistic co-director to the 2008 Gwangju Biennale were revoked.

In this day of computerized databases and internet search engines, why would anyone be so brazen to fake credentials?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Love/Hate at Taipei MOCA's Fashion Accidentally exhibition

Here are photos from my latest interactive project titled Love/Hate that was exhibited at Taipei MOCA's Fashion Accidentally exhibition in May 2007. Boxing gloves and knitted tubes worn together were designed to help to improve the relationship between two people.

Opening Night: The knitted items and photos are on display, while an impromptu boxing performance takes place.

Before the opening, I photographed strangers in Japan and in Hualien wearing my knitted hats and tubes. They seemed to enjoy the experience.

Waiting for Godot in New Orleans

Sublime cultural moments happen when the time, place and art meet in perfect harmony.

Artist Paul Chan worked with Creative Time to bring the Classical Theatre of Harlem to stage Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the ninth ward of New Orleans.

The ninth ward was the heaviest hit in the devastating 2005 Hurricane Katrina and people are still desperately waiting for help to get back to their homes.

Dan Cameron vividly describes the experience of the event:

Creative Time’s site: Photo courtesy of Creative Time.

Friday, November 9, 2007

roll away, roll away

Every now and then I will feature my own art work, because, because… DAMN IT - it’s my blog!

So with no further ado, here’s an image from my disaster series of 2000.

This is titled “Landslide.” I was thinking of Monty Python’s “run away, run away” and thought of “roll away, roll away” during a landslide or a speeding truck on the highway.

Also at that time in Taiwan, stores didn’t sell disposable sponge paint rollers, so if you wanted to replace a roller, you always had to buy a new one with a metal handle. I had many paint rollers around my house as a result.

Interventions & Inspirations - Part II

The Singapore group Kill Your Television performed Design for Death in 2004. Here is an image of Rizman Putra performing, courtesy of .

This small image is courtesy of IT Park, the famed alternative art space in Taipei, here exhibiting Tsong Pu's installation of tape measures and snoring beds, to symbolize the aging body.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Interventions & Inspirations

This wonderful image is from . Pyuupiru is one of the artists who agreed to be in my exhibition titled "Interventions and Inspirations" that unfortunately had to be cancelled due to lack of funding.

The artists all agreed, but then no funding, hence a cancelled/postponed exhibition. Too bad! I wanted to show that exciting art is being created in Asia. If anyone is interested to sponsor this exhibition, please contact me via comment.

Here's my curatorial statement:

“Interventions and Inspirations” is an exhibition of conceptual art by artists based in China, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Taiwan and include works that stir up society with works that are pure poetry.

Artists: Singapore: Kill Your Television, a multimedia performance group who blurs the boundaries between media and art. China: Peng Yu and Sun Yuan provocatively relate to society. Korea: Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Flash animations of word jazz poems in several languages. Japan: Pyuupiru combines obsession with costume making. Taiwan: Tsong Pu is a visual poet while Wu Mali uses an art vocabulary wielding it like a social activist’s megaphone to rally the masses.

What separates us from other species is the possession of two powerful cognitive tools: the capability to intervene and the capacity to imagine. The world’s history is dynamically shaped both positively and negatively by interventions and inspirations.

The practice of agriculture can be seen as an early and broad-sweeping intervention that dramatically changed the course of society. Then there are those solo acts by courageous individuals who did not follow conventional thought, but followed their own inner voices. Individuals such as Rosa Parks sparked a movement, the Civil Rights Movement in the USA, just by her intervention of sitting on a restricted bus seat.

An intervention is an interference that changes a situation. Euphemistically a military intervention is an invasion, while a family intervention involves a group of people stopping their loved one from his chemical dependency. An art intervention challenges the status quo and shakes up commonplace thinking, while also simultaneously inspiring viewers to effect change in their own lives.

Inspiration allows one to dream and to reach for the stars. Advancements in science, medicine, arts and society all started off with a dream. Without being able to dream, one will not want to get out of bed in the morning. The capability to dream and to feel inspired is what makes us look forward to tomorrow.

By juxtaposing these two cognitive tools in an art exhibition, “Interventions and Inspirations” seeks to encompass the wide-range of thought in conceptual art that is currently happening in Asia and brings together 8-10 compelling artists and 4 provocative writers for an exhibition that will long be remembered.
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Taiwanese artist Yao Jui-chung 姚瑞中

Taiwanese artist Yao Jui-chung 姚瑞中 created a prolific output of ink drawings with gold leaf on handmade paper during his 3 month summer residency at the international Glenfiddich artist residency in Scotland. The framed results can now be seen at IT Park, Taipei, until December 8.

Yao's drawings that channel Scottish mythology while merging the dramatic Scottish highlands with the techniques of Chinese landscape painting are sublime.

Here, in “Wonderful: The Holy Ridge under the Milk-way” (photo courtesy of the artist) a figuratively-shaped mountain that is formed by intensely worked black ink scribbles show the erratic, quick hand movements by the artist.
Gold leaf rivlets stream forth from mysterious inner mountain sources. This huge mountain range dwarfs a red-cloaked figure who appears to be one with nature, enjoying the heavenliness of the scene.
Exploring the intricate traditions and modes of perspective of Chinese landscape painting can lend itself to some exciting new discoveries as Yao recently found out.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Food for Thought

Now that curators are getting top billing that is equal to artists, isn't it about time to start publishing their birthdates along with the obligatory artists' birthdates?

Why is it only artists whose birthdates get published in catalogs and press releases?

What is the reasoning behind that? That a young person is a natural genius and an older person has lived experience. With that reasoning, why aren't the birthdates of curators, critics, directors, etc. published in promotional materials?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Fine Art of Criticism

What’s black and white and ‘read’ all over? A newspaper. Get it?

English language newspapers, at one time, published the best in arts criticism: dance, classical music, fine arts, architecture and drama. But those days are long gone.

Terry Teachout writes about how valuable newspaper criticism was in the 20th century: “… a considerable number of the most significant collections of criticism published in the 20th century, including Virgil Thomson’s The Musical Scene (1945), Edwin Denby’s Looking at the Dance (1949), Kenneth Tynan’s Curtains (1961), and Hilton Kramer’s The Age of the Avant-Garde (1973) consisted in large part of newspaper reviews.”

Are English language readers no longer interested in the arts or reading cerebral criticism? What happened? Is celebrity gossip taking over our brains?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Aging: Getting Older by the Minute

As the populations of industrialized nations get older (i.e. the world’s baby boomers), aging is a hot topic these days. Computer scientist turned bio-geneticist Aubrey de Gray proposes an incredible thesis that if the muck can be cleaned out of our cells (the mitochondrial DNA), then we can live to be 1000 years old, that’s an extra 900 years or so. He believes we have the capability of finding a cure for aging. Imagine.

Traditionally artists staved off aging by having sought immortality through their artworks. There are notable artists who dealt directly and honestly with aging in their work: Picasso who tried holding onto his potency, Gilbert & George in elderly bodies but with still young lust at heart and John Coplans who is known for graphic black and white photo closeups of his aging body. The Tang Dynasty poet/painters musing about life in their old age. Female artists, hmm? Society doesn’t actually encourage the menopausal “crone” to express herself, so not many women seem to make art about their aging bodies – even an artist such as Louise Bourgeois: in her 90s and she’s still stuck on her childhood. Only Hannah Wilke comes to mind, but she was also focusing on the transitory states of sickness and health.

In this day, where grants, residencies and gallery programs focus on the emerging and the young artist, it is visionary to see the artists who tackle these universal ideas of aging. Especially, now that we are living longer, it is puzzling why there is not much more art about aging. Culturally, this is developed society’s major taboo. Aging equals impending death, and no one really wants to be reminded of such a mortal truth.