Formosa and Function

Left: Richard Chang, founder of Formosa 101 Art Fair, with Pei-Yu Lin of Project Fulfill Art Space, and Dayuan Art Fair Co. executive director Raymond Chou. Right: Artists Jun Yang and Michael Lin, director of Formosa 101 Art Fair Wei-Wei Wang, and Taipei Contemporary Art Center director Esther Lu at Woolloomooloo. (Except where noted, all photos: Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva)

“THAT’S HOW YOU DO BUSINESS,” cheered Wei-Wei Wang, director of the inaugural Formosa 101 art fair. Dealer Tong Walton had managed, within a minute of our encounter, to add me on WeChat and send along a PDF of Liu Xia’s dark-humored paintings while talking up a storm. Although business—or at least the VIP itinerary—wasn’t quite on par with other fairs of its size, Formosa generated some remarkable solo presentations from its thirty-two invited galleries. “With Art Taipei’s quality declining, we wanted to create a competitive fair in Taiwan,” explained Formosa 101 founder Richard Chang. But pairing this fair (modeled after Volta in New York) to the Formosa Art Show (a hotel fair), whose second edition was to open the following day, made for a somewhat mismatched venture.

“Sit, sit on it!” encouraged Pei-Yu Lin of Project Fulfill Art Space, pointing at the large inflatable balloons by Wang Te-Yu. (A day later a too-eager visitor would pop one.) At Mind Set Art Center, Jhong Jiang-Ze’s paintings were so fierce they blew away the bromide about Taiwanese art being “quiet.” “When I finished painting these two, I actually heard them roar,” he said. Shugo Satani of ShugoArts explained his visually bold booth, showing me documentation of Aki Kondo’s action painting. “I just arrived from Art Tokyo, and I am going back tomorrow,” he sighed. Collector Rudy Tseng was making a swift tour, as was artist Michael Lin, who is finalizing his move from Shanghai to Taipei. “You should come to Shanghai in November,” suggested Chinese collector Chong Zhou. “It will be like an Art Basel week, with two fairs and a biennial.” Duly noted.

In the VIP lounge, artist Huang Po-Chih was distributing a limoncello made locally in his wastelands-rehabilitation project in Taoyuan and Hsinchu. The evening culminated with the usual speeches by dignitaries, including a quick appearance by Taipei Fine Arts Museum director Ping Lin, a basement afterparty at Mud Bar (drinking red wine with artist Peter Zimmermann, who was to open his second show with Nunu Fine Arts), and a nightcap at a ten-seat Japanese speakeasy uncovered by artist Jun Yang. Mum’s the word.

Left: Artist Jun Yang, collector and curator Rudy Tseng, Pei-Yu Lin, and Art Basel VIP relations Taiwan Jenny Lee. Right: Artist Jim Avignon and ART.FAIR Cologne director Walter Gehlen.

Over the next two days we abandoned the official program to explore the local cocktail scene. “I want a forest!” trumpeted artist Yin Ling Hsu to one mixologist, referencing themes from her own paintings. She got something that smelled like a sesame noodle salad. “She ordered a ‘beautiful’ and an ‘ugly’ before that,” laughed Gallery Exit’s Anthony Tao.

On Saturday, Taipei’s nonparticipating galleries opened strong. At Eslite, Liu Xiaodong signed a Louis Vuitton–commissioned travel book he had painted in South Africa. I watched him mimic the grunt of a bush pig (in front of his drawing of one) to delighted guests while consuming petits fours and champagne. IT Park showed shiny, uncannily cute (think Henri Rousseau via a children’s nightmare) paintings by Chang Chia-Ying. And Lin & Lin launched a stunning show of second-generation Gutai artists featuring Tsuyoshi Maekawa, Shuji Mukai, and Takesada Matsutani.

That night I joined collector Peng Pei-chang and dealers and artists Cesar Villalon Jr., Derek Tumala, Joy Mallari, Mark Justiniani, and Chu Chun-Teng at Mathieu Borysevicz’s impromptu party for artist Geng Yini at Woolloomooloo. “I came because I love Taipei,” shared a Shanghai collector, “and its politics are becoming really interesting.” Indeed they are, as demonstrated by Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, who attracts much sympathy for her democratic, pluralist, and pro-tolerance positions. But there’s still work to be done. “There are too many little fairs in Taiwan. It would be better to focus on one big one,” texted dealer Chi-Wen, on her way from New York. Certainly one thing we could all agree on: Taipei has so much potential that once all this local energy is consolidated, it will be unstoppable.

Left: Artist Yin Ling Hsu and Exit gallery's Anthony Tao. Right: Mind Set Art Center's founder Andre Lee and artist Jhong Jiang-Ze.

Left: Collector Chong Zhou. Right: Artist Huang Po-Chih.

Left: Dealer Tong Walton. Right: Collector Chen Bo-Wen.

Left: Dealers Anthony Tao and Andre Lee, collector Peng Pei-chang, and BANK-Mabsociety's Mathieu Borysevicz and Vera Yu at Woolloomooloo. Right: Artists Park Tsong Pu and Chang Chia-Ying.

Left: Wei-Wei Wang, artist Peter Zimmermann, and dealer NuNu Hung. Right: Artist Dean-E Mei and Star Gallery's Shelley Wang.

Left: Taipei Artist Village and Treasure Hill Artist Village director Wu Dar-Kuen, dealer Chi-Wen Huang, collector Bart Dekker, and artist Hung-Chih Peng. (Photo Chi-Wen Huang) Right: Taipei Fine Arts Museum director Ping Lin. (Photo: Formosa Art Show)

Left: Double Square's Michael Wu and artist Yu Siuan. Right: Taipei Biennial 2016 curator Corinne Diserens with artists Xavier Le Roy and Scarlet Yu. (Photo: TFAM.)

Left: Eslite Gallery's executive director Emily Chao, collector Lan Zhang, and artist Liu Xiaodong. Right: Artists Aki Kondo and Michael Lin with ShugoArts’s Nayuta Ozawa.

Left: Curators Meiya Cheng and Kit Hammonds with artists Fang Yen-Hsiang and Daum Kim and Taipei Contemporary Art Center director Esther Lu at Woolloomooloo. Right: Manila The Drawing Room’s Cesar Villalon Jr. and artists Derek Tumala, Joy Mallari, and Mark Justiniani.