The Future of Taiwan’s Art Market from the “Taipei Contemporary Art Fair”
Maybe you’ve never heard of “Taipei Contemporary Art Fair”, but this art fair, which will hold its first exhibition in Taipei next January, has a lot of history. The director of Basel Hong Kong, Magnus Renfrew, is the director and one-handed planner, and the sponsor behind the scenes is still UBS. In addition, although it is the first time, Taipei Contemporary has invited internationally renowned galleries including Gagosian Gallery, Perrotin, and Hauser & Wirth. Such a luxurious art fair has made people turn their attention to the Taiwan market again.
Many people may ask, why choose Taiwan? Ren Tianjin, director of the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that he considered various factors and felt that the Taiwan market was an unexplored market full of opportunities.
Is the Taipei Art Market a legacy of the Asian art market? What is the potential of contemporary art in Taipei? What is the impact of Contemporary Art Taipei on the Asian market? To this end, we interviewed Lin Shunjie, a senior art consultant in Taiwan, and Zhao Yi, a resident writer in Taiwan’s well-known art media Fei Chizhong, to discuss the prospects of the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair and the Taiwan art market.
What is Taipei Contemporary Art Fair
The first “Taipei Contemporary Art Fair” will be held in Taipei in January 2019, featuring 90 galleries from over 40 countries. The theme of this exhibition is “New Perspectives and Shared Platforms”. The three themes of the fair, “Past,” “Present,” and “Future,” will be discussed over the three days, ranging from contemporary Asian artists of the mid-twentieth century, to emerging artists of today, and the future The development of museums and cultural institutions.
Unlike the internationalization and large scale of Basel in Hong Kong, Ren Tianjin intends to make Taipei Contemporary a regional art fair focusing on the Asian market. In the exhibition list, Asian galleries accounted for nearly 90%, with 20 galleries from Taiwan alone.
In addition to the Asian market as the center of the market positioning, another highlight of the Taipei Contemporary is to focus on emerging galleries and new generation collectors. The fair specifically opened a new generation gallery program for young galleries less than eight years old; and in the art salon area, the conference invited all 90 galleries to select a work under $8,000 to exhibit as a way to attract more young collectors.
Ren Tianjin, Art Director of Contemporary Taipei, said, “This new art fair, Contemporary Taipei, will introduce many selected galleries to Taipei’s strong family of collectors and present cultural creations belonging to Taiwan and Asia to a wider audience.”
Performance of the Taipei Art Market
Many new generation art collectors may not have paid much attention to the art market in Taiwan, but the Taiwanese art market has been going on for 40 years. After its beginnings in the 1960s, its development in the 1970s, and its maturation in the 1980s, the 1990s marked the peak of the Taiwanese art market. In its heyday, there were nearly 100 galleries in the Dunhua South Road area of Taipei alone. A small to medium-sized gallery could do as much as 600,000 RMB a month. However, the Asian financial turmoil of 1997 caused the art market in Taiwan to collapse rapidly. In the time since, Taiwan’s art market has been mediocre.
The Taiwan market in the last two years is summarized as.
- 1. the overall market is more mature, with a small rebound in 2017
- 2. the overall level of local collectors is high
- 3. the market prefers medium-priced artworks
First of all, although the overall performance of Taiwan’s art market is not particularly prominent, the 40-year history of the art market has laid a solid foundation for the Taiwan market. At present, there are more than 400 galleries in Taiwan, including many high-quality local galleries, such as Eslite Gallery, Geng Gallery and so on. Art fairs in Taiwan are also relatively mature. ART TAIPEI is one of the oldest art fairs in Asia and has been held for 25 sessions so far.
In addition, many well-known Asian painters perform far better in Taiwan than they do in other cities or regions. Japan’s Yoshitomo Nara, for example, accounts for 8% of all turnover in Taiwan, just 3% lower than in Japan. Zao Wou-ki’s turnover in Taiwan accounted for 4.4% of the total ratio, and Chu Teh-chun’s accounted for 11%.
And in 2018, the art market in Taiwan even saw a rebound. According to ArtPrice, in the first half of 2018, the Taiwanese art market reached a turnover of more than $200 million, with nearly 500 artworks sold, including Zao Wou-Ki’s 5.11.62, which sold for nearly $7 million at Rovio. In addition, many galleries sold surprisingly well at this year’s otherwise unpromising Taipei International Art Fair, and still managed to break even even even with over-investment.
In addition to the market itself, Taiwan’s collectors are also more sophisticated compared to many Asian regions, for example, world-renowned collectors such as Chen Taiming and Weng Meihui are from Taiwan. Zhao Yi, a resident writer at Non-Pond, told Art Market Newsletter, “The veteran group of collectors in Taiwan has accumulated a tradition of acquiring artworks around the world for more than 20 years now since they stepped out of the local market in the late 1990s, and has a certain familiarity with the mechanisms and operations of the international art market as a whole.” More importantly, many Taiwanese collectors are not limited to investment for artworks, but are purely appreciative. Many of them will study the collection and have a more diversified acceptance of it.
They can accept masterpieces priced at a hundred million dollars or more, as well as small works priced at a thousand dollars-as long as they agree with the price. As long as one agrees that the work is worthwhile. ”
Zhao Yi said: “The mentality of Taiwan collectors in general is relatively open and diversified, and the proportion of investment-oriented collectors is relatively low, and they are less likely to focus only on famous artists. I know many collectors who are willing to collect the works of young artists, most of them are not in the mindset of investment, but to support young artists, and in the process of interaction and communication with artists, to get personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.”
Although there is a group of top collectors in Taiwan, there are not many such collectors due to the limitations of Taiwan’s economy and other reasons. The overall art market in Taiwan prefers artworks with a mid-price range of $100,000-$500,000. Looking back at the newly released list of contemporary galleries in Taipei, there are not many really big international galleries, but rather small and medium-sized galleries dominate.
Lin Shunjie said: “In recent years, collectors more paintings as the mainstream of the purchase, most of the works of the transaction results are increasingly concentrated in a certain level of the gallery, the middle level of the gallery transaction results mostly in the art fair. Works that are priced high to a certain level are not popular in the Taiwan art market unless they are internationally known and visible, and works that are too regional in price are not popular in the Taiwan art market.”
Zhao Yi also said: “Taiwan’s economy in the last decade is generally not very good, for the high price (about 1 million U.S. dollars or more) works, the local collectors will be very careful in the purchase of the collection, will consider more. Therefore, this Taipei Contemporary Art Fair, if the price is set appropriately, the work will be sold well. On the contrary, if most galleries set their prices too close to the Basel level in Hong Kong, it is very likely that they will not be successful, because the art collection market in Taiwan today should not be able to eat so many high-priced artworks. Or in other words, serious collectors over here have usually been looking at works all over the world, and don’t necessarily have to purchase their collections at this fair.”
Predicting the Impact of the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair on the Taiwan Art Market
The arrival of the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair has undoubtedly injected new living water into the slightly bland Taiwan art market. Many people have high hopes for this Taiwan Art Fair. However, the actual impact of the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair on the Taiwan art market may not be high.
Lin Shunjie said, “In the short term for the Taiwan art market is indeed a very big impact, but if Taipei Contemporary can continue to operate for several sessions, as Art Basel HK has brought to Hong Kong, only then will there be more significant and huge changes to the Taiwan art market and even the entire industrial structure.”
Zhao Yi said, “I personally think that it is unlikely that the entire art market will be revitalized because of a Taipei Contemporary Art Fair. Many collectors now have stable contacts and buying habits with foreign galleries and so on. Some high-ranking collectors here, a year will be divided into two spring and autumn, each prepared about 2-4 million U.S. dollars budget to buy works, so whether Taipei Contemporary has come in, for these people, there is no substantial difference.”
Of course, the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair for the Taiwanese market, and the market’s future potential, should still not be underestimated. Taiwan may become a regional art market center with Asia at the center. And the main reasons for this are.
- The overall art market in Taiwan has become more eye-catching
- Increased opportunities for local Taiwanese and Asian regional artists
- More foreign galleries, especially small and medium sized galleries, are likely to establish a presence here
Based on the accounts of two industry practitioners interviewed by Art Market Newsletter, the arrival of this Taipei Contemporary Art Fair is very important for the increasingly localized Taiwanese art market. Whether for local collectors, artists, or art institutions, it is an opportunity to enhance their horizons and to help the Taiwanese market expand further towards internationalization. Lin Shunjie said, “Since the 1990s, the scope of Taiwan’s art market has become increasingly diverse and changing, a trend that has only accelerated in recent years, and the art market and collectors’ discernment has only become more refined, the only concern is whether the works are good enough to be recognized in this ever-changing trend!”
On the other hand, the fair was also a great exposure for artists from Taiwan and Asia. Both interviewees said that the fair set up solo exhibitions for well-known Asian artists such as Yuko Murata and Mao Xuhui, which is a consolidation of these artists’ position in the Asian market. On the other hand, the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair will attract many foreign galleries. This will also be of great help in increasing the exposure of Taiwan’s local artists. Zhao Yi said: “This time, from the layout of the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair’s investment, strategy and the introduction of a large number of foreign first- and second-tier galleries and artists, for Taiwan’s relatively outstanding local artists, will greatly enhance the opportunity for these artists to “be seen”. Such a result should be very positive for the diversification of the quality of local art creation and the improvement of quality based on competition.”
But most importantly, if this Taipei Contemporary Art Fair can be successfully held, coupled with the overall rebounding trend of Taiwan’s art market this year, more international galleries may be stationed in Taiwan in the future.
Located at the border of Southeast Asia and East Asia, Taiwan’s art market is relatively mature and free. 5% tax is not as high as Hong Kong’s, but it is reasonable compared to other countries. Taiwan’s art market in general is still very cost-effective. Whether it is Whitehead Gallery, which has been selling steadily in Taiwan even though it was not well received, or Sean Kelly, which has recently set up shop in Taiwan, it is a sign that more international galleries may consider setting up shop in Taiwan in the future.
Overall, the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair may be just the beginning for the recovery of the Taiwanese market. Although, it is unlikely that the explosion will happen, however, the potential of the Taiwan market will slowly be discovered. The arrival of the Taipei Contemporary Art Fair will not only bring new energy to the Taiwan art market, but it will also have more positive feedback for the city’s artistic taste and economic development as a whole.