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Small Is Bountiful: Margaret Shiu’s Contemporary Art Collection

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Huang Chien-Hua (黃建樺), Beast – A Bear (走獸—熊), 2006, photograph (metal photographic paper, aluminum panel), 120 x 186 cm, Taipei Fine Arts Museum collection
In 2021, Margaret Shiu (蕭麗虹), an important promoter of contemporary Taiwanese art, donated 43 works by 26 contemporary artists she had collected over a period of about four decades to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. For reasons of limited funds and storage space, Shiu mainly collected miniatures and single works from series. Nevertheless, her collection is a microcosm showing the diverse development of contemporary art in Taiwan.
The title Small is Bountiful conveys three meanings: first, complete assemblies and large-scale installation works that correspond to the collection of single and small works; second, the diverse development of Taiwanese contemporary art represented by the collected works; third, the socio-cultural implications of the collection of an individual on the overall development of art.
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Tsong Pu (莊普), Beyond the Yardstick (尺度外), 1999, pencil, acrylic paint, ruler, metal wire, watercolor paper, 20 x 25 cm, Taipei Fine Arts Museum collection.
As more than half of these 26 artists created huge works, serial artworks, or installation art, small or single works taken from series are contrasted with huge works, complete series, or installation pieces by the same artist. The exhibition not only presents the artists’ creative concepts and styles in their entirety, but also shows viewers the diverse development of installation art in Taiwan since the end of 1980s. In the 1990s, Taiwanese contemporary artists fused poetry, literature, and various media and demonstrated their intention to use the magnitude of their works to “dialogue with space”. At the same time, they created huge installations and invited visitors to participate by entering the works—viewing an exhibition became a sensory process of physical participation and experience. During the exhibition, symposiums will spotlight collectors as they share their views and collection methods, thus demonstrating the significance of the collections for the development of contemporary art, society, and culture.
Influenced by the trends and development in western art, Taiwanese artists started using mixed media and found objects in artistic creation in the 1960s, as shown in the Modern Poetry Exhibition (現代詩展), The 1966 École de Great Taipei Autumn Exhibition (大台北畫派一九六六秋展), and The Super Exhibition of the 70s (七○超級大展). Around the same time, Lin Show-Yu (林壽宇) began to create geometrical and abstract art. In 1984, he published the manifesto “Painting is Dead”, in which he announced he would stop painting, and brought to a close his long-term experiments in two-dimensional painting. Later, Lin expanded his thinking and began to create three-dimensional art, such as sculpture and installation art.
Around the same time, Lin gradually became close with Tsong Pu (莊普). In search of a group “voice”, Tsong gathered together Hu Kun-Jung (胡坤榮), Chang Yong-Tsun (張永村), and other artists who had recently returned to Taiwan after studying abroad. Together they mounted two joint exhibitions: Strange Space (異度空間) in 1984 and Transcendimensional Space (超度空間) in 1985, both following Lin Show-Yu’s artistic conception. The works displayed the form and intention of “dialoguing with space”.
Martial law was lifted in 1987, and in the 1990s installation art became increasingly mature. Displaying strong individualism in the midst of the rapid development of computer technology, the internet, and the media, these works echo the multiplicity of postmodern culture and the anti-centrism, anti-essentialism, and anti-order of deconstructionism. Installation artists were exploring untapped aspects of “space” such as the real vs. non-real worlds, and trying to set in motion a human cognition of space through the five senses, injecting a multitude of symbolic meanings into installations to create a body of dialogue, an installation “text” that accommodates, includes, and invites the viewer to communicate and interact.
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Wang Te-Yu (王德瑜), No. 80-1, 2015, fabrics and plastic bags, 50 x 50 x 50 cm, collection of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.
The Small is Bountiful exhibition consists of four themed sections: The Fetal Movement of the Universe; Infinite Imagination and Boundless Reality; Mind and Language, the Boundaries that Shape the World; and Love, Hate, Loathing, and Jealousy Form a Second Surface.
Thus, Wang Te-Yu’s (王德瑜) No. 80-1 is a huge heart-shaped interactive installation. Tsong Pu’s Beyond the Yardstick (尺度外) and So Near Yet So Far (咫尺天涯), made out of measuring tapes, are spatial installation artworks in the pointillistic diary series You Are the Beautiful Flower (你就是那美麗的花朵). Chen Long-Bin’s (陳龍斌) Neolithic Era (新石器時代) series is engraved calligraphic works/meaning creations. Cheng Ting-Ting’s (鄭亭亭) Involuntary Reader (非志願性讀者) captures the state of the world through photos of mastheads on flyers.
In addition to representing a range of different kinds of space, these works also contain a starting point for how the human mind uses perception to connect the self to the outside world. Visitors are invited to bring together the real world and the non-real imaginary spaces created by the artists and so to generate a richer, more profound understanding of the world.
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Cheng, Ting-Ting (鄭亭亭), 16 Nov 2011, London Evening Standard, 2011, color digital inkjet print, 29 x 39 cm, Taipei Fine Arts Museum collection.
▍Small Is Bountiful: Margaret Shiu’s Contemporary Art Collection
Date | April 16 to July 17. Closed on Mondays
Venue | Exhibition Room 3A, Taipei Fine Arts Museum
No. 181, Sec. 3, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist., Taipei City