Art Taipei 2008: Money and Freedom, a Different Perspective

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Thursday August 28, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Art Taipei 2008 begins today at the Taipei World Trade Center and runs through September 2nd. As an art show, it is worth attending; and because of work I do with the art community, I was lucky and already got a sneak preview. I had a VIP pass to get me through the gates for the preview and grand opening on Thursday. I am not however going to give you a review; you can get that in the local papers. What I want to talk about is a different feeling I left with - that art shows present an unusual and ironic microcosm of our world.

Art Taipei always presents a variety of styles, perspectives, and expressions. From traditional and classical to modern, from abstract to realistic, from the base and gross to the sublime; they all were there. No one artist, no one gallery controlled the tempo, instead each was there trying to leave its imprint on the scene and trying to also make a sale.

This show, in particular, struck me because it had a sizable number of galleries and artists from China, that country on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. Some of the above may have had a slight political agenda, but on the whole, most were there trying to be themselves, show their wares and as the saying goes, make a buck. Economics was consistently trumping ideology.

And so after making the rounds, seeing the art, greeting friends, doing a bit of people watching and tasting the wine and finger food, I thought, art and artists are by nature rarely conformist. They promote individualism, cross boundaries and transcend restrictions. They always look for a new way; it's the nature of the creative spirit. Politics had been temporarily left aside at this show. Social comment was certainly there, but little propaganda. Mao could be mocked as well as George Bush and Osama Bin Ladin. No one even tried to preach that farcical canard of one China. Two worlds were existing side by side; and strangely united by the ironic fact that "Money Makes the World Go Round." That isn't always bad; perhaps there is hope for the world yet.