Art Essays

Newsletter 271

Published January 26, 2019
Is Taipei the crouching Tiger of the international art market?

Back in Sydney, where I’m greeted by the news that the NSW Opposition has come out decisively against moving the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. This makes me feel a little upstaged, as I’ve written a plea to the Opposition Leader, Michael Daly, in the forthcoming issue of Artist Profile, asking him for just such a commitment. The announcement makes much of my argument redundant, but who could complain when it’s the result that counts? I believe the piece is still worth reading, if only for a splendid David Rowe cartoon.

If the government is turfed out and the Powerhouse move abandoned, it will mean that common sense has prevailed in at least one small part of the world. Labor’s other sensible idea is to spend $500 million creating a genuinecultural facility in Parramatta, and close to $50 million refurbishing the existing Powerhouse. It’s still a bargain compared to the impossible-to-cost expense of the Coalition plan. It would guarantee constructive rather than destructive outcomes.

This week’s art column looks at the inaugural Taipei Dangdai art fair, which organisers are hailing as a success. At any fair it’s always hard to tell how much was really sold, or who’s walking away with a genuine smile of their face as opposed to a fixed grin concealing a twinge of financial pain. Nevertheless the sales figures handed out on day one were impressive, especially for a local market which has a reputation for taking its time over a purchase.

Taipei is actually a very refreshing place after China. It has an air of solidity, and feels like a place where work gets done. On the mainland the art market can appear flashy and ephemeral, but the Taiwanese take a more organic, long-term approach. I spent my last day in Taipei at the National Palace Museum, in preparation for the touring show soon to open at the Art Gallery of NSW.

This week’s movie is the new Mary Queen of Scots, which falls into that popular category: well made, watchable, but ultimately disappointing. British theatre director, Josie Rourke, has stuffed her first feature film with enough politically correct moments to make me wonder whether we were supposed to be in auld Scotland or Greenwich Village. It obviously can’t be denied that men treated women badly in the Elizabethan era, and had some very negative attitudes towards homosexuality, but to dwell on such issues in the midst of the stupendous drama of Mary Stuart’s rise and fall, is to reveal an inability to think beyond a contemporary mindset. Surely it’s always preferable to draw on history to illuminate the present rather than rewrite the past in our own image.