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Dec 04 2020

Taipei Fine Arts Museum Director To Step Down

by Pamela Wong

PING LIN, director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), has stepped down amid speculation that her retirement was motivated by an outcry over an artwork shown at “The Secret South: From Cold War Perspective to Global South in Museum Collection.” Courtesy TFAM.

The director of Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), Ping Lin, has resigned from her position and will depart from the museum on January 31, 2021. The news was first publicized on November 22 through Taiwan’s local media and was confirmed to ArtAsiaPacific by a TFAM representative. Lin’s announcement follows public criticism by two Taipei city councilors from the opposition Kuomintang party and the mayor of Taipei over a satirical artwork by Mei Dean E, I-DEN-TI-TY (1996/2020), addressing Taiwan’s diplomatic struggles for recognition, featured in the exhibition that Lin co-curated with Nobuo Takamori, “The Secret South: From Cold War Perspective to Global South in Museum Collection.” TFAM, however, insists that Lin’s departure is due to the fact she is approaching retirement age.

As the director of TFAM, Lin has increased the international visibility of contemporary art in Taiwan through the museum’s organization of the Taipei Biennial and Taiwan’s collateral event at the Venice Biennale, as well as Taiwan’s first representation at Performa in New York in 2019. During her tenure at TFAM, she oversaw the major retrospectives and group exhibitions, including “The Herstory of Abstraction in East Asia” (2019), and “Dance with the Museum Collection – Retrieved, Reimagined, Restated” (2016), as well as the annual series of solo exhibitions featuring Taiwanese artists. Commenting on Lin’s departure, Taipei’s deputy mayor Tsai Ping-kun praises Lin’s important contributions to TFAM, which included overseeing the renovation of the main building between 2017 and 2018.

In November, two Taipei city councilors had criticized Mei Dean E’s work I-DEN-TI-TY, which mocks Taiwan’s diplomatic relations under the pressure of China, and was shown in “The Secret South.” In Mei’s work, the golden plates of 15 countries that have broken relations with Taiwan are covered by cloths embroidered with phrases such as “shame” and “disgrace.” The work was first briefly shown at InSian Gallery in 1994 after the lifting of martial law, and made its official debut at the first Taipei Biennial at TFAM in 1996. In a now-deleted Facebook post, one of the politicians, Yu Shu-hui, lambasted the work as “an incitation of xenophobia, or a pure rage out of resentment.” Following the criticism, the Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je then commented that if a foreign country complains about the artwork, “we should give the director Lin Ping a demerit.” While Lin didn’t respond to the criticism, an outcry from the art community caused Ko to walk back on his comment.

The artist Mei said in his Facebook post, “Even if they cancel the exhibition of my works, diplomatic relations cannot be restored. If they cancel the exhibition in the name of the public institution [TFAM], then it is abusing their power to interfere with public art activities, and this is the worst kind of damage to the public arts.”

The official website of Taipei’s Department of Cultural Affairs has posted the job search for a new director. Lin will return to Tunghai University in February to continue teaching before her retirement.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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