Long Time Coming: Highlights from Taipei Dangdai 2023
By Christopher Whitfield
From May 12 to 14, crowds descended to witness Taipei Dangdai’s long-awaited return to form. In its first full-scale outing since the inaugural edition—and after two years of presentations adapted for the pandemic—directors Robin Peckham and Magnus Renfrew hosted 90 galleries in the fair’s original home of Taipei’s Nangang Exhibition Center. Renfrew assured that the weekend would be a testament to the central position of Taiwanese collectors in the landscape of the regional art market. Alongside the main fair, specially curated sections “Edge” and “Engage” respectively highlighted emerging and historical artists, in an attempt to court multi-generational buyers known for their shifting tastes and intellectual investment in their collections.
The evergreen favorite of Taiwanese buyers—colorful and accessible figuration—performed well. As a line wound around the venue for the chance at a “jazz-hands” selfie with Takashi Murakami at the booth of Kaikai Kiki Gallery (Tokyo), Soka Art (Taipei / Tainan / Beijing)’s nearby booth sold out almost their entire catalogue of Japanese artist Yuya Hashizume’s paintings of wide-eyed cartoon characters during the VIP preview. Eager crowds also massed at first-time exhibitor Stems Gallery (Brussels / Paris)’s booth in the “Edge” category, who found buyers for each of American artist Paul Rouphail’s sharp and subtly subversive still lifes featuring a range of objects. Beer and butt plugs are always crowd-pleasers.
However, despite high interest and vibrant discourse, as the Mother's Day crowds streamed in on the final day, a number of galleries reported disappointment about how this enthusiasm had failed to translate into immediate sales. While some gallerists were spotted pacing between the booths, scrutinizing red stickers, others saw an opportunity. One gallerist who preferred to remain anonymous spoke of the unique chance that the fair presented to lay the groundwork for ongoing collaborations and exchanges with like-minded galleries.
Highlights of the fair included showings by many homegrown galleries who took the opportunity to exhibit curated selections that felt a cut above simple displays of inventory. Each Modern (Taipei) shared an inviting bricolage that placed the sun-drenched portraits of Hilo Chen alongside emerging Taiwanese artists such as Wu MeiChi and her equally seductive, irreverently bedazzled orchid prints, priced at between USD 1,600 and 3,100 each.
Elsewhere in the historically focused “Engage” section, rin art association (Takasaki) used the platform for a moving re-historicization of forgotten Japanese artist Shigeyuki Cho, showcasing the evolution of his pocket-like fabric sculptures, the most impressive of which sold for upward of USD 2,000. Despite being included alongside some spectacular contemporary takes on historical forms, the gallery’s presentation felt like it truly understood the assignment. And it was an assignment emblematic of Dangdai’s unique ethos; a fair which, regardless of cautious buyers, succeeded at invigorating a diverse and thought-provoking exchange in the Taiwanese capital.
Here are some photos taken from the fair floor: