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  • Apr 22, 2020

Art Festivals Pressing Ahead Despite Covid-19

While a number of exhibitions, fairs, and festivals delayed their shows to 2021 or moved them online as a result of the pandemic, Taipei Biennial and Yokohama Triennale are forging ahead, and have announced the first roster of participating artists on April 17 and 20, respectively, for their upcoming events.

Taipei Biennial 2020, originally slated to open on October 24 at Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), has pushed back its opening to November 21. Co-curated by Bruno Latour and Martin Guinard, the 12th edition titled “You and I Don’t Live on the Same Planet” focuses on tackling and redefining the political and material concepts of lands. The first artist list released includes 39 participants from 18 countries and regions, including painter Cui Jie, Indigenous Taiwanese textile artist Aruwai Kaumakan, artist duo Cooking Sections, and multimedia artist Antonio Vega Macotela.

Taiwan has been largely unaffected by Covid-19 compared to other countries due to early preventive measures from the government. Since its first confirmed case on January 21, Taiwan, where individual tourists from mainland China were already banned pre-pandemic, closed its borders on February 6 to anyone who had visited mainland China and Hong Kong in the previous two weeks as well as imposed detailed travel and contact history tracking for every patient. The number of confirmed cases total 425 at the time of writing, many imported from China or overseas. Most major museums and galleries in Taipei are currently open to the public. Erwin Wurm’s solo exhibition “One Minute in Taipei” at TFAM and the reiteration of the controversial show “After ‘Freedom of Expression’?” from Aichi Triennale 2019 at Museum of Contemporary Art are both on view. Many of these venues, including TFAM, have set up precautionary measures at the entrance, including temperature monitoring, requirement of masks, and the collection of visitors’ information.

Meanwhile, Yokohama Triennale 2020, led by Raqs Media Collective—the first time a non-local artistic director is taking the reins—is scheduled to commence in July as planned. The Triennale's title “Afterglow” references the residues of light from the Big Bang still in place today, and the show aims to investigate cycles of creation and destruction. According to the latest artist list, the festival features 67 international and local artists, including photographer Farah Al Qasimi, filmmaker Naeem Mohaiemen, multimedia sculptor Kaneuji Teppei, video artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, among others, 48 of whom will showcase newly commissioned works. 

Although Japan was spared from major outbreaks earlier in the year, the number of Covid-19 cases has increased drastically in recent weeks, with 11,581 cases reported at the time of writing. Following prime minister Shinzo Abe’s declaration of a month-long state of emergency on April 6, many more art institutions and cultural venues have shuttered, including Yokohama Museum of Art, one of the main exhibition venues of Yokohama Triennale. As the government will make a decision in early May regarding the possible extension of these measures, the reopening dates of these institutions remain to be determined. While the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, also scheduled for July, has been postponed to 2021, the Organizing Committee of Yokohama Triennale is striving to proceed as planned. According to the Triennale’s press release, the organizers are “closely monitoring the situation while preparing to open Yokohama Triennale 2020 to the public on July 3 as planned.” 

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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