In the Mood for Art
From top-notch art museums to a burgeoning local art scene, Taipei demonstrates genuine commitment to becoming the next art hub in Asia.
With museums big and small dotting the city, Taipei is pure heaven for museum goers.
Few cities in Asia can offer a multitude of attractions as diverse as Taipei's offerings. Aside from its night markets and finger-licking-good street food, the city is also home to countless artsy cafés, great bookshops and an incredibly vibrant cultural life. The local art scene, in particular, has seen a healthy boom since the ‘90s.
Perhaps a relatively obscure fact, Taipei was actually one of the pioneering cities to hold biennials – the first Taipei Biennial took place in 1992 – for contemporary artists to exhibit, as well as gather and discuss new ideas. Quite naturally, it catalysed an art gallery boom in the city, at the height of which saw some 50 art galleries congregating in the Apollo Building in Daan District. Today, while some galleries have already moved out of Daan, the area still tops the itinerary of those keen to get their first taste of Taipei’s art scene.
The Apollo Art Gallery was the first to open its doors in the decades-old Apollo Building. Since 1978, before Taipei’s art museums were even open, the gallery has been exhibiting works by important local artists and its establishment has significantly influenced the development of art in Taiwan. Apollo has remained active in the local art community to this day, and would make a good first stop for a Taipei art walk. Also in the area is Angel Art Gallery, established after a massive earthquake struck Taiwan in 1999. It has become a multi-functional platform that exhibits top-quality art, allowing visitors to design and create their own digital art and bridging the gap between artists and the community. Other galleries worth checking out include Chi-Wen Gallery, which houses an excellent collection of contemporary Chinese art, as well as 99 Degree Art Center.
After spending an entire day in Daan getting acquainted with Taipei’s contemporary art, you might feel like taking a well-deserved break before the night falls. Just a short metro ride away is Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei, where you can have a drink at the Marco Polo Lounge and enjoy the spectacular sunset against the unobstructed view of Taipei’s tallest building, Taipei 101. If you’re ready for dinner, head downstairs to ibuki by TAKAGI KAZOU to savour its authentic Kyoto culinary creations. The restaurant follows and practices the culinary concepts of Consultant Chef Takagi Kazuo, owner and head chef of the Michelin two-starred Takagi in Japan, and is the first and only Japanese restaurant in Taipei to operate with a Michelin-starred approach.
Feasts for the Eyes
With museums big and small dotting the city, Taipei is pure heaven for museum goers; even if you’re not the artistic type of holidaymakers, one does not simply leave Taipei without visiting its National Palace Museum. Home to the world’s largest collection of historical Chinese artefacts and art, the museum’s permanent collection of painting, calligraphy, statuary, bronzes, lacquerware, ceramics, jade and religious objects is presented in themed rooms on four enormous exhibition floors. Visitors can easily spend an entire day there and it would still not be enough to cover the entire collection. For those on a tighter schedule, free guided tours can take you through the highlights of the museum.
Those who favour something more modern can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei. Housed in a historic building dating back to the Japanese occupation period, the museum is the city’s first museum dedicated solely to contemporary art. The red-bricked premises was built in the late 1920s as an elite elementary school for the offspring of Japanese colonial officials, and was later made Taipei's City Hall for 40 years. Following the relocation of government offices in 1994, the colonial building underwent extensive renovation as part of a plan to revitalise Taipei's historic sites, eventually becoming what we know today as MoCA Taipei. Since its establishment, the museum has collaborated with international and local curators and artists to exhibit diverse forms of contemporary media, such as photography, video installation, architecture and graphic design.
Further north, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is a striking three-storey structure that houses an impressive collection of artworks by local and international artists. The museum is currently home to one of the biggest art events of the city, the Taipei Biennial 2014, which presents a large-scale exhibition, live performances, talks, readings, conferences and publications around the topic “The Great Acceleration”. For art aficionados, this cannot be a more opportune time to visit Taipei.
Taipei Art Walk Tips
- The National Palace Museum is best avoided on weekends, unless you don’t mind lining up with dozens of tour groups.
- The museum is also just a bus ride away from Taipei’s famous Shilin Night Market.
- Taipei’s major art museums are accessible by the metro’s red line.
- After exploring the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, drop by the Maji Maji Square nearby for a dose of live music and delicious local food.
- Dazhi and Neihu Districts are named the next up-and-coming art neighbourhoods in Taipei.
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I haven't known that Taipei is also famous for Art. sounds nice "Art Walk" !