We were looking for a place to go that would be cool and air conditioned, so we decided to visit two museums in Taipei that we had not yet seen. The first museum that we visited was the Taipei Story House.
The Taipei Story House, formerly known as the Yuanshan Mansion, is a historic house in Taipei Expo Park that has been turned into a museum. Taipei Story House is the only Tudor style heritage building in Taiwan. It was built in 1913 on the Yuanshan section of the Keelung River by a Taipei tea merchant named Chen Chao-chun for the purpose of entertaining clients.
It had a beautiful, English style formal garden. The ground floor was built using brick and the upper floors were built of wood with English Tudor-style beams. The entrance portico is in the classical style with Corinthian columns. Its architectural style seems a bit out-of-place in Taipei!
In 1998, the Taipei City Government designated this building a heritage site.Taipei Story House has used since 2003 for exhibits that introduce visitors to life and culture in Taiwan over the past century.
The Taipei Story House museum had an exhibit on fortune telling when we were there. This exhibit explored the popular forms of fortune-telling practised in Taiwan, both in the past and also still used in the present time to explain the mysteries of life.
Fortune-telling has been the traditional way for people in Taiwan to find answers during different stages of their lives. Starting from the destiny of a child foretold through his date and time of birth, onto the fate of romantic relationships, feng-shui for creating a happy and lucky home, and financial success or failure, fortune telling was thought to provide the answers for the best path through life. In Taiwan, fortune tellers had to be both good psychologists, and good with numbers and calculations. In the past, many Taiwanese would frequently visit fortune tellers, so it was a large and profitable type of commerce.
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is next to the Taipei Story House Museum in Taipei Expo Park. The Taipei Fine Arts Museum first opened in August 1983 at the former site of the United States Taiwan Defense Command, dissolved in 1979. The building has a very modern architecture, adapted from the Japanese Metabolist Movement style. It did not look like a museum to me. I thought it looked like a military building that had been converted into a museum! But it was actually built in this modern style to host modern and contemporary art exhibitions in Taiwan. .
There was a bamboo sculpture on the side of the museum. It looked just like the bamboo scaffolding on constructions sites in China and Taiwan. But it actually was an interactive sculpture that we could enter and climb. This was exciting for me, as I have always wondered what it is like to be working inside of these bamboo scaffoldings!
I decided the best way to write about this was to copy the explanation directly from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum website and brochure.
Landscape of the Boundary by C.J.S. Architecture -Art Studio
Artists: Chen Xuan-Cheng, Jen Tah-Sien, Su Fu-Yuan Architecture Firm
Production Team: Chen Guanfan, Wang Guoxin, Wu Weihong, Guo Zhenquan, Zhu Tingxuan, Zhong Mengying, Xu Minci, and the Chung Yuan Christian University Architecture Department
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is holding the first instance of its landscape installation project Program X- site in 2014, an annual program that will blend architectural installation and contemporary art. The program will run every spring in the public plaza by the museum’s main entrance and present three-month-long landscape installations. Every year, the public can anticipate a completely new look for the museum plaza.
Installations will echo the current global focus on environmentally oriented construction practices related to sustainability, low carbon, re-purposing, and reduction. Projects are also chosen for innovative construction methods and exploration of the notion of public space in urban environments. Thirdly, artwork will respond to the government projects Cultural Capital of the Yuanshan District and Taipei City Museum, which are focused on areas where the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is located. Organizers at the museum anticipate the program, by presenting the creativity of participating artists, will stimulate wider and more imaginative thinking about architecture and promote architecture as an important urban art form. For this year’s inaugural iteration of the program, 29 applications were received, which produced ten groups of finalists and one winning team.
The presentation concept for the winning submission Landscape of the Boundary by C.J.S. Architecture-Art Studio refers to bamboo scaffolding. For their installation, the group transformed the repeating grid composition seen in bamboo structures originally used in Taiwan for temporary scaffolding at construction sites, supports for billboards, or underwater racks supporting commercial oyster beds, into an architectural system of bodily sensations. The installation comprises a gridded bamboo forest, paths surrounding the plaza and metal handrails to delineate a field of perceptions and manifest a larger than life atmosphere that suggests a scaffold city.
The scaffold structure is attached to the museum building, constructed in the same dimensions as the museum lobby, and realized with a great quantity of moso and makino bamboo, two varieties which are indigenous to Taiwan. The unique resilience of bamboo immediately transfers any force that is applied to the structure as visitors walk through this experiential world, which creates the dreamlike sensation of being situated between the real and subconscious. The quality of the bamboo will change over time; its color gradually fading from deep green to light tan, and the entire installation, which suggests a natural landscape, will record the temporal sequence of the topography at the site.
I had a lot of fun climbing around in the bamboo scaffolding structure! It was also nice to go inside the air conditioned museum afterwards. Much of the Taipei Fine arts Museum was taken up by an exhibit dedicated to one artist, Dean E. Mei
I did not know anything about Dean E. Mei before I saw this exhibit. I was very impressed by this artist. He works with all kinds of different mediums; prints, yard sale finds, sculpture, light, mirrors, and situational juxtapositions. His art work made me stop and think. Usually, I walk rather quickly through art galleries, especially modern art galleries, but I spent a long time looking at this exhibit.
.From the Taipei Fine Arts Museum website:
Born in Taipei in 1954, Dean-E Mei is a highly respected and representative figure in Taiwan’s avant-garde art community. Mei graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Chinese Culture University in 1977, and received his Master’s of Fine Arts Degree from Pratt Institute in New York in 1985. He avoided traditional representational painting, opting instead for the rebellious spirit of Dadaism and its ready-made format. Relying on the rules of paradox and the notion of “seemingly so, but not so,” Mei created his visual language and artistic style. Mei also collects and transforms common objects, which he then uses in his long-term concern with identity and political ideology. While this may seem like weighty subject matter, Mei’s works are also full of humor and wit.
The exhibition includes several hundred works in media ranging from oils, watercolors, prints, and giclée prints to ready-mades and large scale installations. Work in the exhibition spans from 1976 to the present and can be divided into several phases: his explorations before going abroad in 1983; his ten years of multicultural experience and creative awakening while living in New York; development and deepening in his works after returning to Taiwan in 1992; and his most recent explorations combining computer technology and images of old objects. This retrospective features Dean-E Mei’s unique and multifaceted style throughout his career.
The Artist’s Statement
My work attempts to combine historicism, the fetish of commodities and political semantics. I have no intention of answering politically correct questions, or raising any unresolved issues of art itself. I am only interested in finding a channel of expression between history, reality and the public.
In short, my work is the crystallization of my own complex character. All perceptions derived through ideas can be seen as a style in the development of my character. Everything related to experience can have artistic associations. My creations are esoteric in meaning and the result of endless developments.
This was definitely art that challenged the mind and made me think! I took a lot of photos in this exhibit.
The other exhibits in the museum were less interesting. Another exhibit, titled Cloud of Unknowing: A City with Seven Streets was organized by the museum in conjunction with the city government’s celebration of the 130th Anniversary of Taipei’s Founding in 2014.
This was the first time the museum presented an exhibition on the subject of urban spaces and the issues pertaining to city spaces.
Neither of us spent that much time in this exhibit.
There was an enormous bamboo woven sculpture hanging from the ceiling in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum lobby. I am not sure if it is there all the time, or if it was part of the urban spaces exhibit.
The only fun part of this exhibit was the giant suit case!
We ended up spending hours in the museum! As we were getting ready to leave, we discovered the Taipei Excellence Pavillion.The Taiwan Excellence Pavillion was unveiled on Dec. 26, 2010 as the country’s first building dedicated to the Taiwan Excellence Awards-winning products.
With a ground-floor entrance facing the Taipei Expo Park, the pavilion has permanent exhibits on the second floor, in three categories; IT and telecom, sports and leisure, and cultural and creative products.
The pavillion building was created by Taiwanese architect Chien Hsueh-yi for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo.
The pavilion explores the research, design, and marketing behind the most innovative products from Taiwan, and the pavilion is itself a showcase of eco-friendly building methods, with the liberal use of glass walls, allowing natural light to stream into every corner.
We could have spent more time here, looking at all of the interesting products on display, but it was getting to be closing time for the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and Taipei Excellence Pavillion. Next time, I will know that these museums are so interesting that we can spend an entire day in them!