Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Taiwan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale began in 1895 and is the granddaddy of all international art biennials. The Venice Biennale has national pavilions of various countries, while also exhibiting an international curated exhibition in the Arsenale.

Taiwan was the second Asian Pavilion after Japan. Starting in 1995, the exhibition takes place every two years in the Palazzo delle Prigioni (prison) on the Grand Canal near the famous Bridge of Sighs and is located within walking distance from the famed San Marco Plaza. The striking structure of darkened crypt-like rooms and ornate chandeliers sets the tone for introspection and contemplation of the impressive art contained within.

Since its inception, the Taiwan Pavilion is noteworthy for its consistent and well-presented exhibitions. Due to the unresolved political situation between Taiwan and China, however, Taiwan is not listed as a country but is listed under the rubric of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. On alternative years, Taiwan exhibits for the architectural Venice Biennale.

The Venice Biennale is one of the few opportunities for Taiwan to engage in the global arena, so the one strategy the museum has been using is to use the space to showcase a handful of Taiwanese artists at one time. Since the Taiwan identity is relatively new and fragile, the showcase features ethnic Taiwanese only. Aboriginal artists and immigrant artists from Japan, Europe and North America are excluded. The Taiwan Pavilion will probably not be used as a situation to question identity/nationality as in the example of China-born artist Huang Yong-ping who represented the French Pavilion in 1999.

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