A Guide to Modern and Contemporary Art Spaces in Taipei

Known for its white tube-shaped design and large windows that allow natural light to flow in, Taipei Fine Arts Museum is a bright space where visitors can enjoy exhibitions in a relaxing ambience. (Photo/Taipei Fine Arts Museum)
Known for its white tube-shaped design and large windows that allow natural light to flow in, Taipei Fine Arts Museum is a bright space where visitors can enjoy exhibitions in a relaxing ambience. (Photo/Taipei Fine Arts Museum)

【Words by: Daria Lin】

【Photos by: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Contemporary by U, Taiwan Contemporary Cultural Lab, Pon Ding, PLAYground】

Taipei is often touted as a top food destination in Asia, though it is also an up-and-coming city of the arts, blending the old with the new, classical and experimental, modern and contemporary. The rise of local artists, designers or poets such as Baboo, Shu Yuan Wu (吳書原), and Hui-Chih Hsu (許悔之) keep amazing art fans with their creative works, forging the popularity of the local scene. As for places to appreciate their varied outputs, there are the iconic Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM, 台北市立美術館) and MOCA Taipei displaying intimidating creations, along with a plethora of independent galleries, such as Tina Keng Gallery (耿畫廊) and Aki Gallery (也趣藝廊), or collaborative spaces like Venue (濕地) and SUN SUN Museum (森3 sunsun museum). Artists and creative spaces alike have compelled international art fair organizers to launch the Taipei Dangdai Art Fair (台北當代藝術博覽會) and bring global art galleries and media to Taipei. Clearly, the art scene in Taipei is more dynamic than ever before.

From painting to photography, architecture to theater, no matter what fields of art you’re into, TAIPEI has something for you. Here are a few select spaces that give this city its unique artistic personality.

TAIPEI FINE ARTS MUSEUM

Founded in 1983, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is a public art museum located within the Taipei Expo Park, Fine Arts Area (花博公園美術園區). The white tube-shaped architectural design combines large windows and a courtyard which fills the museum with natural light and gives it a relaxing vibe.

The museum is dedicated to promoting modern and contemporary art and artists in Taiwan. It also organizes the Taipei Biennial (台北雙年展) and the Taiwan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale that really elevates the museum’s global visibility. The entrance fee is very low (general admission is only NT$30), as TFAM aims to make art accessible to the widest possible audience. In recent years, it began to plan various creative events, such as sleepovers in the museum or workshops for kids. From summer to fall this year, TFAM is also hosting a special exhibition called “Between Earth and the Sky: The Spiritual State of Our Times,” where you’ll see the dialogue between artists and curators, discussing issues from the perspectives of people, environment and ecology, to depict the spiritual state of modern times.

181, Sec. 3, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist.

9:30am - 5:30pm (Sunday to Friday, Closed on Mondays)

9:30am - 8:30pm (Saturdays)

CONTEMPORARY BY U

Contemporary by U gallery just opened its doors at the end of 2019. It’s located right next to the established creative hub Songshan Cultural and Creative Park (松山文創園區). The gallery is small but showcases a wide range of contemporary, pop and street artists, including renowned Japanese contemporary artists Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, and Yoshitomo Nara, as well as selected American street artists like Kaws, WhIsBe and Jerkface. With its urban and minimalist interior design, it creates a calming vibe in this busy city. The owners also added a café in this compact space, which differentiates itself from a traditional gallery. Contemporary by U welcomes the younger generation to wander through the art world or simply enjoy a nice cup of coffee.

42, Ln. 553, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Xinyi Dist.

11:00am - 8:00pm (Closed on Mondays)

Contemporary by U covers a wide range of exhibitions in their gallery, from modern paintings to pop and street art. (Photo/Contemporary by U)
Contemporary by U covers a wide range of exhibitions in their gallery, from modern paintings to pop and street art. (Photo/Contemporary by U)

TAIWAN CONTEMPORARY CULTURAL LAB

Taiwan Contemporary Cultural Lab (台灣當代文化實驗場), a.k.a. C-Lab, is in the former Air Force Command Headquarters, nearly seven hectares in size despite being located in the prime real estate of Taipei’s Daan District.

The government has transformed the whole area into a cultural incubator, where many arts and cultural non-profit organizations have been invited to apply for residency. C-Lab is currently dedicated to creating innovative exhibitions, workshops, and educational programs. The historical background of the space gives it an almost haunted feel which adds an interesting ethereal sense to the exhibitions.

C-Lab is currently under three phases of evolution and will gradually develop into a co-creative space and education base, with laboratories with various themes, artist-in-residence programs for international artists and, most importantly, a place for public engagement and participation. For people who are into experimental contemporary arts, this is the place to go.

177, Sec. 1, Jianguo S. Rd., Daan Dist.

9:00am - 6:00pm (Closed on Mondays)

With its gate always open to welcome people into the community to enjoy modern art, C-Lab is now dedicated to various kinds of innovative exhibitions and educational workshops. (Photo/Taiwan Contemporary Cultural Lab)
With its gate always open to welcome people into the community to enjoy modern art, C-Lab is now dedicated to various kinds of innovative exhibitions and educational workshops. (Photo/Taiwan Contemporary Cultural Lab)

PON DING

Nestled within a quiet section of the central residential area of Zhongshan, this three-story gallery/bookstore/coffee bar is positioning itself as a creative and cultural community and a collaborative platform for the city.

Pon Ding (朋丁) is like a stalwart neighborhood store that you can visit on a regular basis, but also has dynamic and surprising exhibitions and regular workshops. You could grab a coffee on the ground floor and browse books and magazines and then slowly wander to the second floor to discover some carefully-curated local designer goods. The third floor often exhibits a range of artworks, from photography to illustrations, paintings and installations. The team is always curating the space as an inspiring paradise for art lovers, creators, or anyone who is looking for something different from an ordinary museum or art gallery.

6, Ln. 53, Sec. 1, Zhongshan N. Rd., Zhongshan Dist.

11:00am - 8:00pm (Closed on every last Monday)

Pon Ding combines its gallery with friendly spaces such as a bookstore and coffee bar, which closes the gap between artist and audience. (Photo/Pon Ding)
Pon Ding combines its gallery with friendly spaces such as a bookstore and coffee bar, which closes the gap between artist and audience. (Photo/Pon Ding)

PLAYground

Performance art in Taiwan seems like a niche market, but it always has its own space to shine. PLAYground (南村劇場) is a newly-opened small independent theater and bookstore situated in Sisinan Village. This small, restored historical area contains local cafés and weekend markets, not to mention its proximity to the landmark Taipei 101. This makes it a very popular tourist destination.

In addition to being a theater, PLAYground is also a bookshop with a built-in study. (Photo/PLAYground)
In addition to being a theater, PLAYground is also a bookshop with a built-in study. (Photo/PLAYground)

PLAYground was born to give this little area a vibrant soul. The name “PLAYground” has shown their playful mindset, as the bookstore is often cleared out to give way for live performances. In order to be a flexible space, all the bookshelves are designed to be mobile, making this space unpredictable and full of possibilities. Make sure you check their program schedule via their official Facebook page before

your visit.

56, Songqin St., Xinyi Dist.

10:00am - 6:00pm (Closed on every first Monday)

PLAYground often invites actors and troupes to hold play readings before the shows start. (Photo/PLAYground)
PLAYground often invites actors and troupes to hold play readings before the shows start. (Photo/PLAYground)

Art museums are no longer a sacred palace for an entitled few. It’s less about the object and more about the experience; less about authorship and more about co-creation; less about formality and more about inclusivity. Taipei is a city of freedom and this definitely allows for this phenomenon to come to life. And there are so many more trendy art spaces to discover that are forever evolving along with the fabric of the city.

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