A Brief Introduction of Independent Spaces in Taiwan

Written by Nobuo Takamori on December 2012.

Lin Shu Kai, Balcony City Series - The Quotation of Building Block Urban: Ex-Situ Project. Organized by Outsiders Factory.


A Brief Introduction of Independent Spaces in Taiwan

The beginning point of independent spaces in Taiwan is the political transformation of 1980s. After World War II, it was the end of the Japanese colonization rule. However, the new ruler from China, Kuomintang Party (KMT Party, Chinese Nationalists Party), opened another chapter of autocracy for thirty-eight years. This was considered the longest Martial Law in the world. During 1980s, the political environment started to shift. Thousands of democracy activists fought to change the society in every dimension. On the other hand, Taiwan also experienced an economic boom during that decade. Taiwan’s economy grew in a short time. With this context in mind, Taiwan then constructed its institutions for modern and contemporary art practices. Taipei Fine Arts Museum, which is the first modern art museum in Taiwan, opened in 1983 while National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (Taichung) opened in 1988. Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts opened in 1994. Finally, Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 2001. In the area of Art Education, 3 major art schools (National Taipei University of Arts, Tainan National University of Arts, and National Taiwan University of Arts) were established during 80's and 90's.

Indonesian artist Daniel SATYAGRAHA'S work in "Flaneur in the Insular Cities," a group exhibition of contemporary asian photography. Mengamati Kota Kepulauan- Pameran Kelompok Fotografi Kontemporer Asia. Organized by Outsiders Factory

However, the art circles in Taiwan have not been satisfied with these institutions. Although some important institutes like Taipei Fine Arts Museum opened in early 80s, the political environment at that moment did not really allow progressive art activities. The artists from that decade searched for “alternative” spaces like apartments or factories to establish their impetus to evoke independent viewpoints in art, ideology, politics and the greater society. In the early 80s, Taiwanese artists used these alternative spaces for their temporary exhibitions. These temporary exhibitions usually presented some sensitive and progressive works. In 1987, the martial law ended and society moved toward more a more open stage. One of the most important permanent independent space, IT Park, opened in 1989.  The society of Taiwan became more open as they met the new decade of the 90's, and the democratic system was finally being realized. The independent spaces outside of Taipei also started sprouting up. This development provided Taiwanese art a lot more avenues for multiple viewpoints from different locals. Meanwhile, because the political environment was already different, the independent spaces in 90's focused more on introducing the ideologies and processes of contemporary art, rather than reflecting the political realities. From the latter part of 90's until the first decade of the 21st century, dozens of student groups or young artist groups were established for providing young artists the chance to exhibit and exchange their ideas. Art involving the community have also been significant. Some independent spaces and art groups especially focus on this categories.

Outsiders Factory’s Talk 01 / YOG Talk: "The Brief Introduction of Contemporary Art in Taiwan" and the "Introduction of Outsiders Factory" in Indonesia Visual Art Archive, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The independent spaces in Taiwan are extremely active in terms of quality and quantity. However, the establishment of these spaces usually depends on government’s foundations. Since the public funding system in Taiwan usually didn’t provide long term or permanent funding, spaces need to apply annually. Besides public funding, the Taiwanese art in both international and local markets is extremely week (due to political problems). These reasons cause the independent spaces in Taiwan to be highly unsustainable. A space running from two to four years is usually the norm. At the moment, however, new spaces and groups try to look at other possibilities of sustainability. This kind of high mobility and fluidity may best reflect the Taiwanese society itself.

Taiya Yuico's 
work in "Flaneur in the Insular Cities". Organized by Outsiders Factory.


Downloadable PDF of art spaces is at the end of this page.


About the author

Nobuo Takamori is an independent Taiwanese curator based in Taipei, Taiwan. Takamori also the founder of young curators group: Outsiders Factory. Recently he focus on establish the connections between Taiwan’s art circle with no-western countries. Takamori’s curation works could be found in Taiwan, Mexico and Vietnam.


Nobuo Takamori
Download File: