Taipei Dangdai Art Fair, interview with Magnus Renfrew

[07 Jan 2020]

With over 20 years experience in the international art world and recognised expertise in its Asian sphere, Magnus Renfrew launched a new art fair in Taiwan last year: TAIPEI DANGDAI. After a successful first edition, Renfrew explained to Artprice the logic of offering a quality fair in Taiwan, alongside Hong Kong’s highly successful event.

Magnus Renfrew, photo credit Taipei Dangdai, photo by Sean Wang(1)

Magnus Renfrew – Photo by Sean Wang, photo credit Taipei Dangdai

As the founding director of the Hong Kong International Art Fair (ART HK) and director of the event after its subsequent acquisition by Art Basel group (becoming Art Basel Hong Kong) from 2012 to 2014, how did Taiwan emerge as the ideal platform for a new fair? 

MR: The Taiwanese collectors have always played a key part in the success of the art fair in Hong Kong and participating galleries have always stressed the importance of the contribution of the Taiwanese collectors to their success at ART HK and Art Basel in Hong Kong. In addition to the internationally engaged collectors who are already experienced at buying from galleries and art fairs there is great potential to engage with the considerable number of collectors who are currently buying exclusively from auction to expand their horizons to buying from leading galleries from around the world. In addition to the collector potential, Taipei has one of the most established gallery scenes in Asia, exceptional institutions and one of the strongest biennales in the region. We want to help put the spotlight on the amazing things that are already happening.

Taipei Dangdai is held in January, kicking off the annual cycle of international art fairs. Why do you choose this period rather than another? 

MR: Finding a time on the calendar is always a challenge, however January is a moment where the mood is upbeat in Taipei, and by being the first event on the international art calendar our hope is that we can assert our relevance as a meeting point for the international art world to reconnect with Asia for the year ahead.

According to Artprice’s latest annual report on the Contemporary Art Market, Taiwan’s auction results on the Contemporary art segment have contracted (-29% in 2018-19 vs. 2017-18). Are Taiwanese collectors finding a more stimulating offer at the fair than in the island’s auction rooms?

MR: The statistics quoted do not reflect the full picture. Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips all cite the importance of the Taiwanese collectors both as consignors and buyers for their auctions in Hong Kong and at the highest level in the Impressionist & Modern and Post War & Contemporary sales in London and New York. However, it is very much our aspiration that through presenting a qualitatively determined fair that adheres to international standards of practice that we can expand the avenues open to collectors to buy work of the highest level from galleries as well as from auction. We are also keen to expand the market by engaging with new collectors from Taiwan.

Are Taiwanese collectors the most active collectors at the fair? Are you seeing collectors from other regions of Asia, or even from the West? 

MR: The Taiwanese collectors were very active at the fair as were collectors from Japan and Hong Kong. The main emphasis is on engaging with the Taiwanese collector base but we are also engaging with collectors across Asia and from around the world.

Taipei Dangdai, January 2019. Courtesy Taipei Dangdai (5)(1)
Many of the world’s leading international galleries are present for this second edition, including David Zwirner, Gagosian, Thaddaeus Ropac, Continua, Hauser & Wirth, Lehman Maupin, Pace and Lisson Gallery. How do you balance Asian and Western galleries at the fair? 

MR: Taipei Dangdai presents the leading galleries from around the world in the context of the leading galleries from Asia. All of the galleries that you mention have a strong presence in the region either through having a physical gallery space or having senior staff based in the region.

This year’s Taipei Dangdai is giving space to several solo shows –  Bernard Piffaretti at Frank Elbaz, Nam June Paik at Bhak Gallery, Dan Flavin at the Bastian Gallery, Takeo Hanazawa at Tokyo’s Side 2 gallery… In what way does this solo show strategy work to the fair’s advantage? 

MR: I very much enjoy the Solos sector at the Taipei Dangdai as it is an opportunity to see an extremely tightly curated presentation an artist’s work that allows you to see the artists practice in some depth. 

Can you tell us something about Robin Peckham, who joins you for the fair’s co-hiroshigedirection this year? 

MR: I am thrilled that Robin has joined the team. I have known Robin for a long time and he has exceptional knowledge of the cultural landscape of Greater China. Robin was based in China and Hong Kong for more than 15 years prior to relocating to Taipei this Summer to take up his position as Co-Director. Robin’s fluency in Putonghua and on the ground presence will help immensely in broadening and deepening our connection with the city and with the cultural community. We have very complementary experiences, skill sets and networks and are already falling in to an excellent rhythm of working together.

And… as a fun question: if you were a work of art, which would you like to be today? 

MR: Today I would be the Plum Garden at Kameido by Utagawa Hiroshige.


Interview with Magnus Renfrew

Co-founder and co-director of the Taipei Dangdai Art Fair (17-19 January 2020)