Serendipity in Art | Michael Ku Gallery 10th Anniversary

After the 2007 Chinese NewYear, I made a brief visit to Beijing; to this day, my memories of the cityremain vivid and unforgettable. Sometimes at night I would hail a taxi and headinto the city. Traveling on Beijing’s ring roads gave the illusion of going inthe reverse direction, and the closer I got to the center — where the gloriesof ancient dynasties are preserved — my surroundings and my mind grew morepeaceful. The night grew darker and quieter still as the car rushed towards the798 Art Zone, illuminated by the newly constructed buildings next to thehighway. It all seemed like I was living in the movie “Lan Yu.” Beijing is amontage of life. Perhaps I caught Beijing while it was riding the end of theheight of China’s popularity, because the art scene was full of hope, vitality,and variety. In April of 2007, Lin Lin Gallery from Taiwan opened up a branchin Yonghe Homeland, and their summer auction included contemporary Chinesephotography. I, too, decided to open up a gallery in the summer of 2007 andspent a great deal of time observing and learning from other galleries inpreparation. I remember meeting contemporary Chinese artist Qiu Xiaofei for thefirst time, in a cafe —  he was quiteserious about showing me his works on his laptop. There was one painting inparticular, Midsummer Fruits, thatconveyed such passion that it inspired a passion within me. I also met artistSong Kun in her home before she moved; I was very fond of her old home. I foundSong’s personal characteristics to be unique and refreshing, something I rarelysee in Taiwan. During my stay in Beijing, several enthusiastic friends of mineoffered to show me around, and I got to see for myself the realistic portrayalof how a wide variety of artists were combining their daily lives with art.Regardless of my personal opinions of these artists — some were wildlysuccessful and others struggled to make ends meet — their works were vivid withcharacter and style.


After I returned to Taiwan, Ialso visited Southeast Asia, Chengdu, and Chongqing. I lived those days to thefullest and without a care in the world. When I met Wei Jia for the first timeat the old Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing, it was 10 p.m. and he wasputting the finishing touches on a painting in his studio. We shared an instantconnection and he promised to be my first exhibition when I founded my gallery.That promise inspired me to roll up my sleeves and get to work. After that, Iwent to Japan, Shanghai, and returned to Beijing. This was the same year thatUCCA was founded in November and met with great success.


The name for my gallery cameto me in the beginning of 2008 as a series of inspirations. Bai Xianyong novelsfeatured the Yin Residence and Huang Residence, and, in Shanghai, there was aZhou’s Residence on Sinan Road. This was how I decided to name the galleryMichael Ku Gallery. It can also be translated as Ku’s Residence and it is herewhere my art and belief in art reside. My old friend Jiang, who has a keen eyefor design, helped me design the gallery’s logo and the many catalogues thatwould come. Carol Wu, a kindred spirit whom I met in Beijing, agreed to embarkon this journey with me as the manager of the gallery. Together, our effortshave resulted in the Michael Ku Gallery, which is now located on Dunhua SouthRoad. 


2018 marks the tenthanniversary of Michael Ku Gallery’s establishment. The first exhibition held at Michael KuGallery was Wei Jia’s “Illuminating the Endless Night” in 2008. The title ofthe exhibition reflects the illuminating quality of the work itself.  With keen insight, meticulous planning, and avision that evolves with the times, Michael Ku Gallery has continued to provideTaiwan’s art scene with many ‘firsts,’ in both innovation and ideals. Startingwith Wei Jia, Michael Ku Gallery launched a series of contemporary Chinese artexhibitions that introduced artists such as Song Kun, Jia Aili, Hu Xiaoyuan,Chen Ke, and Chen Fei. At a time when contemporary Chinese art still lingeredin the past, Michael Ku Gallery was already curating a list of outstandingcontemporary artists to present to the world. As Japanese art started to surgein popularity around 2008, the then newly founded Michael Ku Gallerycollaborated with Tomio Koyama Gallery, one of Japan’s pioneering contemporarygalleries, to introduce the art of Hideaki Kawashima to Taiwan. That same year,Tomio Koyama Gallery held Wei Jia’s exhibition in Tokyo. Michael Ku Gallery hasalso worked to promote art from the Asia Pacific Region, holding Ay TjoeChristine’s first and only, as of yet, solo exhibition in Taiwan in 2012, andiconic Filipino modernist Lao Lianben’s first solo exhibition in Taiwan in2016. These artists are more than classics of the past, they are thecontinuation and beginning of new eras. In 2014, Michael Ku Gallery curated aseries of solo and joint exhibitions that featured the best of Taiwan’sup-and-coming contemporary artists. In the two subsequent Taipei Biennales,four artists represented by Michael Ku Gallery were selected to be part of theexhibits. Taiwanese artists are pure of heart and soul, yet they possess astrength that allows them to persevere through the trials of being an artistand —  like the wild lilies that grow inthe valleys of the northern coast mountains — flourish in spite of the harshenvironments. Their works imbued the Biennale with new life, turning a  new leaf in contemporary Taiwanese art. Forover a decade, Michael Ku Gallery has been part of the dialogue of 21stcenturyglobalization and now, equipped with professional knowledge of the arts andcultures, continues to serve as a bridge between Asia and the West. 


Michael Ku Gallery believesthat a good gallery must posses both commercial prowess and the ability topromote art and culture. On June 2nd of 2018, the day of Michael Ku Gallery’stenth anniversary, it will hold an exhibition of cross-regional art. On June 9th,Chiang Hsun, who is widely regarded as Taiwan’s most representative master ofaesthetics, will hold an exhibition in one of Shanghai’s most iconic historicalsites, marking his debut art exhibition in China. In days ofinternationalization, Michael Ku Gallery strives to continue its important workof promoting art and culture. 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of Michael KuGallery, it is also a milestone that leads into a new era as the 21st centuryhas come to mature. 


I believe that the 21stcentury is a time for people to regain their confidence in culture. I believethat we should emulate the revered intellectuals who started the May Fourth Movement;that we should learn from their macroscopic view of the world and theirprofound understanding of their own culture. These are the people who left aunique and lasting influence that will persevere through the ages.


Time works in mysteriousways; when you don’t waste it, it leads you on a path that is both logical andunknown.


For our ten year anniversaryexhibition, Chiang Xun will exhibit a small painting titled Bouquet. Chiang’s creations transcendthe boundaries of Eastern and Western media; his poetry, writing, and paintingare the same entity for they originate from a source of rich literacy. One cantruly say that his work is the most authentic portrayal of his life and how hechooses to live it. As Chiang says, “This bouquet is a phoenix’s crown.”


Liu An Min will exhibit Thinking of Mu Xi (Seven Persimmons),which is representative of his previous artistic style, and Sense of Light, a square painting withfive rectangles lined up in the center, which represents his current artisticstyle. Liu’s work combines Western styles — particularly Spanish and EuropeanAbstraction — with the paintings of Southern Song Dynasty painter, Mu Xi,creating a sensational dialogue between Eastern Zen and Western Abstraction.Liu’s work is pure but not absolute. One sees his religion in the background ofhis paintings; it encompasses the inclusiveness of Zen and does not exclude anyone style. 


Song Kun will exhibit threeportraits that depict her husband Chen Chao, their daughter, and herself.Song’s paintings are classical and realistic, with a hint of ethereality andfantasy. Her brushstrokes are precise and meticulous yet light as a feather. Imet Chen Chao briefly when I first collaborated with Song. The two soon becamemarried and had a daughter named You You. The flow of light and shadow on thepaintings mark the traces of time, from which one can truly see the artist’srefined and sublimated artistry. I see these portraits as the mostheart-warming gift a friend could ever bestow.


Wei Jia’s work Hero was inspired by a photograph takenby photojournalist Chris Hondros in 2003 during the Liberian civil war. Thisphotograph, which shook the world to its core, shows Joseph Duo, a youngsoldier from Liberia who became a commanding officer, leaping into the airafter successfully firing a rocket launcher. Two years after this photo wastaken, Hondros returned to Liberia. The war had ended and the hero no longerneeded to fight. At the time, Duo and his wife were raising three children andstruggling to survive. Duo wanted togo to the US to become a soldier or to study. He did not wish to speak of thepast and his eyes were no longer ablaze with war; they were full of peace andmercy. Wei Jia stated he created Hero because he could not shake the image of a man in a blue robe crouched in ruins,his hands searching, gathering, and digging for something lost. 


Be it Xiang Yu The Conqueroror Liu Bang the Bandit Emperor, a warrior loses his sense of purpose once hehas conquered all and has no opponents left to war with. These sentiments wereclose to my heart as my gallery approached its tenth year. This is why I askedWei Jia to use Hero as the openingpiece for the ten year anniversary exhibition of Michael Ku Gallery.  

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