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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Taipei and Shanghai: a comparative approach to two contemporary art biennials

With Mr Felix Schoeber (University of Westminster)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective 

Date: Thursday 22 February 2007, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (Taiwan Culture Research Programme)


Biennials are the main thoroughfare for new ideas and artists in the contemporary art scene. The 90s have seen an explosion of the number of biennials worldwide, many of which in Asia. Among those, the Taipei Biennial was one of the earliest, opening in 1992, and becoming international in 1998. The Shanghai Biennial inaugurated almost unnoticed in 1996, and went international in 2000, by now becoming one of the most important art events in Asia.

I will try to analyze some of the questions specific to the curatorship of biennials, such as the question of the curator, the exhibition as text with a theme rather than a number of singular works, the question of universal representation versus the biennial as a text of the future, and the dynamics between the fringe and officialdom in Shanghai and in Taipei.

I will argue that one of the main historical differences between the two is the rather experimental period of identity biennials in the late 90s, which culminated in the 1996 Taipei Biennial with its more than 100 artists. In contrast to this attempt to universal representation, I will argue that the main thrust of the Shanghai Biennial is "internationalisation", a trend which has become ever more prominent since the 2000 Shanghai Biennial. The internationalization of the Taipei Biennial has led to a new trend, equally present on both side of the Taiwan strait: the biennial as a theme show, and as a site of modernity and globalisation, which on the reverse side has almost but eliminated any reference to the local, albeit the heavy use of cultural and postcolonial theory.

About the Speaker

Mr Felix Schoeber is based at the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), University of Westminster.