Taiwan’s policy of decentralising cultural institutions means that Taichung, only its third largest centre, is home to both the National Theatre and the country’s Museum of Fine Arts. This is an impressive institution set in a verdant garden of modernist sculptures, a fifteen minute stroll South from the centre of town.
The museum was hosting the Taiwan Biennale when we went, which this year responded to the theme “Possiblity of island,” a title borrowed from the French writer Michel Houellebecq. As so often happened in Taichung, we were pleasantly surprised. The exhibitions were of quite a high standard, ranging from a history of Taiwanese photography to the whimsical and dark paintings of Huang Hai-hsin (scroll down), neon art, some Jackson Pollock style abstract expressionism and most startlingly, an exhibition of male nudes by gay artists, each featuring a photo of the artist at work himself in the nude, and a brief blurb in shockingly blunt language about his sexual proclivities. One artist, we learned, liked to finger himself while he masturbated. I was caught quite offguard reading this in the National Fine Arts Museum!