Currently on view at Taipei Fine Art Museum, Parkett: 220 Artist Editions and Collaborations since 1984 is the 10th edition of international art journal Parkett’s traveling retrospective. Since its debut at the Museum of Modern Art in 2001, the exhibition has toured across the globe via a network of museums spaces including London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery, Singapore’s Tyler Institute, and Beijing’s Ullens Center of Contemporary Art. Parkett has consistently demonstrated resilience against permanent historicization by a continual process of re-editing, thereby incorporating new works, curatorial modifications, and new local collaborations into each new show. The Taipei retrospective showcases ninety-one Parkett journals, five collaborations with Taiwanese and Japanese institutions, and two hundred and twenty works created by iconic contemporary artists from Europe, US, and Asia. This encyclopedic show not only provides a survey of contemporary art today, it also reveals the creative potential of retrospection to inspire new ways of reading art.
This prestigious congregation of prominent artist names and elite institutions may be considered a blockbuster, but with a twist –the presented photographs, prints, drawings, sculptures, and video art are all relatively obscure works by well-known artists. Anish Kapoor’s Untitled (2003), a red-stained stocking stretched out in a transparent acrylic box, appears to be a miniature sketch of Kapoor’s larger-than-life PVC sculpture Marsyas. Daniel Buren’s Unique Tablecloth with Laser-Cut Lace (2002), a series of four white tablecloths patterned with stripes, is an anomaly in the artist’s oeuvre noted for an evasion of object-making. Together the 220 art pieces offer an alternative panorama into celebrated art practices, which is particularly intriguing for the Taiwanese art audience whose knowledge of international art heavily depend upon jpegs of key artwork found online and in art magazines. The show offers a side b to the contemporary art landscape that promises a more intimate glimpse into mainstream art production today.
The exhibition inhabits six interconnected gallery rooms, each encoded with a monochromatic wall color and assigned a specific social function. The Playroom, Meeting Room, Reading Room, Garden, Studio, and City are set up as six different situations in which the viewer experiences art. The Garden, for example, begins with a languid wall text, “Spending an afternoon in the Garden….reading a book in a lawn chair, dozing off and taking the sun…” Conversely, The Studio sets a more serious tone, “The Studio is a place for work…it is solemn and academic, showing labour or planning.” Aside from these psychosocial exercises, the works on view lack a deeper curatorial narrative; the exhibition is held together by a shared socio-economic link—the works’ mutual history with Parkett. All Parkett Artist Editions were originally commissioned as salable products discretely published in the back of each Parkett issue. Considering the magazine as their first exhibition space, the works were deliberately subordinated behind the vigorous literature and monograph spreads that constitute the main bulk of the book. Here in the museum context, however, the same art objects are emancipated from their role as commodities and presented as the celebrated material trace of Parkett’s thirty fruitful years of artist collaborations.
The four special projects by Taiwanese institutions and artists reflect certain hesitation to critically engage with their own histories. According to Parkett’s press release, these projects “share the vision and passion to foster and reflect upon, new, compelling and meaningful expressions and movements in contemporary art.” As if expecting a foreign viewer, the projects eerily echo the formalities of an art fair–each occupy an equal sized space and prominently display a detailed introduction of their organization. The Cube’s presentation of Yannick Dauby, Yen Ting Hsu, Wan Hsuan Tsai’s Revitalization of Chiayi Sound Project is an exact replica of the same exhibition featured at The Cube a few months ago. In the adjacent room, Artco’s magazines and memorabilia from an editor’s desk are laid out decoratively across the walls. These curatorial choices convey a sense of restraint that hinders more thought-provoking contemplations of the past. A creative retrospection of art promises new understandings of its history, as Deleuze writes, “History amounts only to the set of preconditions…that one leaves behind in order to ‘become,’ that is, to create something new.”