Western art in the past was seen as the mainstream of the artistic trends. However, driven by the rise of the Asian economy and globalization, contemporary art in Asia has become an international focus, and its ongoing expansion has gradually evolved into an artistic phenomenon worthy of dialogue with the Western sphere.
Following the mandate of the “Phase Ninth: Mid-term Plan for the Collection of Artwork”, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMOFA) will survey its existing collections in line with the contextual development of art in Taiwan, various types of media, as well as the artists’ pedigree, in order to observe the regional characteristics of art in Taiwan so as to create a platform of dialogue with the international art community. In addition to collecting artwork by local artists, an in-depth survey about the relationship of contemporary art development between Taiwan and Asia, and issues such as the forms of aesthetic and cultural trends will also be tackled.
A key change in our collection policy was triggered by the “2007 Asian Art Biennale” held in the Museum, which also posted an opportunity for the collection of contemporary Asian art. The revolutionary change of computer and communication technology has largely changed the way of life and social network of mankind. The new media art, created utilizing system software and computer technology, has subverted the formal expression of traditional artistic creation and posted new challenge to the existing collection and preservation mechanism in the Museums. Therefore, how to take advantage of information technology and the automation system to transform the Museum’s collection management in order to save manpower and to strengthen the effectiveness of the Museum’s service to the public have become a sustained effort and concern for the Museum for years to come.
The art collection in NTMOFA centers in art of all media types, their contextual development, and the construction of artists’ linage, with focuses on prints, contemporary photography, modern water, ink landscape painting, and contemporary art. Collection of artwork by Asian artists will allow us to survey the artistic relationship between Taiwan and other Asian countries. Additionally, the art collection in NTMOFA will include works by young artists, by transfer, and by donation. The “Acquisition of Artwork by Young Artists” plan was founded by the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) in 1993, and handed over to NTMOFA for implementation in 2005. The project is currently in its second phase, as a sub-project under the “Development of Cultural and Creative Industry Project” spearheaded by the CCA, under the title of the “Acquisition and Circulation of Artwork by Young Artists Plan”. The goal is to encourage and provide support for younger generation of artists by presenting more exhibition platforms, and to stimulate the growth of contemporary art as well as the creative industry and its circulation in the country and abroad. Under the acquisition plan, artists under 45 year-old will be eligible to apply. In each year, the selection begins with an open call or in concert with the Taipei International Gallery Exposition, and the finalist artist will be chosen through a juried selection process. Approximately, only 8% of the overall submissions would be selected through a competitive process. Therefore, many young artists see the acquisition as an opportunity to gain exposure to the international art community. At the same time, NTMOFA is committed to promoting artists and their artworks, introducing the diverse development of contemporary art in Taiwan to the public nationally and internationally.
As for the collection mechanism, the collection committee’s review standard lies in the historic value and the quality of the work. Most importantly, acquiring a quality work for the permanent collection in a national museum provides such foreseeable benefits as structuring art historical development, accumulating the country’s cultural assets, encouraging artists to continue the creative work, and finally stimulating private collector’s enthusiasm and participation. We hope that the endless energy will inject more possibilities toward the future of artistic development in Taiwan. Donation and transfer from government agency serve as another source of collection, which is composed of more than half of the overall permanent collections in the Museum. NTMOFA has allocated budget for a series of professional services and supports in order to encourage art donation by the artist or his/her family. They include professional maintenance and conservation of artwork received, scholarship for thesis and dissertation research on art in Taiwan, the F-type exhibition hall for donated works of art, to foster the introduction of the art collection and strengthen the study of artistic development in Taiwan. The Prosecutor’s Office in Taipei District Court transferred a series of 53 pieces of works to the Museum, among which include work in oil paintings, acrylic paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramics by artists such as Xiao Qin, Huo Gang, Wu Hao, Qin Song, and other foreign artists, dating from 1950 to 2000. The scale of such artwork transfer became a precursor for transferring precious objects to be under the care of arts professionals, which is fairly meaningful.
Collection Maintenance, Conservation, and Management
Collection is the core value of an art museum. However, the maintenance and management of the collection is a complex process and have often been overlooked. As the volume of the collection increases, an effective system for collection management has become intrinsically significant. Considering that maintaining the safety of the art collection is a mission given to the museum by the country and its people, a high quality of management system has become the only way to guarantee the sustainability of the art collection and our cultural heritage. The effective and systematic collection management relies on the establishment of a system in which proper environment control for the collection, daily maintenance and rigorous review of artwork condition, prioritizing the work needed to be conserved, and allocating budget for professional conservator all have to be thoroughly measured.
Art Collections Information Management
From the operation point of view, the pursuit of efficiency is mandatory in adapting to the modern society, which requires proficient management to achieve the goal. Since the collection is certainly the most important asset for a museum, properly preserving it and establishing complete and accurate information system is thus the first and the foremost task in the management of the art collection. Due to the large amount of data, building the database is a cumbersome process, which requires attentions to fine details. In order to avoid duplication of data caused by human error, we have use information technology to facilitate the implementation and management of collection-related business.
Following the advent of the electronic society, the wave of data digitization has extended to the Museums and art galleries. Beginning in 2001, NTMOFA launched the collection digitization project to ensure the archival preservation and sharing of cultural assets, establishing an image archive and property management system that is accessible to the public through the digital library on the website and supports various businesses in the museum such as loan application.
In 2007, the Collection Division has integrated its wide array of operations with the automation of Collection Management Information System, including selection, registry, cataloging, repair, maintenance, warehouse management, loan management, insurance, copyrights, artist information and relevant publications, etc. Functions such as searching, indexing, and display have created close coherence with collection related tasks. The automation system also serves as the platform for research, educational outreach, and online exhibition, providing a diverse range of resources that add to the value of the digital content. In 2008, the system has expanded its scope to encompass review counting system, pricing database, insurance record, enhanced on-loan and return operation procedures, enhanced inventory index for works to be reviewed, digital image enlargement, enhanced artwork status, inventory operation, warehouse temperature and humidity control, collection storage and transportation, packaging, exhibition equipments and space requirements, online application, warehouse management record, enhanced record of loan history, research and reference materials. Furthermore, a newly built Young Artist Network provides a platform for submissions, selection, inquiry, exhibition, announcement, work introduction, and production development display, providing more efficient service and creating a network for young artists. Notably, the RFID-linked (Radio Frequency Identification) environmental control system utilizes the information technology to facilitate management pertaining to inventory, artwork location, transportation, and security.
The RFID technology was incorporated into the building of information system in 2006. From 2007 to 2011, it is expected that the RFID Reader will be established at every important access point within the collection warehouse, and install approximately 60,000 tags on 2,000 works in the collection. The goal is to transform collection management, from positioning, inventory, to security control, into an automated system. To enhance the artwork security, the RFID-assisted monitoring system will be installed at the exhibition rooms, museum lobby, as well as the Gallery Street in NTMOFA. Should there be any abnormal activity detected, the system will give timely notice calling for immediate response to steer clear of the risk of damaging or losing the artwork.
Value-added Use of the Museum Collections
Modern art museums take the needs of the general public into consideration more actively by sharing relevant resources with them. In this regard, it is essential to transform the static exhibits in order to disseminate aesthetic knowledge and increase the value-added of the museum collections by enabling them to interact with people. NTMOFA has placed great value on a variety of applications of its collections, including the activities of multi-issue/multi-category exhibitions and education promotion as well as internet information communication. In March 2008, the F-type exhibition hall was established with the donated exhibits as the display content, as planned by the museum researchers. The exhibitions that have been held include “Creating New Landscapes with Dry Brush and Dense Ink: Exhibition of Paintings Donated by Hsia Yi-fu”, “Paintings that mirror the author, an Exhibition of Donated Works by Yuan Chu-sheng”, “Zeitgeist, national identity and the self: The Kuo Po-chuan Donation Exhibition”, which are all precious reassured collections in this Museum. In 2008, the works of Lee Shi-chi, Wen Ji, Hu Kun-jung, Chen Hsin-yuan, and Hua Chien-chiang as well as the logo of Museum were employed to create derivative products including three types of necktie, silk scarf, paperback and hardback notebooks, USB flash drive, and pen stand. By introducing Taiwan’s artistic characteristics in a way that is so close to the public, the value-added of the collections is enhanced and the brand of derivative products established, thereby, not only increasing the output value of the creative art industry but also extending the influence of living arts.
In order to study and analyze the collections and the history of art in Taiwan, as well as probe into the policy concerning the collecting and content of the works, researches on the collections are conducted to analyze the styles of the collections in different categories. The research result will be applied to the future collecting, promotion activities, and exhibition planning in the Museum.
The Polish-born sociologist, Alain Touraine, mentioned in his Return of the Actor that sociology is produced by researchers and the general public. Yet, the question is “what role does art play in the social sphere?” and “How can art affect people’s spiritual and material life?” An art museum plays an important role as a medium between art and people; it is the responsibility of the museum staff to bring art into people’s living space and share the resources and assets of art along with their derivative value. Compared with the implementation of the museum affairs in previous years, the scale and results of the museum’s affairs this year has witnessed great progress. All of the efforts are made in hope that the relevant exhibitions, promotion activities and information services can stimulate artistic creativity, encourage people to participate, enhance their aesthetic sense, and imbue new power and possibilities into the contemporary art of Taiwan, thereby laying a foundation for the overall cultural development of the country.
There is still much room for improvement in terms of the processing of museum affairs. For example, although the collection covers Asian contemporary artworks, besides ones of Taiwan, issues such as the art development of contemporary Asian countries, aesthetic themes, and the interconnection of art communities require greater in-depth understanding and discussions to make the collection of Asian artworks more complete and valuable in regard to their applications. The globalization trend and the development of information technology have changed the form of art creation. New cultural phenomena such as media, image, duplication, reproduction, internet, and consumption are also impacting the preservation and management of art collections, an issue that requires careful planning and preparation.