MOCA Taipei_Feeling the hidden history

Taipei, Taiwan. The contrast between the historic red brick building and the contemporary art on display makes me imagine the hidden history of this place.

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Taipei, Taiwan, exhibits contemporary art works. It is in the center of Taipei, this art museum is a two-story red brick building. In fact, it was a Japanese elementary school during the Japanese colonial period around 1920.

When standing in front of the building, the majestic appearance stopped me to walk and stare the building. When I bought a ticket at the reception and went inside, I find a hallway that looks like an elementary school in Japan, with artworks displayed in the classroom area. It was built around 1920, but the elementary school closed after World War II. After that, it was Taipei City Hall until 1993, which shows that it has been well maintained.

Now, there are two things that surprised me about this museum. First, the works on display when I first visited were almost video works, and second, most of the visitors were young people.

The video works were by Taiwanese artists, but some dealt with foreign subjects, some of which presented radical expressions, and young people were encouraged to sit down and watch the works. I surprised to see many people were watching it. There was also an artistic work shot by a Taiwanese artist with only Taiwanese performers, which was stimulating, surprising given the image of Taiwan.

Regarding visitors, it is surprising that most of the people viewing the works are young people, and many are couples. This probably had something to do with the fact that there were no paintings or installation-type works on display, but I got the impression that I was seeing a new version of the museum. The Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 2001, and its collection is probably concentrated on recent works, so rather than looking back on history, the museum focuses only on the present and future, and embraces contemporary art. My guess is that there are many young people who are comfortable with this.

When walking around town in Taiwan, I have the illusion that I am actually in Japan. There is “Family Mart”, “7-Eleven” (even though 7-Eleven is originally from US), “Saizeria”, “Ootoya”, and a Japanese ramen noodle restaurant. Also, there are many people who speak Japanese, and when someone speaks to me in Japanese, I sometimes wonder how they knew I was Japanese. Opinions differ on this point depending on whether Japan occupied or ruled Taiwan, but it is important to note that the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art building still stands today, and that contemporary art works are in this building. The fact that many people were visiting was surprising.

Visit in 2023

■ Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Finally, one more museum in Taiwan. Let me introduce the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Although the name is Fine Arts, it is an art museum that mainly exhibits contemporary art. Established in 1986, it has a long history, and the Taipei Biennale has been held since 1998.

The three-story building feels old, but maintains a vast space. When I visited in 2023, the Taipei Biennale was just taking place, and there was a wide variety of works, including video, object, and conceptual work, with exciting pieces lined up here and there. I definitely recommend you to visit this museum along with the MOCA Taipei.

Visit in 2023

​Basic information

​■ Name : MOCA Taipei
■ Address :  No. 39, Chang’an W Rd, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan
​■ Homepage :
https://www.mocataipei.org.tw/en