The Rise and Rise of Street Art in Taipei
September 15 2015
Alternative culture and street art in Taipei has really come a long way over the last few years. For many it’s becoming an essential part of their identity and who they really are deep down – but it wasn’t always that way.
Go back ten years to the streets of Taipei and you’d probably see a number of things. Street markets, full of stalls selling mountains of hot noodles mixed with tofu of all types and smells. Stalls displaying T-shirts covered in characters from The Simpsons and South Park, with badly translated speech bubbles coming from their mouths. You might have even spotted a few tags of graffiti on a wall or two, but they were mostly hidden down alleyways, where only those who really needed to, tended to ever see them.
Fast forward to the present, and the food stalls are still there, beneath the clouds of steam, but there’s something new and colourful that’s taking hold of not just the alleyways, but the streets of Taipei.
Street food being sold at a stand in Taipei
A Youthful Nation
Walk around Taipei or around any of the major cities in Taiwan and one of your first impressions will be of just how young everyone is. Sure, there are dozens and dozens of the older generations, working and walking around you; but generally, the population of the country today is still in its early years.
Everywhere you look, from the streets to the metro, there are kids, teenagers, and young adults standing around with their smartphones. Many of them will be on their way home, but the vast majority are probably heading out to kill time with their friends, either by wandering around the street markets, or from bubble tea shop to clothes shop, again and again.
So connected are the current crop of Taiwanese youth that they’re also very clued-in to the latest trends, and often throw themselves into each new idea that seems to be sweeping Instagram or the world in general. It’s because of this, that today there’s more street art in Taipei than ever before. In fact, there are entire areas dedicated to graffiti and street art festivals, right in the busy shopping district of Ximen.
Street Art and Alternative Culture
There’s street art appearing all over the capital right now, but Ximen has the densest collection of graffiti tags and street art today, and the effects of it and the embrace of alternative culture is most evident there, too.
Walk through it, and you’ll see popular international brands like Converse either in most shop windows or on the feet or the kids themselves; but local businesses are opening up, too, and within them you’ll see the best Taiwanese interior and fashion designers all showcasing their designs for sale.
It all feels very hip and exciting, and the street art is too.
Famous Taiwanese Street Artists
Having spoken to a few locals about the subject, there was a common thought being mentioned that I’ve heard all across Southeast Asia.
“People aren’t really interested in art. There’s no real value there.”
We met with artists who said the same, too. They mentioned that there’s a little appreciation for some classical and traditional art, but it’s nowhere near the scale of the Western world’s art economy.
One artist in particular who’s helping to shift that mentality in another direction is Candy Bird. He’s a Taiwanese street artist who’s been getting acclaim, both at home and abroad, for his unique style, process, and commentary style of the changing landscape of the country.
Street art in Taipei by Candy Bird
His use of colour blew me away, and I’m sure that the more he continues to create pieces, not just at home, but abroad in other street art communities, he’ll create something that will inspire his fellow countrymen to love street art as much as he does.
The more he and the local community of street artists continue to write, paint, and tag the city of Taipei, the more the rise of street art will continue to ascend.
Will you leaving your tag in Taipei? Let us know your thoughts down below!