來到位於台北松山文創園區靜巷裡的當代藝術館「Contemporary by U」，推開的玻璃窗傳出沁滿鼻腔的咖啡香，走進展館流線的 U 型動線，則有藝廊藏家 Yvonne貼心留給你和當代藝術家相互探索的空間。
Most art galleries fall into the category of “white box”, retractable barriers and red tape says “CAUTION” keep you away from the artworks. Those art pieces cost from at least 10 million to 100 million and are hung up high on the walls, stingy strong air conditioner makes it hard to spend minutes appreciating and examining the artworks. In contrast, as walking in “Contemporary by U” gallery, located in a quiet alley next to Taipei Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, you’re welcomed by rich and satisfying coffee aroma upon opening its glass door. Along the U-shaped movement guiding route in the gallery, this is a space thoroughly arranged by the considerate gallerist Yvonne for guests and for contemporary artists to explore each other.
迷走在蜿蜒巷弄裡，現煮咖啡陣陣飄香，走過刷白簡約的外牆低頭一看腳下燙金文字印著「GALLERY」才驚覺這裡其實是間藝廊，藝廊藏家 Yvonne 也笑稱「真的有人以為是咖啡館，想找位置坐下休息。」不過當代藝廊「Contemporary by U」複合經營模式結合咖啡外帶窗，最初就是希望藝術品能和現代人每日所需的能量來源咖啡一般融入日常生活，不管是尋求擁有相同藝術眼光的藏家，或是吸引大眾培養觀畫興趣，她形容「過去藝廊就像白盒子，人們和藝術品有距離。」藝廊名字裡的「U」即你和你們「有點像是為了你存在的藝廊。」一個單純的想法萌生想為觀者尋找最適合的藝術品，「Contemporary by U」 因為一杯杯以雙手細膩沖煮的咖啡和茶品，融化藝術品遙不可及的孤高印象。
思量藝廊氛圍「希望這裡是輕鬆的。」 Yvonne 捨棄高價原作引進門檻較低的版畫，卻仍可因為藝術家親筆簽名、出版年份和珍稀數量，而深具投資價值。像是奈良美智版畫多集中於 2000 年出版，最少的版次甚至以全球限量 35 版發行，不過其原作《背後藏刀》在 2019 年於香港蘇富比以 1.95 億港幣（約新台幣 7.62 億）拍出，令人無法觸及的高價原作，如今卻能透過收藏藝廊版畫拉近距離。新型冠狀病毒惡化前，藝廊曾有一位來自法國巴黎的奶奶，分享朋友於 2000 年到東京看展並以約莫台幣100 萬元購入草間彌生南瓜題材作品，直至去年卻以台幣1億高價於國際拍賣公司賣出，更讓他住進巴黎市區五人房公寓大廈，即便以藝術品一夕致富的故事在拍場早已司空見慣，Yvonne仍深感藝術品無法限量的增值空間。
「Contemporary by U」 聚焦當代藝術，Yvonne 認為相比印象派筆下的法國小鎮風情，當代藝術更貼近現代人心，好比一個括號，不同觀者置入經驗而感同身受。像是近年炙手可熱的奈良美智，以俐落線條描繪純樸孩童，在超載資訊幾近淹沒生活的時代，反而給予觀者喘息空間，更多了探索的機會，然而她也提點即便畫風可愛，不少帶有髒話或是女孩拿刀的畫面其實正暗諷資本主義下的混亂現象。而紐約藝術家 Adam Lister 顯著的 8 位元畫風，像是作品《Cookie Monster》「作者以立體派和新普普畫風善用顏色以方塊式堆疊創造出層次感，Cookie Monster手中的餅乾用三個長方形和三個正方形的堆疊卻可以明顯看出作者所想表達的靜物。」Adam Lister「從小受任天堂電視遊樂器影響，也是從小陪伴我們長大的電動玩具。」將此想像注入名畫或翻玩名人、卡通人物，在藝廊走進難忘的復古電玩時代。
看膩了強調理性、菁英和進步的時代氛圍，當代藝術家成為社會議題的發聲筒，部分也以自我創傷照見社會現存的荒謬現象，藝廊選品同樣嗅見社會氛圍。Yvonne 舉以她近期鍾愛，並在美國名人圈備受關注的 Cleon Peterson 之畫作《Marchers》為例，有別於常見的黑、白、紅色調，該作品罕見以金色顏料印刷武士拿刀的意象，企圖暗諷政治是一把傷人於無形的利刃；而擅以燦笑花朵為題的村上隆，在全球陷入疫情陰霾之際，其作品《The Future Will be Full of Smiles》瀰漫著療癒人心的樂觀氛圍，她認為藝術家無不希望每個觀者在駐足凝視的時空中，逐漸撫平內心寂寞。
今年年後也能親睹 King Saladeen 作品和周邊，藝術家作品以熊為主題實有紀念已故好友的深意，畫風和當今世界最知名街頭藝術家 Jean-Michel Basquiat 雷同，排除疫情，這裡幾乎每季更換展品。未來藝廊也期望參加當代藝術展推廣該空間，同時和藝術家建立關係。退居藝術世界的幕後成為推廣人，Yvonne 心想「所有藝術家都會希望上拍場，不單純為了金錢，更多是對藝術家的肯定。」而「Contemporary by U」則像是當代藝術家和大眾對話的載體，灰白的簡約牆面和大片落地窗，留給蓊鬱綠意和自然光追逐的空間，「每天下午 3 點到 5 點，光影被樹蔭篩落到地面」是她心中最美麗的時刻，期待每個過路人踩著愜意腳步和當代藝術展開秘密絮語。
The Gallery for U
Wandering through the curvy lanes and allies of the district, you will initially be welcomed by the smell of brewing coffee gradually creeping through your nose. As you follow the smell, a simple grey scaled hand-finished exterior walls will instantly catch your eyes. Just as when you’re wondering what the store is, a gold-finished letter “Gallery” engraved on the ground right outside of the store will answer you, yes, it’s an art gallery.
The gallerist Yvonne smiled and said, “Occasionally, some people thought this is a coffee shop and ask for seats.” In fact, the initial operation of “Contemporary by U”, the contemporary art gallery, is in the hope to make the artworks merge into our daily life like coffee does, which is so-called the “daily fuel” for people nowadays, either for seeking collectors with the same artistic vision or attracting people’s attention to develop the interest of Contemporary artworks. The gallerist Yvonne described that “the galleries are usually described like white boxes, there is always a distance or an actual railings keep you away from the artworks.” The English letter “U” in the gallery’s name is the abbreviation of “you”, it refers to the existence of “the art gallery is for you and everyone.” A simple thought starts the aspiration of displaying impressive artworks around the world for people to have easy access to and to acquire. “Contemporary by U” gallery uses cups of freshly brewed coffee and tea to melt the invisible distance between the hard-to-reach artworks and people.
Considering the atmosphere in the gallery, “in hope of a relaxing space”. Yvonne has given up high-priced original artworks but introduced Artists’ prints. However, Artist’s signature, year published, and number of editions makes these prints worthy of investment. For example, most of Yoshimoto Nara’s prints were published in early 2000s, the edition of these prints ranged from 100 editions to some are only 35 editions. However, Yoshitomo Nara’s original work on canvas Knife Behind Back was sold at the price of HK$195 million (NT$762 million) at Hong Kong Sotheby’s. The extraordinary high-priced artworks are rarely available for normal people to witness, but the existence of gallery exhibiting these renowned Artists’ prints bring the distance between the observers and the painting much closer. In the interview, Yvonne shared an interesting encounter she had with one of the walk-in guests. Right before the coronavirus outbreak, a grandma walked in and she said her friend who used to live in suburban France visited Tokyo in 2000s and purchased a Yayoi Kusama’s original painting with a subject of yellow pumpkin at the price of about 1 million TWD. Surprisingly, the painting was sold at an auction last year for 1 billion higher than her initial purchased price. Because of this, she bought herself a 5-bedroom condo at downtown Paris. Although the kind of stories happens frequently in the art world, Yvonne still deeply believe the investment value of art are unmeasurable.
Contemporary Arts Get Closer to the Heart of People
“Contemporary by U” gallery puts its focus on Contemporary arts. Yvonne thinks that compared to the Impressionist paintings that depict the atmosphere of small town in France, Contemporary art gets closer to the heart of people nowadays; it’s like brackets of different observers projecting their experiences to feel the meaning of the paintings. For example, one of the most popular Japanese artists Yoshimoto Nara uses simple lines to draw innocent children. In the era flooded and overloaded by information, his paintings provide observers a space to breathe and to explore internally. However, Yvonne mentioned that even though the style gives out pure and innocent feels, some paintings carrying F-words or bleeding dolls are actually sarcasm to the chaotic world of capitalism, politics, wars, and religions. Also, Adam Lister, the neo-cubist artist in New York, his distinctive pixelated style in his work Cookie Monster depicts that “Lister combined Cubism and Pop Art by highlighting its complexity and simplicity at the same time”. In his artwork Cookie Monster, he uses 3 rectangular and 3 cubes to recreate the shape of the cookie, which capture the briefness of a mental picture,” said Yvonne. “Adam Lister was deeply influenced by the video game Nintendo 64 in his childhood, I believe people around my age shared the same experience.” Infusing famous paintings or playful images of celebrities, cartoon characters, we enter a gallery to an unforgettable era of nostalgia in video games.
In this new era, we’ve been bored by the notions of rationales, elites, and constant progression. Therefore, these Contemporary artists have become spokesperson of the social issues; some of them use their traumas to reflect absurd signs existing in society. When the Gallery selects artworks, it also takes social atmosphere into consideration. Yvonne gave an example of a print Marchers by an LA-based artist Cleon Peterson, it’s one of her recent favorite art piece. In the image, Peterson uses bright glittery gold color but painted six marching warriors with swords on their shoulders. The artist sarcastically states how politics could harm people like an invisible knife. However in comparison, Takashi Murakami’s print The Future Will be Full of Smiles is filled with healing and positive vibes by his symbolic smiling flowers at the time of hardship; Yvonne thinks all artists want to heal the observers’ hearts, whether it’s the loneliness or sadness, the arts are here to help them find the answers to their questions.
An Intimate Conversation with the Artwork
There are couple solo exhibitions lining up at the end of this year, people could witness King Saladeen’s original works and prints in person. Saladeen’s works are distinctivly themed with a bear to commemorate his deceased good friend. Most people compare his painting style to the world’s most influential graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. After the coronavirus pandemic, Gallery will start changing its displays and exhibitions every season. In the near future, the gallery hopes to join other Contemporary art exhibition to promote its space and artists, and to build up long-term relationship with artists. Becoming a booster behind the world of art, Yvonne believes, “All artists want their works be enlisted in the auction, not purely for money but more seeking for a recognition by the public and to been seen by the world”. Contemporary by U gallery is like a carrier between Contemporary artists and the public; the grey and white scale of walls and these French windows are to leave more space for natural light and slumberous and green atmosphere to dance around with. For her, “every day from 3-5 pm, the afternoon light casts its presence and the tree leaves’ shadow through the windows onto the gallery’s floor” is the most beautiful moment, looking forward to every passerby making their footsteps to its doorway and have an intimate conversation with contemporary artworks.