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Why gay-friendly Taiwan is a creative haven for LGBTQ art

June 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

More than a year after same-sex marriage was legalized in Taiwan, artists say the law has had a wider impact on the island's LGBTQ community.

For Taiwan's LGBTQ visual artists, for instance, the past year has heralded new forms of creative expression, according to photographer Su Misu, whose explorations of gender identity, sexuality and bondage range from candid nudes to fantastical subversions of religious imagery.

And in 2017, just months after Taiwan's constitutional court paved the way for the marriage law by declaring same-sex marriage a legal right, the gay art scene was afforded rare mainstream attention with the exhibition "Spectrosynthesis -- Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now. "

Billed as Asia's first major LGBTQ art show, the program featured over 50 works by 22 artists (from places including Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore, as well as the Asian diaspora) addressing a range of topics, from forbidden love to sexual violence.

Nonetheless, he said that visibility of LGBTQ art is getting "better and better," and that Taiwan's progressive environment "makes it a good place to make art. " He pinpoints the legalization of same-sex marriage as not only a landmark in his artistic identity, but in his life more generally.

Meanwhile in Singapore, where artists are permitted to exhibit LGBTQ-themed work despite the fact that gay sex is illegal (a law that is rarely enforced), censorship is also common.

With Taiwan attempting to establish itself as a commercial arts destination (the launch of the Taipei Dangdai art fair in 2019 signaled that the island may hope to challenge Hong Kong's domination of the Asian market), the island's gay artists could, in turn, benefit from the growing international profile.

For the 41-year-old artist and photographer, this curatorial decision represents a wider problem facing the arts in Taiwan: That gay male artists continue to take a disproportionate chunk of the limelight.

"The majority of curators and collectors are male, and, from my perspective, they are more interested in gay male art," she said, adding: "We all notice that there are a lot of gay artists (in Taiwan), but if a curator asks, 'Who's a lesbian artist?' No one knows. "

According to Su Misu, an oversimplification of LGBTQ issues is another obstacle facing Taiwan's gay artists.

It's a point also raised by Sun who, despite organizing LGBTQ-themed exhibitions, said that artists' primary concern is "not to be labeled in expressing what they want to say. " But whether that means organizations like his might, in an ideal future, no longer need to exist, is a moot point given the widespread challenges facing Asia's gay artists, he said.

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