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Fifty Years of Artistic Influence: Grace Cheung Reflects on the Hong Foundation's Journey

For over half a century, the Hong Foundation has been a bastion of cultural enrichment and educational support in Taiwan, spearheaded by the visionary founder Chien Chuan Hong. Through its extensive support for education, culture, and artistic endeavors, the foundation has been a catalyst for nurturing talent and preserving heritage. Highlighting its commitment at this year's Taipei Dangdai, the foundation commissioned Cheng Hsien-Yu’s thought-provoking installation 'Credit Makes You Free,' furthering its mission. In this exclusive interview, Director Grace Cheung shares insights into the foundation's enduring mission and its transformative impact on the Taiwanese arts scene. Let's delve into the conversation.

 

Installation view of Credit Makes You Free. Courtesy of Hong Foundation

Installation view of Credit Makes You Free. Courtesy of Hong Foundation


Portrait of Grace Cheung, Executive Director of Hong Foundation. Courtesy of Hong Foundation.
Portrait of Grace Cheung, Executive Director of Hong Foundation. Courtesy of Hong Foundation.

The Hong Foundation has a long history since its establishment in 1971. What has been the main focus of the foundation throughout its journey?

 

The key focus of the Hong Foundation is to contribute to and support the education, culture, and social cultural heritage of Taiwan. Over the past five decades, we have influenced numerous writers, musicians, filmmakers, and renowned figures. We aim to nurture young artists into successful international careers and actively explore new possibilities for learning.

 

We have been organizing influential programs for contemporary art through commissions and direct sponsorships, alongside various educational, art, and cultural programs to expand our patronage into fostering the “Culture of Creation” by cultivating an Ecosystem of Creators for our time.

 

One example is The Tung Chung Prize, a one million NTD annual award that supports an exceptional artist’s creative output for a year. Cheng Hsien-Yu, who presented "Credit Makes You Free" at our booth at this year’s Taipei Dangdai, is the recipient of the 2019 Tung Chung Prize.

 

Throughout the 70s, the Hong Foundation spawned the birth of literary criticism with the Shu Ping Shu Mu Review of Books and Bibliography publication and spearheaded the Taiwanese folk music revival with trail-blazing vinyl compilations from its music and movie collection, the largest of its kind in Taiwan at the time. These initiatives occurred while Taiwan was still under martial law, so culturally and socially speaking, the foundation was instrumental in harnessing and “building up” the culture amid great political turmoil and hardship, an impossible feat by any standards.


This year, the Hong Foundation commissioned Cheng Hsien-Yu’s installation "Credit Makes You Free." It is a very meaningful work. Can you tell us about the visitors’ responses and its intended message?

 

This project is both meaningful and great fun! We wanted to bring a different point of view to our participation as a cultural partner to Taipei Dangdai.

 

It leads to the commission of Cheng Hsien-Yu and his project "Credit Makes You Free” where the power of “pricing” was assigned to all visitors. Visitors were very intrigued and curious about the immersive and interactive experience, which becomes part of the piece itself. The final “pricing” of NTD $124,332 in turn became the artist’s commission fees. "Credit Makes You Free” compels us to reconsider the exchange values we arbitrarily set on human attributes such as pranks, inspiration, creativity, or art.

 

The Hong Foundation has been pivotal in supporting local artists. Could you share more about the foundation’s selection process for artists and projects?

 

Our team conducts extensive searches and surveys to identify emerging trends of interest. We then evaluate who can best present work that is socially relevant, coupled with the ability to deliver with the highest artistic rigor. We are always looking for ideas that can bring change or provide a leap-off point for further and ongoing understanding of the world around us. The majority of the artists we chose turned out to be artists that are just rising up with a clear conceptual position and who are also experienced enough to have the execution sophistication to bring these abstract ideas to become material experiences.

 

How do you perceive the current trends in Taiwanese contemporary art, and how is the Hong Foundation engaging with these trends?

 

Taiwan enjoys great freedom of expression, a fact that cannot be overstated enough. Taiwanese society is tolerant and accepting of multiple points of view, and diversity is intrinsic. The living quality and easy environment make it very friendly to artists or creatives who can explore, grow, and have a decent living. These factors combined to create an incredible crucible for artistic expressions, and this is evident in what we’ve seen happening on the art front.

 

Many Taiwanese contemporary artists are addressing social, political, and environmental issues through their works, using art as a platform for reflection and commentary on the realities of society; and they can do this without worrying about their safety or “political correctness”. We are seeing Taiwanese contemporary art evolving towards greater diversity and internationality, reflecting the vibrancy of the art ecology in Taiwan.

 

Take Hong Foundation’s Project Seek as an example, it’s a platform for cultural transmission and artistic practice founded with creators in mind, we aim to construct a diverse, multi-generational ecosystem through sponsorship programs of varying scales to support ongoing contemporary art.

 

Ghost in the Sea by Musquiqui Chihying at C-LAB has put forward the social issue of labor resources that have been manifested through various forms such as slavery, coolie, and migrant work. The artist focuses on the ocean as he attempts to uncover truths and potential conflicts overshadowed by dominant discourses.

 

What are the Hong Foundation’s plans for future support of the arts in Taiwan? Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives you are particularly excited about?

 

Hong Foundation aims to provide a larger platform and greater creative freedom to local artists, we hope to be the bridge between artists and their international recognition.

 

Hong Foundation Fellowship at the Rijksakademie is an initial step in this direction, and we are hopeful about expanding such efforts in the future.

 

In the second half of this year, we will continue to roll out a series of new announcements: The Question Project, which poses one Question each year to explore ideas on society, culture, and existence, will announce the latest artist commission to explore the question with a new work; Tung Chung Prize, the 1 million NTD annual award to support an exceptional artist’s creative output for one year, will announce its new winner for 2025. We are quite excited about this year’s recipient, who will be presenting work relevant to the AI revolution on our doorstep.


Cheng Hsien-Yu, Credit Makes You Free, 2024.

Courtesy of the artist and Hong Foundation


 

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