The Shin Leh Yuan Art Space Archive is an ongoing project documenting the history and development of Shin Leh Yuan Art Space (SLY), one of the few artist-run spaces in Taiwan established in the mid-1990s that remains active today. The initial phase of this archive focuses on the formative years of Shin Leh Yuan from 1995 to 1998, a crucial period when the founding members from the influential artist collective "Space Two" and other young artists laid the groundwork for the space's operational model and its role in the art landscape. Designed as a platform for nurturing young and emerging artists, Shin Leh Yuan's unique membership system has propelled countless Taiwanese artists onto the professional stage. This first phase of the archive offers a glimpse into the early days of SLY and the Taiwanese art scene in the mid-to-late 1990s.

The first phase of the Shin Leh Yuan Art Space Archive contains over 700 records, including artist files, exhibition files, and administrative and operational materials such as photographs, manuscripts, slides, newspaper clippings, printed matter, promotional materials, and self-publications. This archive also includes valuable meeting documentation and rare audio recordings of exhibition talks and individual member activities, providing a glimpse into the founding process of SLY and the creative dialogues among its members. This archive not only reveals the rise of many renowned Taiwanese contemporary artists but also witnesses the practice of "curating" in independent art spaces on the eve of the term officially entering the Taiwanese art lexicon.

 

Biographical Note  

In 1994, Taiwan's first cooperative gallery, Space Two, came to an end amidst members' differing opinions on maintaining a non-profit model or transitioning into a commercial gallery. At the end of the same year, some members who supported the non-profit model, including Lien Teh-Cheng (連德誠), Chang Cheng-Ren (張正仁), Chien Fu-Chuan (簡福鋛) and his wife Lin Chuan-Ju (林純如), Cheng Chiung-Ming (鄭瓊銘), Hwang Wey-Jeng (黃位政), Huang Chih-Yang (黃志陽), and Chen Chien-Pei (陳建北), gathered a group of artists—Chen Meng-Chu (陳孟矩), Chen Wen-Hsiang (陳文祥), Chen Sheng-Chih (陳昇志), Lin Pei-Ching (林蓓菁), Liao Rui-Chang (廖瑞章), Kuo Buo-Jour (郭博州), Mei Dean-E (梅丁衍), Tsai Hai-Ru (蔡海如), Tu Wei (杜偉), Tzeng Yah-Pyng (曾雅蘋), Wang De-Yu (王德瑜), and Wang Kuo-Yi (王國益)—to co-found a new art space at a former Space Two location in Taipei, naming it Shin Leh Yuan Art Space (SLY). This new venture boasted a total of 20 founding members.

Inspired by the name of a well-known Taiwanese cigarette brand, the name "Shin Leh Yuan," meaning "New Paradise," as an art space, is imbued with a sense of mission for local art development and the aspiration to become a new and vibrant artistic promised land. Although it still bore some resemblance to Space Two at its inception—including the location, the format of exhibition talks, the ambition to publish independent publications (although only one issue was published in the first year), the non-profit cooperative gallery model, and the flat organisational structure—SLY was committed to shedding the misconception of being another Space Two. Its "newness" primarily lay in allowing members to rotate on a biennial basis and holding invitational exhibitions outside of members' scheduled periods, providing opportunities for artists both within and outside SLY to exhibit their works. Another requirement for exhibitions at SLY was that all works must be previously unseen; this not only encouraged more established artists to create new works but also made SLY an experimental field for emerging artists to gain professional experience and explore creative boundaries, solidifying its position as a nurturing ground for emerging artists.

Including former members of Space Two, the senior artists at SLY initially served as advisors, sharing their artistic knowledge and insights with younger artists. However, as SLY solidified its mission as a platform for emerging talent, these senior members gradually withdrew as the overall operation got on track, leaving SLY within four years of its establishment (that is, during the first and second terms). In addition to the departure of senior members, the physical space provided by Lin Chun-Ju's father, Lin Hsiao-Tung, could no longer be rented to SLY due to personal reasons when the first term ended in 1996. As a result, the second term of SLY, commencing in 1997,  found itself with only 18 members and had to secure a new rental space with two floors on Liaoning Street in Taipei.

The instability of members and the cost of rent were two major factors that not only made fundraising a task for the opening joint exhibition of SLY's second term but also foreshadowed the biggest challenges it would face from the late 1990s onwards. On the one hand, during this period, the central and local governments in Taiwan began to incorporate the reuse of idle public spaces into cultural policies, providing alternative spaces for young artists to hold exhibitions, performances, and even artist-in-residence programmes. On the other hand, artists who debuted at SLY often started receiving exhibition invitations from other art institutions and galleries, leading many to leave after their terms or feeling less inclined to join SLY. This trend was particularly evident in the composition of a notably younger membership base in the third term (1999-2000): only three artists from the second term remained, and none were founding members.

In the summer of 2000, ongoing issues with membership and funding, coupled with the redevelopment plan for the Liao Ning Street space, forced SLY to announce its closure. This announcement garnered the attention of some former members and supporters, prompting them to return and participate in the fourth term starting in 2001. Under relatively difficult financial circumstances, SLY relocated to a new space on Zhongshan North Road. This space, renovated by the members themselves, became SLY's base for the next two decades. In May 2001, having overcome financial and membership difficulties and found a new home, SLY issued an open call, inviting young artists to participate in the first "Emerge" invitational exhibition. Since then, "Emerge" has become a biennial tradition at SLY, and in 2020, the invitation was extended from emerging artists to emerging curators.

The fifth term of SLY unfloded from 2002 to 2003. It was during this period that the decision was made to not only register as a legal entity to access government funding, a step previously avoided to safeguard its autonomy, but also to develop more curatorial projects. With the first government grant received in 2004, SLY, finally free from financial reliance on membership fees, gained more agency and transformed from a member-centered cooperative gallery/art space into a curatorial organisation that spearheaded exhibitions and events such as  "City of Swallows: Migration, Post/Colonial Memories, and the Colors of a New Taiwan" in 2006, "Beyond the Surface - A Dialogue Between Design and Art" in 2007, the interdisciplinary art festival "En Ce Moment" in 2009, and "Overcrowded Paradise Project," which echoed the Taipei Biennial, in 2010. In the following years, it also gradually established a more streamlined administrative structure to effectively handle grants and operational matters.

In 2024, an urban renewal project in the vicinity of SLY's location on Zhongshan North Road necessitated the bidding of a farewell to its long-time Taipei base and relocated to Taoyuan City. There, SLY joined forces with the Glow Collective to co-manage a repurposed old house, adapting to a new environment while continuing their artistic endeavours in a collaborative setting.

 

Description of Series

As a loosely structured cooperative gallery in its early years, the sources for the Shin Leh Yuan Art Space Archive include both materials retained by the organisation itself, such as member and exhibition files, and scattered materials kept by early members. These fragmented documents have been reorganised and categorised by type, resulting in six main folders for the first phase of the Shin Leh Yuan Art Space Archive:

1. Member Files: Contains artwork images and artist members' resumes sorted by terms. Each artist who participated in SLY across different terms has folders in each term.

2. Exhibition Files: Organised by term, this folder includes exhibition documentations such as exhibition views, artwork photographs, artist statements, press materials, and newspaper clippings.

3. Publications: Includes self-publications like the zine Shin Leh Yuan Art in Dialogue, a collection of exhibition invitation cards from the first term (1995-1996), and a CD-ROM introducing the first term SLY members.

4. Management and Administration Files: Encompasses administrative documents like property rental contracts, organisational guidelines, exhibition proposals, communication and press references, and newspaper clippings related to operational changes.

5. Meeting Documentation: Text records of meetings among members.

6. Cassette Tape Recordings: Features tape recordings of events and activities at Shin Leh Yuan Art Space, including preparation meetings for the establishment of SLY, public talks from exhibitions, and radio interviews with the members.

 

Dates (Inclusive)

1995-1998 (phase 1)

 

Languages

Traditional Chinese.

 

Collection Access

Open for research. Onsite-only and restricted materials—including but not limited to correspondence, newspaper clippings, and unpublished writings—are available for consultation at AAA in Hong Kong, New Delhi, and New York. Please submit the Application for Access to Research Collections Form at least five working days in advance.

 

Collection Use

Subject to all copyright laws. Permission to publish materials must be obtained from copyright owners. Please contact research@aaa.org.hk for further enquiries.

 

History and Project Team

The organised materials in this archive have been contributed by Chang Ya-Ping (張雅萍), the current director of Shin Leh Yuan Art Space. Additionally, uncategorised items have been provided by the founding members, including Chen Wen-Hsiang (陳文祥), Tu Wei (杜偉), and Wang De-Yu (王德瑜), with the intention of eventually returning them to SLY. Materials from Chang Ya-Ping were acquired in February 2023, while those from Chen and Tu were received in February of the same year, and Wang's contributions were added in June 2024. The digitisation process for the first phase commenced in July 2023, leading to the online publication on the AAA website in June 2024.

The project team includes Project Researcher Nicole Wang (汪怡君), along with Project Archivists Kyo Hsieh (謝以恭) and Tammy Ho (何沐恬). Yanni Lin (林彥妮) also contributed greatly in the digitisation work as an intern.

Credit

The Shin Leh Yuan Art Space Archive is part of the "Independent Art Space of Taiwan" project, supported by the Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Center.

 

Extent

94 Folders, 699 Records

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