Taiwan is hosting what is being touted as the first-ever LGBTQ art exhibition at a government-run museum in Asia.
"Spectrosynthesis ─ Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now" is a joint project between the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei (MOCA) and Sunpride Foundation, an LGBTQ art organization. The show, which debuted Sept. 9 and runs until Nov. 5, features 51 works created by 22 artists from Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Ethnic Chinese artists based in the U.S. and Canada will also be represented.
"'Spectrosynthesis' features works of art that span a period of nearly half a century, rendering itself essentially a slice of art history concerning the life stories and related issues of the post-war Chinese LGBTQ community," Heather Chan, a spokesperson for MOCA, told NBC News.
While exhibitions celebrating LGBTQ art are nothing new in the West, Chan noted that such projects have been absent from the Asian art scene, and "government-run museums in Asia have been especially reluctant and reticent about addressing LGBTQ issues."
It is especially noteworthy, she added, that "Spectrosynthesis" is taking place in Taiwan, which in 2017 became the first Asian government to legalize same-sex marriage.
"Looking back on the history of the LGBTQ movement in Taiwan — since the pioneer of Taiwanese LGBTQ movement, Chi Chia-Wei, came out publicly (in 1986) and spoke up for Taiwanese LGBTQ community —Taiwan has witnessed the lifting of martial law, the shock of the first AIDS patient, the first gay and lesbian publication, the first LGBTQ radio show, the first LGBTQ bookstore, the first Taiwan LGBT Pride, the making of anti-discrimination laws, the first same-sex marriage of an openly gay couple, the first LGBT Civil Rights Movement organized by Taipei City Government and the establishment of the first national LGBTQ organization," Chan said.
"Throughout the past three decades, this path to equality and human rights is paved with the youth, sweat and blood of countless pioneers and predecessors as they have fought, resisted, communicated with conservative mainstream values and pushed for legislation," she added.
Patrick Sun, founder of the Sunpride Foundation, said he feels a great sense of achievement for having put together such a groundbreaking show.
"In the Western world it would be very common place to have a gay-themed show," he said. "But in Asia, this is the first time a large-scale show of this theme has been presented in a government-run institution. It's very important to show how forward-thinking the Taiwan government is."
Ho Tam, one of the 22 artists featured in the exhibition, created a series of periodicals called "Hotam," which examines different issues of daily life, pop culture, media and politics. He said he uses his work to give voice to the voiceless and neglected. "Hotam," he explained, is about creating his own media against the mainstream and finding an alternative way to express ideas.
"Putting something very private out to the public realm, I am interested in exploring the possibilities (of) how a personal voice and stories could make any effects to the large audience," he added.
Since the start of the show, Sun has returned to witness and observe the visitors to the exhibition. He said he is especially touched by the mothers bringing in their young children and explaining parts of the show that they might not understand.
"That to me is what represents the spirit of the show," he said. "We're trying to open dialogue with the public, and I think it has achieved that purpose to a certain extent."
For the LGBTQ community, Sun said he hopes the exhibition will help them feel more proud and confident in themselves and not feel so isolated. And he hopes the exhibition helps the general public have a better understanding and acceptance of the gay community.