Back when Kevin visited in June, we biked through the city on YouBikes in search of street art. But instead of leaving the search up to chance, I mapped out a route to track down murals from Pow! Wow! Taiwan.
What is Pow! Wow! Taiwan?
If you've seen any large-scale street art in Taipei, there's a chance it was commissioned by Pow! Wow! Taiwan. It’s a spinoff of Pow! Wow!, an art festival founded by Jasper Wong that first launched in Hong Kong six years ago and has since spread worldwide, from its flagship in Hawaii to Tokyo, Washington D.C., Austin, and beyond. It's essentially a giant gathering of artists who work together to beautify parts of a city, or at least add interesting and unexpected splashes of creativity in gritty urban corners.
The global arts movement improves public perception of graffiti and street art, however the artwork that comes out of Pow! Wow! isn’t technically graffiti. It’s legal and done with permission, even if the artists involved typically make illicit art. The events also receive sponsorship by major international corporations, like Microsoft, as well as local brands.
Larry Chen kicked off Pow! Wow! Taiwan in 2014 and, as is typical of all Pow! Wow! events, invited a mix of international and local street artists. The first year featured 40 international and 20 local Taiwanese artists, such as Mr. Ogay, DEBE, and Candy Bird, who took their art to the streets of Taipei, from the sides of schools to the Taipei Zoo.
Pow! Wow! Taiwan returned in 2015 with bigger, more ambitious plans. For three art-filled weeks in autumn 2015, the artists expanded their reach to three cities: Taipei, Taichung, and Tainan. By default, the process is open to the public and capped by a big party at the end. It’s likely Pow! Wow! Taiwan will return this fall, though they haven’t announced a date.
Kevin and I didn’t see all the Pow! Wow! Taiwan art in Taipei—some were on buildings now demolished—but here’s a round up of the ones we did see, along with addresses if you want to check them out.
Dragon by Case Maclaim (2015)
As mentioned, all Pow! Wow! events seek sponsorship by local brands. In Taiwan, the team attracted the likes of Chess Taipei, Imperial Taels, and Taihu Brewing. Visavis Jing Hair Salon 斐瑟 菁 stepped up as well to commission this multicolored dragon hand by Frankfurt-based street artist CASE Maclaim. The piece was completed in November 2015 and features the artist’s iconic use of highly detailed overlapping hands.
Floor 1 No. 2 Alley 51 Lane 248 Section 3 Zhongxiao E Road Da’an District
正義國宅 Multiple graffiti artists (2014 and 2015)
CASE Maclaim’s dragon will likely stay for years to come, but that’s not so for the murals at 正義國宅. International and local graffiti artists went to town painting small and large-scale artworks on the decrepit 正義國宅 apartment complex in both 2014 and 2015. They probably won’t get the chance to return to the site in 2016—I wanted to sneak in but the construction worker on duty shooed us away and said the demolition should be complete by this October. However, this building project has been plagued with delays so there’s no telling if it’ll actually be gone by then. Judging by the SOGO department store just a few blocks away, it’ll likely be replaced by a luxury high-rise.
All sides of 正義國宅 are covered in art, including the roof and interior. My favorites are Hua Tunan’s epic, classic Chinese art-inspired lion mural (2014) that spans the height of the building and Jeff Soto’s Reaper, Owl, and Snake rooftop series (2015) that symbolize “heroic and tumultuous times in Taiwan’s history.”
You’ll also find Alex Lve Wang’s giant dragon wall (2015) opposite Hua Tunan’s art; Bounce x Ano’s 8-bit Mario mural wall (2015) as well as Ahdia One and Colasa’s giant murals (2015) on the street side; the faded hands by Faith47; and Mr. OGAY’s grotesque and bizarrely cute naked men (2015), to mention a few. A beautiful portrait of a girl by Kamea Hadar and Naturel (2015) is also tucked inside one of the rooms, but I have no idea which one. If you’re inclined to break in to find that portrait and Jeff Soto’s rooftop series (you can see glimpses of it from the street), do be careful as some floors have given way.
Extra: Watch Bounce and Ano discuss their Pow! Wow! mural 正義國宅 in this video (in Chinese).
Alley 6 Lane 276 Section 3 Zhongxiao E Road Da’an District
DJ Geisha by Will Barras (2014)
Okay, it’s not really called DJ Geisha. That’s just the name Kevin gave British artist Will Barras’ enormous pastel mural emblazoned with the Pow! Wow! Taiwan logo. Completed over the course of a hot and rainy summer week, Will Barras’ flowing street art covers an incredible seven stories of 東區知名大廈.
No. 42 Alley 177 Section 1 South Dunhua Road
Songshan Cultural and Creative Park murals by Smoky, Cherng and Xue (2014)
I can’t find my pictures of these murals but they’re so close to other ones I mentioned I might as well stick them in. As far as I know, there are only two Pow! Wow! Taiwan pieces in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, a former tobacco factory converted into the “creative hub of Taipei.”
熱帶暴動 (Tropical Rebellion) by Cherng and XUE
The first mural, titled 熱帶暴動, is tucked between two buildings on the wall of an outhouse. Split in two, the jungle-inspired mural features local artist XUE’s brightly colored scene of bipedal animals staring straight ahead on the left side, while local artist Cherng’s signature Malaysian tapirs are painted opposite in black and white. Repetition of shapes and patterns creates cohesion between the two pieces, as does the playful crossover of characters.
Songshan Cultural and Creative Park | on the bathroom between warehouse 1 and warehouse 2)
他們用漂亮的糖果打你 (They use beautiful candy to hit you) by Smoky
Between the same set of warehouses is Smoky’s contribution of a black-and-white watercolor-like mural curiously titled 他們用漂亮的糖果打你 (They use beautiful candy to hit you). Smoky often uses his work in animation, particularly as backgrounds in movies or music videos like soda green (蘇打綠)’s 小情歌.
On a fence between warehouse 1 and warehouse 2
Huashan 1914 Creative Park murals by Alex Face and Ben Horton (2015)
Mardi by Alex Face
Bangkok-based Thai street artist Alex Face is famous for Mardi, his iconic three-eyed kid in a bunny suit (said to be inspired by his daughter). He brought his character to Huashan 1914 Creative Park, where it can be spotted in the fetal position and entangled in tree roots on the No. 9 Banyan wall, one of the last remaining relics from the former factory ruins. You can also find the ever-disenchanted Mardi in other spots in Taiwan, such as Ximending, the Treasure Hill Artist Village, and Tainan.
Fish Out of Water by Ben Horton
Completed over four days in November 2015, American artist Ben Horton’s ‘Fish Out of Water’ depicts a pair of Taiwan’s endangered grouper fish. I don’t have much to say about this one, but I really like it a lot.
Address: 華山1914文創產業園區 九榕壁（近華山後方大草原)
Huashan 1914 Creative Park near the giant grass field at the back
Taipei Artist Village mural by Brendan Monroe and Candy Bird (2014)
American artist Brendan Monroe and local Taiwanese artist Candy Bird teamed up to create a large-scale dream-like mural at the Taipei Artist Village in June 2014. Surrounded by lush greenery, the four-story-tall mural mixes Monroe’s hypnotic black-and-white landscapes with Candy Bird’s orange-toned characters.
Address: 台北國際藝術村 台北市中正區北平東路7號
Taipei Artist Village No. 7 Beiping E. Rd., Taipei, Taiwan
Graffiti at Ximending
Graffiti and street art are everywhere at Ximending. Local and international artists alike have made their mark in the labyrinthine alleyways. Areas that might have been written off as unwanted urban eyesores—had graffiti not intervened—are now crawling with teens armed with selfie sticks.
You’ll find the mark of many artists who participated in Pow! Wow! Taiwan here in Ximending, but I wanted to point out one place where those works have disappeared: the former 幸福大樓 at 昆明街46號 . The mixed-use building lay abandoned for years until it was bought up to be converted into 城市商旅 (City Suites hotel). The inaugural 2014 Pow! Wow! Taiwan plastered the building with art, including the beautiful but controversial four-story-tall mural of Jasper Wong’s wife (女飛頭) by Kamea Hadar. Other artists included Reach, Jeffrey Gress, Mr. Ogay, Bobo, Debe, Seazk, Dzus, Easy, Yok and Woes. The building and the art were demolished earlier this year, according to the nearby doorman we spoke to.
The above is just a handful of Pow! Wow! Taiwan murals we saw around the city before we ran out of time. There’s a lot more in Taipei, especially at the Taipei Zoo. I might make a part two rounding up the other murals in the city. You can see more works Pow! Wow! completed in their Mural library and you can support their work through their online shop.
Also, kudos to Kevin for being such a good sport about biking around on a really hot Taipei day :D