FYI SOUTH Magazine, April 2004.


Chiayi Flea Market Brings Together Wandering Artists

Text & Photos by Cheryl Robbins Translated by Annie Liu

     On the last Sunday of each month, the Lantan Art Flea Market takes place in a lot next to Chiayi's Lantan Scenic Area and the lake for which this area is named.

     This market features around 80 or 90 stalls selling a wide range of arts and handicrafts from pottery to leather crafts, woodcarving, jewelry and embroidered textiles produced by local artists. In addition, there are several stalls peddling items from Taiwan's earlier days such as conical farmers' hats, old bottles, posters, telephones, and typewriters. No market in Taiwan would be complete without food stalls. Choices include set meals from a local restaurant specializing in organic foods and barbecued delicacies such as wild boar. Expect to spend two to three hours to complete a loop of the market.

     Dylan Chwang founded this market in January 2002 as a place for wandering artists to gather. He explains that: "Art is wandering. It is an unknown journey that is never ending and has no destination. It must not be restricted to an academic field or profession. Once art enters a museum or gallery it dies. It becomes a lifeless object. Real artists wander and through their wandering sustain art's life."

     He says that a wandering artist is what he longs to be, although he must still keep his day job as an interior designer to pay the bills. He has developed a circle of friends who share the same ideals and values, and says he has found that some of his happiest moments come from spending time with these kindred spirits. This market grew out of those get-togethers.

The market opened with ten stalls set up by his close friends. Through word of mouth and the use of eye-catching flyers which feature caricatures of artists at work, the market has grown in both visitor numbers and stalls.

Chwang says that for one weekend per month this market creates a space for artistic passion that knows no ethnic or national boundaries. It is a place for free spirits to meet and exchange and drive the creativity of Taiwan's artists. He adds that another of its attractions is that it presents art in an accessible manner, allowing the public to interact with it directly, instead of at a distance as in museums and galleries.

Why Chiayi? This is where Chwang grew up. He moved back to Chiayi nine years ago, looking for a simpler lifestyle after working for 18 years in Taipei. Upon his return, he was intrigued by the current of wandering artists from Taiwan and abroad flowing through the area, and felt that this made Chiayi a suitable place for developing an art flea market.

Each month the market is centered on a different theme and there is a different mix of vendors, making it worth visiting more than once. In addition, on the night before the market there are often dance parties or art events at the market site. Camping space is available for those who want to stay in close proximity to enjoy the market the next day.

Once in Chiayi, follow the signs to the Lantan Scenic Area. Turn right at the end of SiaoYa Road and you'll see black and white flags marking the entrance to the flea market. The market opens at 8 am and continues until 5 pm. Admission is free. For more information call Dylan Chwang at (05) 231-4100, (05) 281-1380, or 0916008646.