If you can call this derelict building, strewn in murals and spray-painted artwork, an art gallery, then this is the best art gallery we’ve ever been to. There’s no tour guide to make existential comments, no sign-posts to direct you in a clockwise circle and no polished wooden bench for you to sit on. Instead, there’s a series of open air buildings, restless to be explored on foot by whoever ducks under the rusty metal gate round the back.
This huge sculpture of a ship is made out of lots of tiny rectangles of cardboard. You can walk inside the ship and climb a wooden ladder onto a small deck supported by wooden beams.
What is obvious about the former Bottle Cap Factory is that it’s loved by many different graffiti artists, sculptors and creative heads who keep coming back to add a little more art to the blank canvas walls all around. Sadly, the factory has been scheduled for demolition by Taipei City’s Government, but thanks to a petition to Save Nangang Bottle Cap Factory the demolition date has been pushed and pushed back through 2013.
The abandoned space has been used for electronic music parties, a Really Free Market, exhibitions and, as we saw for ourselves, fashion photography. It seems almost strange that a derelict building which has evolved into a creative hub is under threat. Taiwan are always trying to boost their foreign tourism and this certainly attracts Westerners who, with the likes of Banksy and Prague’s John Lennon Wall in mind, have a cultural appreciation for street art and thoughtful graffiti.
Advice: Day light is a necessity to visiting the factory, as the only available light is from the sun. Some of the buildings are also relatively dangerous with holes in the floor and no railings on the outside staircases, so you need to be able to see where you’re putting your feet. I’d also recommend closed-in shoes as there is a lot of litter and broken glass around the grounds where it’s not cleaned reguarly – our friend was fine in sandals, but it’s not ideal.
Read: Art Radar Asia’s blog post on the way in which the Taiwan government views street art across the island and their increasingly open mind toward it.
Sign: The petition to save the factory from demolition is still going on. They are appealing to the Department of Cultural Affairs in Taipei to list the space as an industrial heritage site.
Be Involved: Follow the Facebook group for news, events and cleanings going on at Nangang.
How to get there?
Take the MRT to Nangang station. Go out through Exit 2A, immediately in front of you is a small green space and to the left of that is the Nangang Bottle Cap Factory, which is surrounded by a cement wall with the odd piece of barbed wire. Take an immediate left before the park and there is a gate you will be able to slip under. The factory is directly opposite Carrefour on the other side.