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Ku Gallery

  • Date:2023-03-08
Ku Gallery1

Chinese Name: 源古本舖

Location: Taoyuan City (Northern Taiwan)

Established: 1894


Did You Know?

Ku Gallery, situated on Daxi Old Street in Taoyuan City, boasts a rich history dating back more than 180 years to its original days as a pastry shop known as Ku Yu Fa (古裕發商號). Today, the fifth-generation owner, Ku Cheng-chun (古正君), has breathed new life into the building by renovating it and having it recognized as a historical site. Now transformed into a museum dedicated to the daily lives of common people, each carefully curated exhibition draws upon the family's own collection and is intricately linked to the experiences and memories of the general public. Ku Gallery represents a unique example of revitalizing old homes in Taiwan, providing a perfect interpretation of the culture and life aesthetics of ordinary folk.

Many old houses in Taiwan are revitalized, but more often than not, the results adhere to the common café business model. Despite their exquisite spaces, they always end up lacking a certain something. Ku Gallery is different. Evolving with the times, the old Ku home was entrusted to a local history studio, which preserved the layout of the building well. As a result, the location earned a lot of media coverage. At one point, Ku Cheng-chun read an article in a magazine about Daxi Old Street and, looking at the photos, was struck by one in particular, thinking, “Wait, isn’t that my old home?” Then, in 2009, she registered the old house as a historical building and started restoration work, which is still ongoing today and strives to preserve the old building as close to its original state as possible. Even old tiles are rarely thrown out, being worked into the interior design wherever possible. When people visit the old house, they can occasionally see the restoration team continuing to restore the patchy walls, showing the love and care that the family has for their old house.

Ku Gallery became popular after Ku held a seminar called "Ageless Workers (不老職人)," inviting local elders to tell their life stories and the stories of the old street, passing on their life values and experiences. She also invited visual artists to record them on camera, which led to the gallery even earning some popularity abroad. A few years ago, many overseas visitors and artists came to visit Ku Gallery to talk with these "ageless workers," further building the gallery’s reputation.

In addition, Ku has also positioned the gallery as a museum of ordinary life, and most of the exhibits in each curated exhibition come from her family's collection. Many of the objects in the house, including bamboo ware, lacquer ware, pottery, tea sets, fabrics, and wooden furniture, were acquired by the family from all over the world. At the same time, Ku has also made good use of her years of experience in advertising planning to launch exhibitions, repositioning household items and bringing out the aesthetics that underpin everyday life.

Each exhibition they plan, says Ku, must be linked to the life experience or memory of ordinary people, so there is no need to show off with erudite text descriptions—instead, the sight of the objects is naturally evocative in a way that art galleries and museums simply cannot accomplish. Taiwan already has plenty of high-class exhibition spaces, she believes, and so she has aimed to offer something different, something with a more down-to-earth aesthetic that touches the hearts and souls of visitors, giving them a sense of the vitality within the folk culture.

This simple, unique space has become an excellent place for arts and cultural performances, including traditional puppetry, music, and dance. It has also hosted audio-visual exhibitions and screened movies on Daxi Old Street to recreate the atmosphere of the past, when neighbors gathered together for such events. The owner of Ku Gallery has also collaborated with students from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology to recreate historical scenes of the old house using AR (augmented reality) to connect time with technology.

The centenarian home always evokes many people's memories, so every year, during festivals such as Lunar New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival, Ku Gallery holds corresponding activities. For example, for Dragon Boat Festival, local elders are invited to demonstrate the process of making zongzi, and the public is invited to join in and immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the festival.

Ku Gallery was awarded the Special Performance Award for the Management and Maintenance of Historic Buildings by the Ministry of Culture’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage, and through the owner’s dedication to restoration and management, it has become a model for privately owned monuments in Taiwan. Today, the 100-year-old house not only demonstrates the firm will of the family that has continued through five generations, but also preserves the common cultural memory of Daxi.

(Photo courtesy of Ku Gallery)