top of page




Shiy De Jinn Solo Exhibition

26 March - 30 March 2024 in BOOTH 3C47

Intimations, a solo presentation of works by the late Taiwanese Modernist master Shiy De-Jinn, curated by Taiwan-born US-based artist and curator Alfonse Chiu, at Art Basel Hong Kong 2024. Featuring intimate portraits painted by Shiy between the 1960s and 1980s, the presentation anchors the gallery’s first participation at Art Basel Hong Kong in the Insights sector with a robust yet delicate slate of works that speaks to both Shiy’s influential sensibilities and modern Taiwanese art history. Expanding on the tactile politics of gazing and the latency of desire as embodied in portraiture, Intimations, which features both commissioned and noncommissioned portraits, treads the line between tender reproductions and outright fantasies—testifying to his status as a queer pioneer in East Asia whose deft manipulation of sight-lines allude to inarticulable passions and smouldering intents. Placed in conversation with excerpts from his private love letters to the figure of his unrequited affections, Intimations invites the audience to re-examine the lived realities of a gay man in martial law-era Taiwan through his own eyes.


The premise of Intimations began with a consideration of the gaze. As the fundamental gesture embedded within portraiture, the relationality of the gaze has been theorised by many, including scholars such as Laura Mulvey who elaborated on the persistence of the 'male gaze' as a defining agent in brokering cinematic imaginaries of femininity and womanhood from a heteronormative patriarchal position. Derived principally from the theories of Lacan, discourses on gazing in contemporary visual culture traditionally revolved around the construction of the gaze as an act of visual mastery over an object, with later scholarship queering this notion with new dimensions that problematises such power relations. The queering of the gaze—that is, the muddying of its terms of engagements, and engaging it from a Queer perspective—hence creates affordances to rethink how visuality brokers desires and its directionalities, particularly in genres that deploys the gaze as a basal mechanism.


For Shiy De-Jinn, the late Taiwanese modernist painter famed for his portraits of nubile young men and well-heeled patrons, the gaze is both the subject and the object in much of his works. As the first openly queer artist in modern Chinese art history, Shiy's artistic development is deeply entwined with his experiences as a gay man in a society that did not yet have the vocabulary to articulate his desires. In an era before 'coming out of the closet' is even a concept, much less a formal social ritual with an associated choreography, Shiy's public not-straightness is thus as much a mark of enormous self-knowledge as it is of courage, and an important influence on his compositions—how he wields his (queered) gaze, so as to speak.


Excavating the subterranean emotions and affections undergirding Shiy’s more blasé mode of public presentation, Intimations assembles a suite of Shiy's portraits and juxtaposes them with selected excerpts from his published correspondences with Zhuang Jia-Cun, his former student, object-of-affection, and muse which inspired his most famous work 'Boy in Red' (1962). Part love letter, part philosophical musing, Shiy's writings reveal his inner world and, more enchantingly, his tender devotion to an unrequited love— Zhuang was ultimately heterosexual—which cannot be addressed directly. By placing these materials in conversation with Shiy's portraits, Intimations re-considers Shiy's legacy through an act of intimation, where the rigidity of social structures and artistic conventions dissolves into amorphous, ambivalent manifestations of desire.


bottom of page