Setting Roots in Taipei’s Secret Art Community with Musee Wu

At only 29 years old, Musee Wu is a fashion entrepreneur, established artist and a Taipei urban native.Growing up between New York City and Tokyo, Musee moved to Taiwan just six years ago in the hopes of making a difference in the evolving and relatively new art scene in Taipei.

She took her experience interning at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and immersed herself into the small but prominent art community here in Taipei. She got her first job working for an art gallery – but as a bartender. Although it wasn’t a hands-on experience with art, she was able to connect with local artists and later tried her hand at some gallery management gigs.

Unlike the established art scene in NYC, the art community in Taipei, she said, is much more spread out and hidden. To get your foot in the door, one must work hard and navigate through connections. But sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

“It’s a part of the fun,” she said.

Her passion for visual art turned her career path onto the film industry, where she began working as an assistant director to a distinguished filmmaker in Taiwan. She gained first-hand experience filming music videos for popular artists, commercials and more.

Her next career move drew her to working as the creative director for a social media, branding and analytics company. With all these experiences and skills up her sleeve, Musee was destined for bigger and better things – leading to the decision to start her own company.

With a partner, she co-founded A & M Creative Consulting, which commissions photo and film production for international fashion brands and magazines. They worked with renowned design magazine Wallpaper to create their special 20-page spread about Taipei.

Six years after she made the decision to move here, Musee said she has seen the arts develop throughout the changing years.

“I think when I first moved back here, I think there was a lot of imitation,” she said. “Now there’s a lot more innovation. A lot of artists are really expanding their horizons.”

The WALL Livehouse, one of Musee's many favorite performance arenas to get her fix for underground music.

The WALL Livehouse, one of Musee’s many favorite performance arenas to get her fix for underground music.

In a rapidly modernizing and ever-westernizing city like Taipei, Musee said the cultural exchange has created unique artistry, inspirations and influence.

“I think the vibrancy of the city comes from the fact that people are a little confused about their identity,” she said. “Taiwanese people have an identity crisis, and in a way it provokes a lot of creativity and innovation. People are trying to find some sort of root or cultural identity here.”

Furthermore, she said Taipei is unique in its own way because it simply does not try to be like anywhere else. There is a certain element of tradition that is retained in its veins despite the changing society.

“Taipei is not one of those slick, new Asian cities,” she said. “If you want that kind of place, you should go to Hong Kong or Shanghai, or Tokyo. But it’s part of the charm that [Taipei] retains a lot of the traditional and cultural aspects that you don’t see in many places.”

Musee said she has also discovered many of the secret gems of Taipei that are relatively unknown to the world – such as its top-notch bars and cocktails, underground music scenes and the unique “randomness” of it all.

e Hermes glass display designed by Musee's company, A&M Creative Consulting.

The Hermès glass display designed by Musee’s company, A&M Creative Consulting.

“In Taipei you’ll find, across the span of two or three streets, an array of everything,” she said. “There’d be a noodle shop, fancy gallery, and next to it would be a run down family-owned general store. Everything is on top and next to each other, but that’s the unique charm of it.”

With no plans of returning to New York City anytime soon, Musee said she feels like her international perspective, bilingual abilities and artistry have allowed her to make more of a difference in a city like Taipei.

“I feel like my work here is much more meaningful and makes more of an impact,” she said. “It’s important and relevant to me.”

Her company’s biggest client currently is the Parisian luxury brand Hermès; they help the brand customize its window displays in Taipei to suit local cultural tastes.

When she isn’t developing international brands in the capital, Musee enjoys biking around the city with no particular destination in mind, spending her nights experiencing underground live performances and hiking the endless mountains trails.

“[Taiwan] is a mountainous island surrounded by water, so there’s so much to see,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

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All City543 Articles by Lena Morris