Yungtien Shao, who founded ALIEN Art Centre, and his daughter Yaman Shao, now CEO of ALIEN Art and the director of ALIEN Art Centre, are not only art collectors and the backbone of ALIEN Art Centre, but both of them also create art. In 2016, ALIEN Art won the rights to preserve the property, overseeing restoration work and operationof the Kin-Ma Military Hostel, which was established in 1967. Following two years of preparation and restoration, the ruins of the old architeture was reborn as the ALIEN Art Centre.
LARRY’S LIST talked to both generations of creative minds regarding how both of them started creating art themselves; why they are big fans of James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson; why a steeds painting is Yungtien Shao’s most treasured artwork; his latest purchase on the first day of 2021; how Yaman Shao fell in love with an artwork in Germany; and the challenges encountered and adaptations made when they restore and revitalise the former Kin-Ma Military Hostel.


What made you want to start collecting art? What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
Yaman Shao (Yaman): After I completed my master’s degree in art management at Newcastle and returned to Taiwan, I founded ALIEN Art Co., Ltd. to take charge of the spatial planning for Silks Club and ALIEN Art Centre. As such, I was considering finding artists that could create a spatial experience. I grew up in an industrial city, so I yearned for clean, unpolluted skies. Whenever there were blue skies, I always prayed that they would last. I hope that art can create pure experience or energy that inspires more people to campaign for environmental and cultural sustainability.

Yungtien Shao (Yungtien): I decided to become involved in the art, the fountainhead of design, craft, and architecture, after my business took off. As an art collector, my first preference is visual aesthetics, followed by the artist’s emotions and creative inspiration. Ultimately, what I collect is a segment of a dedicated and passionate artist’s journey through life.

When did you fall in love with a piece of art? What was it?
Yaman: In 2014, I encountered the work of ART + COM at the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany. There, within the elevated space, particles danced with programmed rhythms. The installation morphed into different shapes like magic. There was a certain frequency in the air that tugged at my heartstrings. Looking closely at the history of the automobile, I reflected on the ephemeral nature of human existence and how they focused the limited time on “invent and innovate.” To me, enjoying artworks was like traveling into the future. It felt as if I was sitting on a conveyor belt through time and space. It inspired me to explore my potential. Finally, I decided to collect “Dancing Particles” for Silks Club in 2016.

Yungtien: When I saw the “Childhood” series of the greater master Yu Den-Chuan, it immediately took me back to my carefree childhood years. I was so moved that I immediately collected the work “Laissez-faire.” I only collect artworks that speak to something inside me.

Dancing Particles by Art + COM uses the programmed and poetic transformations to express the evolution of the city – from a fishing village to an industrial hub and then into the modern-day center of international trade and commerce. © ALIEN Art Centre

What is your focus regarding the artists in your collection? Are you more interested in international or Asian, emerging or renowned artists?
Yaman: I don’t categorize artists by age or nationality. The artists that I am interested in have a special and pure power that speaks to me. It is a way of thought created through human perception and the internalization of changes in the world.
Yungtien: There are no frontiers in art. Besides exceptional creativity and insight, so-called famous artists around the world are somewhat lucky. I am a religious individual and consider myself to be of strong character. I don’t look for a particular style of art. I might make an offer if it’s something that I like the look of, if the creator’s soul is truly pure, and if I can afford the price. Fame is not that important to me because anything can happen in the future.

You have collected both James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson. Are you particularly interested in Op Art? Or anything that unites all the works you have acquired?
Yaman: The healing properties of art have the spiritual power to influence people’s perspectives on life. Quite coincidentally, James Turrell and Olafur Eliasson both mention the importance of “experience” in the forming of perspectives. It is not necessarily for every individual that comes to the museum to gain something linked to their original motivations or purposes. What we strive to do is to inspire a positive thought or a moment of epiphany, which is the core spirit that runs through the planning of our exhibitions and spaces.
Yungtien: To me, the two artists you mentioned can be summarized quite simply: implanting “innovation” into the human heart. I believe that when a person dies, they only take with them all their experiences gained from this life. The ability of artists to create enduring pieces in unique media touches my heart and appeals to collectors like me.


In 2016, the sunlight and ocean surrounding Silks Club made Yaman Shao think of Olafur Eliasson and his work – Lunar Watch (2016). The work is now exhibited on the 28F at Silks Club to share with a broader audience © ALIEN Art Centre

What were the first and the latest artworks you purchased?
Yaman: In December 2016, I was thinking about the planning of the general spaces in Silks Club. The surrounding sunlight and ocean made me think of Olafur Eliasson and his works. Lunar Watch by Olafur Eliasson is a spatial installation composed of optical crystal glass. The internal structure of the crystal ball has a deep yet translucent effect that seems like a bottomless depth. In the evening, the light of the sunset gives the crystal sphere a tangerine hue. The installation is like a Dharma wheel with the phases of the moon arranged in a perfect circle. Every time I view this artwork, it reminds me that the world is turning through different time zones at that very moment. A monochromatic painting by Shozo Shimamoto was acquired in August 2020. The painting showed the streams shooting in from all directions. The result is a sense of continuous explosive power that inspires the imagination. In the center of the painting are small fragments disintegrated from a red glass bottle and a corner of a magazine as if it was the scene of something unexpected that took place. This particular artwork is rather thought-provoking. It also represented the friendship between ALIEN Art Centre and Giuseppe Morra. In 2019, the two institutions co-organized the first retrospective exhibition of Shozo Shimamoto in Asia after the artist’s passing. The exhibition was a continuation of “Spazio nel tempo(Time and Space)”, an exhibition featuring Shimamoto’s works at the Manifesta in Palermo conceived by Achille Bonito Oliva.
Yungtien: Kaohsiung hosted the National Games in May 1984. At the stadium, an artist specializedin steeds paintings was at the entrance, so I purchased one representing the spirit of tireless effort. The work now sits beside my desk where I do my daily decision-making. On January 1, 2021, I saw a sculpture with an iron flower growing from a sky-blue base in the project of Mari Hiraga at ALIEN Art Centre. I loved this piece and added it to my collection right away.

A monochromatic painting by Shozo Shimamoto was collected by Yaman Shao in August 2020, representing the friendship between ALIEN Art Centre and Giuseppe Morra, Italy. © ALIEN Art Centre

How many artworks do you own? Where do you display your collection?
Yaman: My collection ranges from videos, installations, paintings to some artworks that you wear, such as the Single Thought ring by Fanz Bette. I’ve probably collected a hundred or so pieces over the past four years. Some of the pieces are connected to the land itself. Dancing Particles by Art + COM, for example, uses the programmed and poetic transformations to express the evolution of the city— from a fishing village to an industrial hub, and then into the modern-day center of international trade and commerce. Some of the pieces were the result of collaboration with artists. “Crossing”, for example, was a field study of Kin-Ma Military Hostel’s history conducted by ALIEN Art Centre and the two Hong Kong artists Kingsley Ng and Stephanie Cheung. The immersive and interactive experience created by simulating a ship’s cabin made the reading of the research findings a part of the audience’s experience. Some pieces came from curiosity about a particular field. “Single Thought” by Franz Bette, for example, explored the structure of the Germanic alphabet and Chinese calligraphy. After adding this piece to the collection, I reached out to the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt in Germany to engage in a study of structure and materials, which then gave birth to the exhibition of Franz Bette about the form shaping of his creative jewelry. The exhibition was curated by Sabine Runde and its catalogs were released through arnoldsche Art Publishers at international book fairs in Frankfurt, London, New York, and Beijing. Some acquisitions are philanthropic in nature as they serve to support fresh graduates. All of these artworks are displayed in my everyday activity spaces, such as at home, at the office, and in public areas. They promote experimentation and transnational cultural exchanges, provide a context for exhibitions and forums, and help energize local aesthetic developments.
Yungtien: I haven’t counted them yet,but around one or two hundred pieces are placed in my living room, study, passage, office, reception, public spaces of the hotel, properties showrooms, and so on. Whenever I buy an artwork, I can’t wait to put it on display so that my friends, guests, my family members and I can all share in its aesthetics. Artists serve as the bridge toward beauty, and the appreciation of beauty fills people with happiness and inner serenity.


Franz Bette’s contemporary jewelry exhibition established the connection between ALIEN Art Centre and the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt, Germany, and arnoldsche Art Publishers © ALIEN Art Centre

Is there any kind of artwork that can make you write a cheque without any consideration?
Yaman: Such artworks usually make my senses more acute. They help me with thinking and understanding myself. I then collect it if it’s within my means.
Yungtien: If it resonates with me, and my finances permit, then I buy it.
What is your most treasured artwork?
Yaman: “The Sun Rises over Jiulong Mountain” was the first artwork that my father created at the age of 52. He created the artwork as an encouragement for me. The creative process of this artwork and how it triggered my father’s subsequent crazed creativity shook me. It did not only show me how pure and powerful human nature can be, but it is also a reminder of my original mission to bring people happiness through art.
Yungtien: The steeds painting as it has been with me for the past 36 years. From a penniless youngster to the founder of a corporation, the three horses have been with me through thick and thin like close friends… Back then, I was just an “ordinary good person.” Now, I try to be a “wealthy good person.”

The steeds painting on the wall (centre) that Yungtien Shao collected in 1984 as his very first art collection reveals the spirit of tireless effort that he always believes in. The work now sits beside the desk where he does his daily decision-making. © ALIEN Art Centre

How did you start creating art yourselves? How is your collecting and artistic practice interact with each other?
Yaman: I started making cards for my parents at five for their birthdays and other special holidays, such as Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. I was fond of making cards with3D pop-ups when opened or colored paper carvings. I would also rip pictures out of magazines and recombine them to make collages, or blend different materials (e.g. tea dregs) to create a new background. I feel that this was a way of exploring the world and finding new surprises. It made me think,“Wow, you can do things this way too!” I am drawn to artworks that give me thissame feeling out of all the ones out there. These do not impact my originality though.
Yungtien: I made two paintings for my daughter’s office on April 4, 2019, to show that I care about her. I then started painting as a man possessed. It was as if my soul had finally found an outlet after 52 years and new inspirations just kept on coming. I’d think that I’ve run out of steam,but a day or two later, I would be struck by more inspirations. I enjoyed my state of mind while painting— there was just me and my work, and nothing else. My creativity comes from within. It has nothing to do with being a collector because the imagination of other people is their own and nothing to do with me.

The installation view of Yaman Shao’s own creation at ALIEN Art Centre. To encourage the development of contemporary art, Yungtein Shao and Yaman Shao create their own works of art to convey positive messages to the public © ALIEN Art Centre

The Art World

What was your happiest moment being involved in art?
Yaman: At a certain point during the creative process, I feel as if I am drunk. When that happens, the head feels very clear and the body feels tireless. I then concentrate and try to capture that soon-to-be-forgotten feeling. I also gain a greater appreciation of life as the artwork takes shape.
Yungtien: I feel as if I am floating in a void during the creative process. None of my artworks are planned and none of them match their initial composition. After I unleash my soul and give it full rein over the canvas, the moment that I give it the finishing signature fills me joy and gratitude to the heavens for the inspirations, keen senses, and deft hands and feet they gave me.

Who inspires you the most in the art world?
Yaman: My father. He has absolutely no formal art training but pioneered his own creative method. He expresses segments from his life with great dramatic tension in a manner that touches the heart. I gradually came to appreciate that though my father was an amateur,he has devoted most of his creativity in life to affairs beneficial to society. That is why these life experiences condensed into visual forms resonate with the audience so easily.
Yungtien: I love nature. Animals and plants are all quite straightforward and work hard to live… My teacher is “everything in nature.” I like to observe nature. The moon, the sun, the clouds, or even playful monkeys all speak to something within me… The energy of nature may be why I feel so optimistic, upbeat, and energetic every day. I communicate this joy to people through my artwork. In a world where there is no shortage of bad news, I was born to bring good tidings to people.

The installation view of Yungtien Shao’s own creation at Silks Club. To encourage the development of contemporary art, Yungtein Shao and Yaman Shao create their own works of art to convey positive messages to people © ALIEN Art Centre

ALIEN Art Centre

What is your motivation behind establishing ALIEN Art Centre?

Yaman: To establish a contemporary art centre that is merged with Mother Nature. Inspiring venues are created in each functional space, including the auditorium, gardens, exhibition rooms, central courtyard, study, and restaurant. And to become an international platform for the contextualized development of visual arts and to amaze people through aesthetic developments.
Yungtien: Taiwan is an island nation with no natural resources. The only way we can make a name for ourselves internationally is through commerce and creativity. I hope that the ALIEN Art Centrecan be a platform for Taiwanese art to network with the rest of the world. By utilizing appropriate commercial strategies, we can provide artists and art practitioners with a reasonable income. People will then fall in love with art, creative visuals, and enrich all aspects of their lives.

When you did the restoration of the former Kin-Ma Military Hostel, and transform it into an art and exhibition space, what challenges did you encounter? What adaptations have you made to make it suitable for exhibiting art?
1) Kin-Ma Military Hostel was originally built to serve the military. The layout is quite even and closed. The “n-shaped” passage was re-designed as an “O-shape” to keep the lines of movement clean.
2) The building was reinforced with carbon fiber mesh, beams, steel reinforcement, and concrete to ensure that the building strength and safety standards were met. The process of continued discussion and revision preserved the rich texture of Kin-Ma Military Hostel’s walls—as our way of participating in history. In the end, we chose to retain the beautiful traces left by the forms of the concrete pillars. Wooden trowels were used to slowly create textured wall surfaces that harmonize with the structure of the pillar. This also meant that careful thoughts had to be given to how artworks are hung on the walls in the future because whenever an artwork is uninstalled from the rendered wall, it leaves a new trace.
3) The glass windows on the indoor corridor were removed to create a semi-open aerial walkway that is more eco-friendly. The noise of traffic from the frontcourt together with the sounds of insects and birds in the rear court set the ALIEN Art Centre apart from other typical art spaces where tranquility is the rule. The sheer proximity of the venue to the roads and woods means that we have to go the extra mile to transform ambient sounds into a part of the exhibition experience.
4) Kin-Ma Military Hostel was a ruined building when we took over. After two years of field study and research, we found that the building was a symbol of post-war Taiwan that incorporated the minimalism of contemporary Western architecture, retained the classical styling of the Japanese period, and featured motifs from traditional Chinese architecture. Our findings pushed us to try and preserve the traditional Taiwanese building techniques. The terrazzo and washed stucco finish were restored at double the labor cost. The old walls were cleaned and polished to remove concrete cancer instead of just painted over. All the historical imprints from different cultures were preserved in their entirety.
Yungtien: Being handed a set of ruins was as depressing as living in a city with a poor outlook. I love a good challenge though. It has such beautiful natural surroundings that we wanted to create a place where you could view exhibitions as well as the sky and nature through the windows. Visitors can see the man-made art inside while the art given by Mother Nature outside. I believe that art does not have to be unfathomable. If it can provide visitors with visual and spiritual enrichment, then it is enough.

Yungtien Shao and Yaman Shao have collected a series of contemporary jewelry created by Jiro Kamata, a promising artist whose creation was recently collected by the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and National Gallery of Victoria. © ALIEN Art Centre

How does ALIEN Art Centre connect with and support emerging artists as well as the local art scene?
Yaman: We do this across several different tracks:
1) Programming: Programmes for artists that show potential / Design projects to share a method for artistic appreciation with the audience / Explore insights in visual development and build up archives to promote them through publication.
2) Substantial Development:Create a platform that provides artists with economic returns / Plan and conduct educational art tours that are integrated with local culture exploration/ Organize forums for aesthetic appreciation
3) Publications and Library Lounge: Create a platform for art lovers’ networking / Support collaborated artist practitioners with a more complete range of peripheral synergy / Bring together audiences from cross-disciplinary fields
4) Collaborations: Develop circulations mechanism for the artistic industry (e.g. colleges, museums)
5) Public Relations: Promote and keep reviewing the internal content and come up with more effective approaches of external communication / Observe and study social development, integrating the resources of mass media / Manage social networking platforms and content
Yungtien: We provide user-friendly artistic platforms with an emphasis on satisfying people’s multi-senses. Artists that agree with our ideas will naturally gravitate to cooperating with us. Yaman also seeks out art practitioners from different artistic disciplines across the world based on her vision. We support all emerging talents with their creative vision and soul. We are willing to consider all forms of cooperation as long as it brings positive changes to this city. I believe that if we make “freedom” the prerequisite, our investment in arts will help bring more creativity and peace to the world.

What are the upcoming programmes at ALIEN Art Centre in 2021?
Yaman: We focus on “Creators of Form”(e.g. Founder of the Punto International Art Movement – Hsiao Chin, and Co-creator of the Gutai – Shozo Shimamoto) and “Pioneers of Application Art”(e.g. Kinetic Sculpture – Art + COM, Author Jewellery – Franz Bette and Jiro Kamata). We will expand into an exploration of developments in artistic forms (Taiwanese artist – Lin Hong-wen, Belgium artist – Jean Claude Wouters) this year. We will also look into the developments of “Application Art” (Color perception of Caroline Halley x Color separation of Jiro Kamata). We hope to create more touches in the sensory experience and plan to incorporate Silks Club’s accommodation space (more than 26,000m2) as an extension of artistic experience.
Yungtien: The new year has just started. In addition to the existing schedule, we are also keeping an open mind on all future possibilities. We hope that cooperating with more artists outside of our existing plans in any way can inspire people’s boundless imaginations, and reach out to the “goodness” deep within each person’s soul.
What are your visions for the art centre in the next five years?
Yaman: I vision a solid foundation for the international development of the local industry, to introduce novel sensory experiences, and paving a promising path for the art practitioners who have been involved in the teamwork. This is a platform that provides art practitioners with both economic returns and accomplishments. People that they interact with will also be influenced by their positivity in turn.
Yungtien: We have proposed a vision of the second evolution in arts. Art was once silent. The first evolution produced dynamic arts that interacted with people. Our ideal for the second evolution is that arts can be worn, tasted, performed, played, or in forms that positively progress humanity. Art becomes part of everyday life that enriches our existence.