Michael Lin (林明弘) is a multi-disciplinary artist known for his large-scale installations and iconic floral motif. Having gained recognition in the 1990s for his immersive approach to exhibitions, Lin’s artworks generally embody a tongue-in-cheek commentary on contemporary cultures of commercialisation and commodification.
The most recognisable element of his work is the recurring appearance of floral patterns, inspired by Taiwanese textile design from the 1960s, which Lin associates with the social and political atmosphere of the country. The patterns usually appear as murals painted directly onto architectural surfaces, or painted on materials such as wood or metal. Variations of the pattern have enveloped gallery interiors, museum façades (such as the exterior of the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2010) and daily objects such as furniture and tableware, challenging traditional notions of painting and its function. In Lin’s installations, painting ceases to be a passive receiver of the viewer’s gaze and instead occupies the space of the viewer.
Recurrent themes of nostalgia, personal history and collective memory are embedded in Lin’s work. For the exhibition What Difference a Day Made (2008) at the Shanghai Gallery of Art, Lin reconstructed a local Shanghainese store inside the gallery space. He painstakingly catalogued the objects found in the actual store and displayed them in crates as if precious artefacts; these mundane domestic objects served as vehicles of counter-amnesia in the face of rapid urbanisation in Shanghai.
For his 2012 solo exhibition Model Home: A Proposition by Michael Lin at the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, Lin transgressed the boundaries of exhibition space by hiring labourers who lived on-site while installing the wall painting for the exhibition. He also challenged the notions of authorship and institutional authority by inviting other entities, such as architecture firm Atelier Bow-Wow and video artist Cheng Ran, to collaborate on the project. Alongside music, film and performance, the exhibition consisted of the workers’ shacks, paintings of folk patterns derived from the workers’ blankets, and a street-style canteen.
Lin also challenges and transforms the status of objects through acts of appropriation and dislocation. This was exemplified in his 2016 solo exhibition Michael Lin: Locomotion at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila. For the show, he asked pedicab drivers in Manila to replace the tarp hood of their vehicles with his printed floral design, and displayed patchwork banners made out of the original tarps in the museum. The same floral pattern also covered the museum’s interior surfaces in an uninterrupted flow, across multi-textured surfaces in drawing, painting and print.
In 2017, Lin produced a site-specific work for the exhibition Enjoy at the Chiostro del Bramante. Produced in collaboration with students from various art institutes in Rome, the 188-square-metre floor mural transformed the Renaissance courtyard into a symbolic flower garden.
Lin earned a BFA at the Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles (1990) and completed his MFA at the ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena (1993). In addition to the Rockbund Art Museum, he has had solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2017); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2005); MoMA PS1, New York (2004); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2003) and more. He has participated in multiple biennials including the Lyon Biennial (2009), Gwangju Biennale (2002), Liverpool Biennial (2002), Istanbul Biennial (2001) and the Taiwan Pavilion of the 49th Venice Biennial (2001). Public collections that house Lin’s artwork include the Rockbund Art Museum; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung; and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, among many others.
Bright flowers, bike peddlers and brash flagpoles come together in a playful and interactive show by Michael Lin, set in the stunning space of Manila's Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD). Curated by MCAD director Joselina Cruz, Locomotion is a visual journey that involves exchanges between the museum and its surrounding neighborhood.
At Leo Xu Projects, the artist Michael Lin’s most favored themes—inquiries into notions of hometown and elsewhere, dialogues between works of art and architecture, and his own particular critiques of consumerist society—were condensed within the exquisite layout of an old Shanghai villa. From the living room walls to the corner of...
Architectural drawings of a small workers' shack that featured in an exhibition in Shanghai, China, have been enlarged and used to create a full-scale replica in Auckland, New Zealand.Tokyo architects Atelier Bow-Wow collaborated with Japanese artist Michael Lin on the design of the original structure, which was based on the workers' shacks found...
It is surprising how seldom the work of Michael Lin has been compared to that of the Pop artists of the 1960s. Yet one can surmise why Lin, who was born in Tokyo, raised in Taiwan and educated in the United States, and whose career took off in the late 1990s, has avoided the label.
Artist Michael Lin and Professor Andrew Barrie talk about Model Home (2013), on display in the Auckland Art Gallery as part of the 5th Auckland Triennial.
Many years ago, as political protest and dissent shook his native Taiwan, artist Michael Lin made a conscious decision to turn inward for inspiration. The vicissitudes of domestic life—rather than the political currents shaping the public sphere—gave way to what have become Lin's signature flower motifs. Using the patterns and shapes on...