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Michael Lin
HomeArtistsMichael Lin

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Michael Lin

Statement:Michael Lin

"My work has moved away from the idea of a painting as an object, I'm more interested in creating a painting as a space to occupy."


Contemporary artist Michael Lin is known for producing ambitious installations that reconfigure public spaces and pre-existing architectural structures.

Michael Lin was born in Japan (1964, Tokyo), but raised in Taiwan, before emigrating to the US in 1973. He completed his studies in Los Angeles and in 1993 he returned to Taipei before moving his atelier to Shanghai. Michael Lin's mural sized paintings depict floral patterns and designs which have been derived from traditional Taiwanese textiles. His site-specific works take over the spaces in which they are executed, creating a non-traditional encounter between art and audience.

Collaboration with illy

List of Collections:


Major Installations and Works

 As a political protest and dissent shook his native Taiwan in the late 1990s, 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 four traditional pillows as aesthetic touchstones, Lin created his first floralscapes have become a signature motif of his work. Those floral motifs—highly attuned to Taiwanese visual language—have ironically proved to be some of the most politically and culturally resonant of Lin’s work.

Those floralscapes—often projected onto walls or splayed across floors—have also allowed Lin to transgress traditional notions of what constitute the spatial and thematic boundaries of art. Resisting the confinements of traditional canvases and frames, Michael Lin has long used art as a means to explore and impact how people come to understand space—from domestic spaces to skateboarding parks, from art galleries to hotel lobbies. He routinely plumbs “the behavioral aspects of how the public interacts with space… or what spaces demand from the public,” Lin says.

In the summer of 2002 the artist Michael Lin was invited to create a monumental floor of painted tulips (measuring 1100 m2) in City Hall of The Hague, a building by the architect Richard Meier. The project was part of a cultural exchange between the cities of Taipei and The Hague. In 2001 Erik Lindner, a poet from The Hague, was a guest at an International Poetry Festival in Taipei. In return Michael Lin was invited to do a project in The Hague.

michael lin tulip floor in hague

The tulip floor consisted of 380 panels made of wood, which Lin painted by hand with the assistance of 70 students from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and 15 professional artists from The Hague. For his floor in The Hague he selected a tulip motif, which - blown up to 80 times its size - he introduced as a ‘Made in Taiwan' floor. 

In 2004 for the P.S.1 Café, Michael Lin has created a large-scale site-specific installation entitled Grind.
Lin's floor slides from the wall and ceiling, creating an alternate way to experience the space. As in classical Chinese painting, the perspective of the café is suspended, and the viewer can no longer determine where the floor ends and the wall begins. Transforming a communal space, creating an illusion of depth, and erasing spatial borders, Lin alters our perception of volume by producing an effect of infinitude. The quotidian becomes spectacle.

ps1 michael linIn a continuous investigation of ornamentation and its relationship to architecture, Lin creates architectural interventions using patterns from traditional textiles and decorative arts. Utilizing, among others, armchairs, beds, floors, walls, and cushions to support his surfaces, which are decorated with a profusion of brightly colored patterns, Lin blurs all borders between surface and structure, function and ornamentation, architecture and interior design.

In 2009, Michael Lin joined Le Méridien’s LM100 (Andrea Illy is also one of the members). As a part of the team he joined UNLOCK ART program. Using his signature floral motifs, Lin designed the first set of UNLOCK ART keycards.

lm100 michael lin key

As guests have started to use these cards to open doors and access experiences at local contemporary cultural institutions, the keycards themselves have not only become a testament to Lin’s gifts but also be piece of art. Later, in 2012,:mentalKLINIK (Yasemin Baydar and Birol Demir) joined to Le Méridien’s LM100 . They also designed illy cup for Le Méridien’s as part of this program.

For his solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2010, Michael Lin has created an enormous hand-painted mural that will cover the Gallery’s Georgia Street façade, bringing his artwork outside the traditional confines of the Gallery space.

vancouver art gallery michael lin

Expanding on his interest in veiling the institution, he has also conceived a book-wrapping project for the Gallery Store, which will cover Gallery publications in a wrapping paper of his own design.

March 22, 2012 to May 27, 2013 At PEM (Peabody Essex Museum) Lin spotlights the renowned collection of Asian export art. Lin created a sprawling mural of original armorial and heraldic motifs (elaborate coats of arms) that climb up the walls of the Mellon Staircase and along the floor of the Export Silver Galleries.
To animate the history of trade between China and the West, Lin also created a large-scale installation comprised of hundreds of replicas of Mr. Nobody, one of the first representations of a European gentleman in Chinese porcelain. Photographs that document the creation of the replicas in a factory in China are interspersed among 19th-century gouaches from the PEM collection that depict the historic porcelain production process.
This is his first project with porcelain. He also usually works with a team of assistants, and “Mr. Nobody,” along with many of the pieces in the porcelain gallery, is the product of anonymous Chinese artisans who worked in shops mass-producing such items. Those porcelain-producing shops are still around in China. Lin commissioned one to manufacture hundreds of reproductions of “Mr. Nobody.” Assembled in his installation “Everybody,” they take up the middle of PEM’s porcelain gallery, standing on drying racks like so many portly, drunken soldiers. In these numbers, the character of “Mr. Nobody” takes on more heft. “Mr. Nobody” figurines are for sale in the museum shop. The cycle of import commerce continues.

The YouTube video below shows a nice interview with Lin and features some of his large pieces of work, as well as his inspirations.

Today Michael Lin lives in Shanghai and Brussels.

Upcoming/Current Performances

  • March 22, 2012 to May 27, 2013 At PEM (Peabody Essex Museum) 


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