Ken-Tsai Lee

Thursday







In Taiwan, Ken-Tsai Lee is a university professor and principal of a prestigious studio. In New York, where he recently studied English for two years, he found himself questioning the feasibility of Andy Warhol’s adage. “Where were my 15 minutes?” he says, “Who knew me? No one knew me.” With ambitions to expand beyond the localized Taiwanese market, he had been drawn to the city of strivers—“the capital of the world,” he says. “I knew I needed to overcome many problems if I was to achieve my goals,” he says from Taiwan, now preparing applications for U.S. graduate studies in design. “And the first problem was language.” As he realized how formidable his obstacles would be as a foreigner, Lee created a self-promotional poster series featuring his name in 12 languages, including Thai, Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Hebrew, Arabic, and Polish, that comments on the immigrant experience in general and marks his yearning for recognition—which came in surprising places. A police officer who spotted Lee defacing property in the dark of night arrested him—only after praising the designer for his good idea. Lee successfully appealed his sentence with a white lie. “I said I took digital pictures to send to my family,” he says, “and then peeled the posters off.” His beat-thesystem impulse bodes well for his 15 minutes of fame—and then some—in the cutthroat, urban design jungle.
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