Posts Tagged ‘art’

Takashi Murakami sets up shop in otaku heaven

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Murakami's gallery is flanked by stores selling rare toys

Murakami’s gallery is flanked by stores selling rare toys

Last month Takashi Murakami opened up a new gallery in Tokyo to show off his art work and the art work of artists he supports. While you’d expect such a high-profile artist to chose somewhere swanky and fashionable like Daikanyama or Omotesando, the king of cute decided to set up shop in the otaku haven that is the third floor of Nakano Broadway.

Hidari Zingaro gallery is not easy to find

Hidari Zingaro gallery is not easy to find

Opened in 1961, Nakano Broadway is fairly old by Japanese standards but unlike many shopping arcades of its time, the four-storey mall is still thriving. Finding the Hidari Zingaro gallery on the third floor was a bit of a challenge as it’s flanked by brightly colored shops selling rare toys or comics. In fact I only found the plain white fronted shop on my second circuit round. Inside, artworks by Chiho Aoshima, Nobuyoshi Araki and Mahomi Kunikata were displayed alongside Takashi Murakami’s work. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted and the gallery assistant was also very tight-lipped when it came to answering any questions about the gallery, revealing only that Murakami loved Nakano and that is why he’d decided to open a gallery there.

If you just stroll around Nakano Broadway you’ll see that there’s much for Murakami to love. The second and third floors are not only devoted to otaku culture but also house trendy stores such as Back to Mono, as well as old-school fortunetellers. A must-visit shop is Mandarake, purveyor of rare retro toys that have price tags to rival those on display at Hidari Zingaro (a piece by Murakami cost a minimum of ¥40,000).

On Nakano Broadway’s  first floor, there’s a huge number of incredibly cheap discount clothing stores that sell dresses for as little as ¥500 and the basement is home to a marvelous food market where you can buy what is possibly the tallest ice cream cone in Tokyo among other things. It a different story, however, if you venture up to the fourth floor where the number of active tenants is low and many of the shops have their shutters pulled down. Perhaps Murakami’s gallery will attract more of the art world and revitalize of this part of the mall.

Visitors to the gallery can expect exhibits to rapidly change and those who are able to read Japanese can follow Murakami on Twitter and hear about special events held there.

Mandarake is one of the best vintage toy stores

Mandarake is one of the best vintage toy stores

Roppongi Hills back on top

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

A bird's eye view from the Roppongi Hills' Sky Deck

A bird’s eye view from the Roppongi Hills’ Sky Deck (Satoko Kawasaki photo/The Japan Times)

Real-estate tycoon Minoru Mori has got something to celebrate this weekend. Not only is his Roppongi Hills complex hosting Roppongi Art Night, but J-Cast reports that occupancy of its office space is now up to 95 percent, recovering from a slump two years ago which saw occupancy at 85 percent. The icing on the cake for Mori is that, if early reports are to be believed, Mori Tower will soon gain a prestigious new tenant in the summer of this year: Google Japan. When Roppongi Hills opened their doors in 2003, the complex had no problems attracting high-profile clients, especially in the dot com industry, with Livedoor, Yahoo! Japan and internet shopping giant Rakuten all in residency. Not only that, but many company presidents decided to live the dream of the high rise inner-urban community by also living in the building, namely Takafumi Horie of Livedoor, Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani and CyberAgent Susumu Fujita. And so the phrase “Hills zoku” (the Hills clan) was born.

Continue reading about Roppongi Hills bouncing back →

The Complaints Choir: Denounce to the Music

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Japanese people are not known for airing their grievances in public, but a new project has arrived in Tokyo offering locals a new way to speak their mind. The Complaints Choir is the brainchild of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, a Finnish/German artist duo who conduct workshops and performances where the daily gripes of a city or society are written down and then sung with musical accompaniment.

The Complaints Choir concept has seen over 20 different incarnations around the globe since 2005. They recently hit Japan, and the final works can be seen in an exhibition at the Mori Museum running until February 2010. One of the most interesting aspects of the Complaints Choir is that it is comprised of ordinary people and is completely voluntary. “If we . . . make an open invitation, and if no one wants to take part, then that’s a clear indication that this project is not needed,” explained Kalleinen in an interview with Tokyo Art Beat.

Anyone can take part, she says, but no one is asked directly to ensure that only those who truly want to participate are involved. Complaints made in Japan varied from rude behavior on trains and eating habits to grooming issues.

If you could complain about Tokyo life through song, what would your gripes be? And what musical genre would be the best vehicle? Add your list of grievances in the comments below.

‘Prototype’ documents the birth of designers’ ideas

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Hironao Tsuboi's mutated light bulb at Prototype in Tokyo Midtown's Design Hub

Hironao Tsuboi’s mutated light bulb at Prototype in Tokyo Midtown’s Design Hub

Due to popular demand, Tokyo Midtown Design Hub’s third annual Prototype exhibition has been extended until Dec. 13. Prototype shows the work of Japanese creators – mostly architects, product designers and furniture designers – with a focus on the creative process and problems of turning an idea into an object. Each display has notes and sketches drawn directly onto the tables by the designers themselves, giving the viewer insight into  their creative process. This makes the show fun for both die-hard design followers and those with only a passing interest. The finished products are beautiful, to be sure, but just as interesting are the scrawled diagrams, and in some cases, the tools used to make the new products on display.

Personal favorites were Teruhiro Yanagihara’s polarized candle holder, Naoki Terada’s coded imunization kit and Ben Nagaoka’s “View Bench” (but we’re even bigger fans of what he and Point Design can do to a room, when given the chance).

Admission is free.

More information at the official Prototype site.

Tokyo Midtown Design Hub site

Motherload of inventions at Make: Tokyo

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Yesterday was the first day of the fourth Make: Tokyo meeting held at the Ookuyama campus of Tokyo Institute of Technology. Organized by Make Magazine, it showcases the work of inventors who are not affiliated to large companies. Instead, students, start-ups and hobbyists were there to display their work and share ideas. As you might imagine, the work ranged from the ingenious to the just plain silly, with all shades between. Here are some things that caught my eye.

The prize for most outstanding use of an everyday item had to go to Jinno for his Rainbow Engine, a beautiful kaleidoscopic machine, whose main part consisted of a disk made from Scotch Tape that, when filtered through another disk, created the beautiful display of colors you can see in the video below.

Continue reading about the 4th Make: Tokyo Meeting

Maywa Denki’s Otamatone wiggles off the shelves

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Maywa Denki’s toy musical instrument, the Otamatone, was released for over the counter sale at Tokyu Hands Ginza last Saturday and promptly sold out by Monday. Meiwa Denki’s inventive and off-the-wall toys and art performances have been hugely popular both in Japan and the West for a long time now and new products tend to be pounced on by eager customers.

I was lucky enough on Monday to catch a performance that included rendition of “Greensleeves” on the Otamatone (see video above) at O’Crest in Shibuya as part of Japan Music Week. The Otamatone, whose names plays on the Japanese words for “tadpole” and “sound,” is a kind of electronic recorder that emits a sound when you blow through it and squeeze the cheeks of the cute character at the tube’s base.

Continue reading about Maywa Denki →

Kidrobots on the block at Tokyo Designers Week

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

If you’re into vinyl figurines, get yourself down to the gardens of Meiji Jingu Gaen  for Tokyo Designers Week’s 100% Design. Part of the container ground exhibition includes an exhibit of Kidrobot figures that have been customized by leading designers and creative types, including SU from Japanese hip hop group Rip Slyme and fashion designer Junko Koshino. Organized by Puma and in keeping with Tokyo Design Week’s green theme, the artists were asked to think about the words “green” and “Africa’” for inspiration.

Kidrobot dolls have been hugely popular across the globe since launching in 2002. The figures are now highly regarded as art works in their own right with 13 figures making up part of MoMA’s permanent collection.

If you fancy putting in a bid, visit Design Channel. Profits go to CARE charity in Lesotho, Africa, which helps farmers in the drought-stricken country make efficient use of water resources.

An artsy Octoberfest weekend in Tokyo

Friday, October 30th, 2009

A map for the Kunst Oktoberfest gallery tour

A map for the Kunst Oktoberfest gallery tour

This may be Tokyo Design Week, but there are a number of interesting art events worth your time as well. Some are best seen this weekend:

1) This Saturday only is the Kunst Oktoberfest, a free bus tour of an impressive number of interesting contemporary art galleries. Simply hop on and off the buses as they snake through Chuo-ku to places like Ginza’s Gallery Koyanagi and TOKYO Gallery+B.T.A.P and Bakurocho’s CASHI and Radi-um von Roentgenwerke. The buses give you around twenty minutes at each gallery before whisking you away to the next spot.

Oh, and did I mention that there will be free COEDO beer on the bus? Here’s a review of last year’s. The map you see on the right can be found on the Japanese press release here.

2) ULTRA 002 just opened at Spiral in Omotesando. What makes this contemporary art fair unique is that is focuses on individual directors instead of the galleries they work for. Here you get to see a single person’s vision in ways other fairs can’t provide. Runs until November 3rd.

3) One of the most talked about contemporary artists in the world right now is Cao Fei. Her ongoing “RMB City” project just opened at the Shiseido Gallery in Ginza and is worth a look. The videos you see there all take place in a virtual city she created in Second Life. This even includes an interview about the project with both the artist and interviewer represented by their avatars. Read The Japan Times review here.

4) The artist Ai Wei Wei is another Chinese contemporary heavyweight whose show “According to What?” is on a global tour, and will be at the Mori Art Museum for only one more week. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. More info on Ai Wei Wei here.

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