Posts Tagged ‘contemporary art’

Take the kids back in time this summer

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Lunch at Ubusuna House, part of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale. (Rebecca Milner photo)

Last week, NHK ran a story on a “Showa Lifestyle” exhibition at a shopping center in Mito, a city two hours northeast of Tokyo. The exhibit wasn’t aimed at baby-boomers — Showa refers to the historical period from 1926-1989 — but rather their children and grandchildren.

The Mito City Museum, which put on the event, set up a mock living room circa the 1960s. Here kids could experience sitting at a low table on floor cushions, turning the dials on a black-and-white TV, many of them likely for the first time. They could also see what it was like to use an old rotary phone, a foot-pedal sewing machine and even a few pairs of take-uma, bamboo stilts, a popular amusement from an era of few luxuries.

For kids weaned on mobile phones, there may be no greater novelty than the past. They can also get an inkling of how different their world is from that of previous generations.

While the Mito event has already ended, there are plenty of other places where the family can get a taste of Showa life. At this summer’s Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, in rural Niigata prefecture, visitors can eat and sleep inside country homes and schoolhouses dating from the early to mid-20th century.

Many such structures outside of cities around Japan have lost their original usefulness on account of the country’s aging population and lack of attractive job opportunities there for young people. Countless such sites have been lost forever; however, there is a growing trend to label them heritage buildings and turn them into museums or hands-on learning centers.

Continue reading about the Showa nostalgia kick →

15th Japan Media Arts Festival

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

The 15th Japan Media Arts Festival showcased award-winning international works in the categories of Art, Entertainment, Animation and Manga. Click any image below to see a slideshow of photos from Japan Times Arts editor Mio Yamada.

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 →

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.

Moving portraiture by Julian Opie

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Julian Opie's "Clare with Landscape"

Julian Opie's "Clare with Landscape"

Last week SCAI the Bathhouse opened a new showing of recent works by Julian Opie (until Nov. 14). Unlike last year’s solo exhibition at Art Tower Mito, this show focuses on portraiture work, which can be just as engaging as the  walking and dancing LED figures that many people now associate him with.

Opie collects Japanese art, both old (ukiyo-e masters Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Hiroshige) and new (hand-painted anime cels). You’ll see similarly flat and vivid color schemes in these portraits, but they are far from static.  Take “Clare with Landscape” (right), for example. Depicted on a vertical LCD screen, at first glance the subject stands as regal and motionless as a Rembrandt or Rubens. But then she blinks. Her bracelet then twinkles in the light and her earring sways slightly, as if to her own pulse. The landscape behind her is alive as well, with clouds lazily crossing the sky and the sound of crows and passing cars.

Opie has also recently utilized Lenticular printing to give 18th-century portraiture styles a modern spin. Many of his subjects are larger-than-life.  Seen here, wavering slightly as you walk from one side to the other, their faces stare down on you with a depth that is both intriguing and somewhat unnerving.

SCAI the Bathhouse is a beautiful 5-10 minute walk from Nippori Station, past the Yanaka Cemetary.

Julian Opie’s site and wiki

A small interview on Youtube from the “This is Shanoza” series

Nawa Kohei: From the outside in

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

'pixcell - elk #2', 2009 mixed media image © OMOTE nobutada courtesy of the hermès Foundation

‘pixcell – elk #2′, 2009 mixed media image © OMOTE nobutada courtesy of the Hermès Foundation

Only a few more days to see the Nawa Kohei mini-show at Maison Hermès in Ginza. If you’ve never seen Nawa’s work up close, here’s your chance. Like many people, perhaps you’ve seen his work in the art press or on shopping bags for Beams, but standing in front of it is a completely different experience.

Nawa’s “Pixcell” series is,  in part, a comment on Internet culture: When you research a topic, whether it be a country, a celebrity or, say, the elk, each Web site you find will provide its own perspective of the subject, further obscuring your view of the subject as a whole and of the other perspectives you encounter.

Now look at the image above again. That’s a real elk under there, and with every step around it,  the view through each glass bead changes in relation to the others, further obscuring what lies beneath the crystalline casing. Some of the larger beads show the fur or antlers in magnified distortion. Other beads simply reflect an inverse world of the beads that surround it.

This is only one of three pieces – and concepts – that Nawa presents in this small (and free) show at the 8th floor of the Hermès building, and it closes Wednesday, so be quick.

Nawa Kohei’s Web site

More images from Nawa’s show at Maison Hermès at Design Boom.

Has Tokyo’s art-fair scene got the goods?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

A performance artist at 101TOKYO this past April

A performance artist uses his back as a canvas at 101TOKYO this past April

The current recession hasn’t made life easy for Tokyo’s art galleries. Spending habits of collectors are now even more difficult to predict, but the fertile art scene here continues its growth spurt, and with it comes an increasing number of art fairs, including a new photography-only fair opening this weekend. Whether Tokyo can support so many fairs is an open (and frequently asked) question, but quality work will always draw buyers. Tokyo can and should be the hub for the Asian market, and as the region bounces back economically, our fair city has been providing plenty of opportunities to peruse and purchase art.

(more…)

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