Art Radar Asia

Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Japanese gallery MEM re-opens in new Tokyo space with RongRong & inri exhibition

Posted by artradar on October 14, 2010


ART GALLERIES JAPAN ART EXHIBITIONS CHINESE ARTISTS

MEM, an art gallery based in Tokyo that represents mainly Japanese contemporary artists, has moved to a new gallery space in NADiff a/p/a/r/t in Tokyo. MEM announced this news in early September so should now be settled into the new space.

The gallery has announced the opening in conjunction with an exhibition of RongRong & inri, a pair of artists who live and work in Beijing, China. They are also the founders of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, an important institute for Chinese contemporary art and photography.

 

 

RongRong and inri, Untitled, no. 25, 2008, gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of MEM.

RongRong & inri, Untitled, no. 25, 2008, gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of MEM.

 

NADiff is an art bookshop and gallery located just off the fashionable Omotesando strip in Tokyo’s youth culture centre of Shibuya.

KN

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Lee Ufan-dedicated museum opens on Japanese island – The Japan Times

Posted by artradar on August 25, 2010


JAPANESE KOREAN ARTIST MUSEUM OPENINGS MODERNISM

An article by The Japan Times covers the opening of a brand new art museum in Japan dedicated to the Korean-born artist Lee Ufan. The article features an extensive interview in which the artist reminisces on his youth in a Japanese-occupied Korea and his early years as an artist in Japan.

Located on the island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, the Lee Ufan Museum is part of the Benesse Art Site, which has been listed as one of Japan’s must-see tourist destinations. In the article, Lee explains why the museum is unconventionally half underground:

Lee Ufan's painting 'From Line (1974) is on display at the newly-created Lee Ufan Museum in Japan.

Lee Ufan's painting 'From Line (1974) is on display at the newly-created Lee Ufan Museum in Japan.

For some people, it won’t look like a museum. Some people might think it’s a mosque, or a grave. That’s fine. I wanted it to feel far removed from everyday life.

The article also discusses Lee’s unique role in the Japanese art scene. Being both a resident of Japan and an outsider, due to his status as a Korean-born Japanese artist, he has interesting insights into the history of Japan and Korea and the art scene in Japan.

His aesthetic style consists mostly of simple constructions and has often been compared to Asian philosophy by Western critics. He says that he is indebted to the Western Modernist tradition for his simple style more than the traditional Asian aesthetic. Despite being influenced by Modernist art, he asks viewers to find a deeper meaning in the process of looking at art:

These days, when we think of art, we immediately think of it being something that you look at. But it is actually only in the Modern period that this act of looking has been given such emphasis. Before then, there was more to it: myths, religion, social issues. People would know these stories and they would read them into the art. In other words, the act of appreciating art was completed in the mind.

One way in which he is thoroughly Asian, he says, is his belief in the strong connection between individuals and the universe, a concept which he explores in his paintings:

After all, Asia has a monsoon climate, so there is a lot of rain. There’s always things rotting and new life sprouting and, in the past, this gave rise to strong tendencies toward animistic beliefs. Asians are more likely to see themselves as living with nature, with the rest of the universe.

The museum will hold many of Lee Ufan’s canvases and sculptures, created since he began his artistic career in the 1970s.

Read the full article here.

MM/KN

Related Topics: museums, Korean artists, Japanese artists, Japanese venues

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Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara reappears after 8 year absence – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 19, 2010


JAPANESE ARTIST INTERVIEW PAINTING DRAWING EMERGING ARTISTS

Eight years ago, Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara was building up a successful career as a promising contemporary artist. He showed work at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 2001 then disappeared from the contemporary art world. Then, in 2009, he reappeared at Tokyo’s ULTRA002 art fair, and in March this year exhibited work at NYC PULSE. Last month, Art Radar Asia spoke with Fukuhara in a special interview in which he talked about artwork from his recent solo exhibition “Binary” and explained what he has been doing in the eight years that he withdrew from the art world.

Fukuhara is represented by Ai Kowada Gallery in Ebisu, Japan, where he had a solo exhibition, “Binary”, earlier this year. His artwork from this exhibition features a series of drawings on which he sketches images of flora and fauna onto a black background with pencil, making the image difficult to see in certain lighting or at certain angles. We interviewed Fukuhara at this gallery, surrounded by his most recent work. Here he explained the reasons he chose this new medium and talked about his inspiration for the title of the exhibition. We discussed his background, what drives him and his art and the challenges that face young artists working today.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

When did you first feel that you were an artist?

Something like, when I felt different from other people? (laughs)

You mean you wanted to do something different?

Yes, when I thought that, and also when there are judgment calls between something that’s supposed to be “good”, and “bad”, and I felt that, even though I know what’s socially right, morally right, I want to take those social and moral judgments separately. For example, with morals, morally, something could be bad, but it can still be good. I sometimes made that kind of judgment, but people around me, if it was morally bad they would always consider it bad. So there’s a difference there.

After exhibiting at P.S.1 in 2001, you quit all activity as an artist to pursue other work until ULTRA002 in 2009. What influenced your decision to quit activity as an artist?

When I was in university, what I made was the same as now, fine art. Then, when I was there, Phillip Morris [International] did things like Art Hour. I was remaining as a candidate until the finals – well there were twenty, thirty of us – but I was one of the finalists. Then, that became a trigger that led to some small exhibitions.… That time it was already the final. There were people from other countries in the finalists, so there were a quite lot of people, but the Finalist Award pretty much triggered other things, several other things, but after that, I sort of got tired of it…. And then, what I mean by ‘tired of it’ is that I sort of grew tired of what I was making at the time as well, and then from there, I went more towards media art.

Things like graphic design?

No, more interactive than that. There’s some programming, then projection, like that…. Then, when I was making interactive art work, places like Sendai, Mediatheque from Sendai, and New York, and there was talk of Kyuushu at one point, although that didn’t end up happening, there was talk of going to these places … and when I participated in that, then I really ended up tired of what I was doing. What I mean is, I like media art, but I don’t think I can do it.

So what did you do after you grew bored of new media art? Why hadn’t you been creating art until recently?

In 2001, I did one exhibition, but then I started to question whether there was a point in doing art without the thought, without the creativity. And then I really began to think, was there a point in doing art? Is there a point in making, say, a sculpture? Who would it be for? And what manner of creating art would satisfy me? Keeping these things in mind I made some simple test pieces…. Samples. For example, making something without a shape. Not exactly design… just the idea. Just the philosophy behind it. And so the period of time that I spend just focusing on the philosophy part, the philosophy regarding art, the creative part is open. And so I subdivided my brain a little, separated creative as creative, and that part I used when I was doing design, which I don’t consider fine art. In my head, therefore I had space to consider what I should do with the “art” side of things. I kept thinking. I mean really, I tell everybody this but, I spent at least six years thinking about this.

What have you learnt during your absence from the art world?

I realised there’s no need to make things that are already visible. For example, let’s say you go somewhere, travel somewhere, maybe. You see a very beautiful landscape. I think you can leave that for a photograph. So I decided not to recreate things that exist in the first place … I think that it’s best to draw something that uses imagination and inspiration as a way to consolidate your own philosophy.

Tell me about how you came to participate in ULTRA002 (2009) and NYC PULSE (2010).

That’s because I’m part of this gallery of artists. The artists associated with this gallery … can speak with the directors and discuss the possibility of entering the next ULTRA art fair, and it’s not certain you’ll pass, but you know, you apply for it.

Why did you want to become an artist?

I think that art is like a subject. It’s academic … the basis of art is quite academic. But the viewer has freedom. That’s why, when I make my work, it’s more philosophical. I like to have philosophical ideas and make pieces…. The point is that the people who critique art often have very academic backgrounds, but I think even children and people who don’t know anything about art should be able to see the art, and freely feel what it means to them. I feel that is the most pure, somehow. And so, for fine art, there aren’t any restrictions. For example, the big difference between ‘design’ and ‘art’ is whether or not it’s been requested. The thing with design is that, after all, it’s somebody else’s intention, or somebody’s … desire…. There’s a purpose, very clearly. And so, for fine art, the purpose is in the self, so it remains extremely pure…. For example, nobody is going to be sad as a result, or maybe they won’t be happy either, and maybe they will be sad, but, even so, it might make them happy. Thus it’s really quite a … place where one can face new challenges.

So would you consider yourself a fine artist? What do you consider your main line of work?

Myself? I would like to keep being an artist.

What major influences have you had in your life?

I suppose books…. I don’t really read novels much. Other than novels, documentaries, philosophical books, chemistry books, things like that. Especially books that might change one’s perspective, thoughts. Or else something that changes one’s thoughts, one’s mind. How should I explain this? To ‘dephase’…. And so, I’m always trying to find opportunities for change, so yes, perspective. What kind of perspective to have each time.

What was it that changed you as an artist?

Maybe books. I suppose books. For example, even people you can never meet, people who you really respect, even if you’ve never met them, that person’s words are written down. The words affect us, and make us consider things like, maybe there’s no value in that, or that’s not quite right. In the end it’s yourself thinking, but the trigger for that, what gives it initiative, are the words of those people you respect.

What has challenged you as an artist? Why? What kinds of things have been challenges for you as an artist?

Everyday is a challenge (laughs). There’s a kind of fulfillment when you finish a piece, but at the end, that’s it; and so little by little, I try to find something I don’t like about it. Even if I’m pleased with it, I look for something I find displeasing, and next time, try to make it better. Whether it’s the technique, or the philosophy behind it, or the surface, that [makes it] good. And so I don’t know what it is, but I try to improve it, even if it’s just a little bit.

What do you like about art?

After all, we don’t have to have art, but it’s better to have it. We can have art, or not, but it’s definitely better to have it; the strangeness in that! The fact that we don’t know if there is or isn’t value; it’s unclear. I think it’s obvious that it’s better to have it, so that’s what’s fun.

What makes your work different from other artists’ in your generation?

I think they’re all very accomplished (laughs)…. The difference is that they are Fukuhara, or they aren’t. What I do, only I can do; when I’m doing art, I think like that…. For example, I consider the boundary between something existing and not existing. I like that boundary … I pay a lot of close attention to that, so, for example, the medium can be pencil, or oil paints, or metal, it can be anything. And so, if something does exist, or it doesn’t … I pay attention to that, I want to express that. And so I consider how to convey that, I look for that. And even if there’s someone who’s thinking the same thing, that person and I will probably come up with different ideas. And since we have different knowledge, that’s only possible for me to do, there’s only me.… My priority is not for the expression. I’m more inclined towards the philosophy involved.

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any future projects?

A big art fair. It hasn’t been decided yet but either in Miami, PULSE in Miami, or next year in New York … or a show. There are also some shows that want to exhibit my work, they’re pretty far ahead, but there are some exhibitions.

What challenges do you see for young artists working in contemporary art today?

In Japan? The circumstances are bad. Business is bad. Right now, it’s so. And, yes, the Japanese economy is very … the Japanese arts, arts scene? The arts scene I suppose, or more like, the custom here, is very bad. It depends on the culture. In Europe, and probably at PULSE as well, probably everyone is quite understanding, so they say, ‘Mr. Fukuhara, I can support you.’ As in, before they ask ‘How much?’ or things like that, they tell me, ‘I can support you.’ I’ve never heard of it in Japan. There were some people like that up till now, and so, yes, there are some, but they’re few. Overseas, in the USA, what I learned when I went to PULSE was that in fact, both very rich people, and people not quite so rich are willing to buy a piece of art if they like it. Because if they support a young artist, and since they like the piece itself, maybe they’ll become really well-known later on. There’s sort of a feeling like that. And also, they know that if they buy this piece, the artist can go on to make their next piece; they’ll approach artists in a sensibility like this, even if they don’t say it to this extent. Japan likes modern art. In Japan, there’s a kind of feeling that there’s a tendency towards it. I think that’s because the value is already determined, like: ‘This is good’; ‘That there, that is worth about this much.’ But, there isn’t much of a sense of supporting young artists … Japan has lots of really amazing young artists, but I think it’s very difficult in Japan.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, "the night with a clouded-over moon (carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50x35 cm, image courtesy of the artist

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night With a Clouded-over Moon (Carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50 x 35 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tell me about your current exhibition, “Binary”.

The color is black, but, color depends on the light. The color is determined by the light. This here, what the color white means, is that it’s reflecting white light back at us. And here the light is getting absorbed and so it’s black in color. This looks silver, but all it is is that the carbon in the pencil lead is shiny. If you put black on black, well, you can’t see it very well, but it shines, and sometimes you can see it well, sometimes you can’t. And if you see it at night, it’s almost completely dark. If you see it in a room at night the surface is completely black.

What was the philosophy behind “Binary”?

As I said earlier, I’m trying to reach the borderline between what exists and what doesn’t. That’s why, for example, from here it’s impossible to see this painting because of the glare, yes? Because of the acrylic board, because it’s darkened. But if you put your eye close to it, you can see that there’s quite a bit drawn on it. ‘Then don’t draw on it!’ someone might say. But I want to draw on it. …When you interpret a computer, the data formats are, for example… there’s a thing called text, and text goes on forever. But with binary code, it tells you in the first row how many letters there are. And you can’t have any more than that. In that lies a big difference between so-called binary code and text. With binary you know the end from the very start, and in text it goes on forever so the end is unknown. Text has no limit but binary defines the end in its first row of numbers.

How did you use this idea of “binary” in your artworks?

In how I incorporated a limit into my work process. To start with, drawing lines in a way that makes them invisible is in itself limiting. And also, binary is in two states, so it’s ‘0’ and ‘1’… there’s no middle point, I didn’t draw any middle tones. They’re all drawn as solid lines, and it’s not in grey scale, but it’s black on white. What is it? Gradation? Gradation is hard to reproduce. If someone says, ‘Here is some gradation, go copy that exactly onto here,’ it’s really difficult to do that…. If’s it’s only two colors, if there’s a line in exactly the same place, it can be reproduced. …It’s just the placement. And so, this is somehow maybe worthless in value in terms of creativity. The act of purposely making something that can be re-created easily, that’s somehow important, the value. The easiness to re-create and the difficulty to re-create. Maybe it should be the priority to make things that are harder to re-create, but I deliberately want to express what’s easy to re-create.

What do you like most about this exhibition, “Binary”? What do you like most about this series?

The fact that it’s black (laughs)… It can be black or it can be white, but to have none… The good part is that it’s clear if it is or isn’t there … if you go in what you notice in the moment you enter is that there are black squares. And then in that, there’s a, what do you call it, in minimalism they made black panels, or red panels, but I can’t get that stoic, and I do want to express…. I want to express something animated, something pulsated, but part of me also doesn’t want to express it…

And so you make it harder to see.

Yes that’s it. And also in a picture, you try to fill it up; this goes here…. And so in order to not do a layout, I start drawing from an area.

Is that easier to do if it’s black?

No, that doesn’t affect it. In order to make the layout quieter… this isn’t fixated. And so if you take the acrylic board off and touch it, it’ll come off.

Why did you decide to use black gesso?

That’s because black holds a lot of different meanings. For example, it’s very still, it has a sense of immense quiet, and also a strong sense of night and also darkness… And it’s possible to see a highly dense something in black. White things are the opposite and they’re pure, there’s cleanliness. Black for me is a mysterious color. In order to fully expose the good qualities of the color black, I wanted to make it black on black. In the end it looks more like black on silver than black on black, but the act was to put black on black.

Is there a reason you decided to use pencil?

I think it’s the freshness?… For example that piece there, I’ve fixated. It’s more like a CD. If you compare it to music, it’s more like a CD. And this is more like a live show. It’s possible to do black on black by using a brush, for example, to place a transparent medium on the black, that would make it black on black as well. But if you do that, I think that makes it more like laying it out. I think that once you start deciding the composition, the picture will get more like, well industrial arts, or arts and crafts.

And it will get harder to see.

Right. Also I don’t intend to do arts and crafts, so, for lines that I can only draw in this instant, I want to draw them in that instant as much as possible, and with pencil it’s fast.

Do you draw directly onto the gesso or the aluminium?

Yes. As a piece…. I’m repeating myself a bit, but the relationship between the pencil and the gesso is that, it’s ultimately about being able to adjust the image, and I suppose how to deal with the lighting, because I’m not using colour. And so, it’s all about how much you control the light, and so I don’t question the medium. And this acrylic case protects it, but the piece is actually the whole thing, case and all, so it’s okay. It’s fine if the surroundings are reflected on the acrylic board. It’s all included in it.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

This artwork shaped like a horse is a little different? Could you tell me more about this one?

It is different. I’m starting to do these recently, but as I said earlier about layouts, pictures tend to mostly be rectangular shaped.  I want to be able to connect the philosophy and the technique as directly as possible onto the square, the surface. However, somehow various… um, it has to go through, a certain way, and so it’s inevitable that the expression becomes more …angled than what was being imagined. For example, just drawing instinctively… without making a draft and drawing in real-time, directly, means that the lines aren’t pre-determined. After drawing a strawberry-like image… a flower appeared, and then below that are some moss-like things … and in each of those instants, there’s something that’s alive, and I try to draw them, picking up these random images from the library in my head and placing them onto the canvas. And so, when it’s square, I can’t help placing an object on it. For example, the butterfly, I put the butterfly down. This shape here, because the shape is intentional, internally it is tremendously free. I’m thinking I’d rather continue to do this sort of thing. And then when you do that, the place where it’s displayed? There might be more freedom in where you hang it and, if it’s square, for instance, often, pictures are something I want to be displayed in houses,… or museums and such as well. And so, with things like that, you feel an urge to place it bang in the middle. For example… there’s a horse drawn on that one. It’s just that a horse is there, but I drew the horse by accident. But, instead, if the canvas is a horse, then isn’t there no need to draw a horse? I can draw the pattern more freely from within, because if the tableau is square, I’m compelled to draw a horse. It’s a way that I strategise, but if the canvas is already shaped like a horse, there’s no more room to place one, and it makes it easier to make a direct connection between my head and my hand…. It’s impossible to remember what I drew (laughs).

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

You mean, the order that they’re hung is decided?

Yes, like maybe you want some more space between them. But if they’re shaped like this, and for instance, if there’s a small picture then maybe it might be good to put them in a spot like this. Yes, you might be freer to put them where you want, and maybe the meaning of the piece might change depending on where you place it. Also, outside? Having an association with a silhouette, also, makes the interior extremely … there’s a feeling of my own sense of alive-ness, and so for me I’d really like to continue to do this sort of thing.

MM/KN

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Posted in Conceptual, Drawing, Emerging artists, From Art Radar, Gallery shows, Hiroshige Fukuhara, Interviews, Japan, Japanese, Painting | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Picasso of China or voice of dissent: Who is Ai Wei Wei? Profile

Posted by artradar on September 22, 2009


Ai Weiwei's middle finger at Tiananmen.

CHINESE ARTIST PROFILE

Ai Wei Wei is vying with Cai Guo Qiang to become the most famous contemporary Chinese artist in the world claims Artinfo in its must-read quote-dense 4 page profile produced on the occasion of  Ai Wei Wei’s first large-scale solo show world-wide (Ai Wei Wei: According to What? at Mori Art Museum July to November 2009).

Obedient or defiant? Contemporary Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei who was raised in China and has lived in the U.S for 12 years, integrates his social beliefs into his artwork with audacity and temerity.  Behind the title of design consultant for the Beijing Olympics “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium, Ai Wei Wei remains a mystery figure who flaunts multifarious identities:

According to Chinese authorities, he is a dissident to be watched, one whose inflammatory blog needed to be silenced. But to others, the Chinese conceptual artist, architect, photographer, and curator — loathed and loved for his human rights activism — is the courageous voice needed in today’s repressive China.

He’s been called a headline grabber, a master of borrowing from other artists, and a “scholar clown,” and he’s been denounced for criticizing symbols of elitism and authority ranging from New York’s Museum of Modern Art to the Chinese government to the Eiffel Tower.

Ai’s philosophies about society and his willingness to expose and explore the issues are evident in his artwork:

Chandelier by Ai Weiwei. 236 by 165 by 165, crystal, scaffolding, 2002

Chandelier by Ai Weiwei. 236'' by 165'' by 165'', crystal, scaffolding, 2002

Chandelier, a satire of the bizarre Chinese state aesthetic in the shape of half a chandelier that hangs in the museum’s entrance lobby.

Snake Ceiling is a serpentine installation formed from hundreds of new black-and-white backpacks sized for elementary and junior high school students. The coiled snake, suspended from the museum’s ceiling, alludes to an aesthetic form, the snake as ancient monster, and the tragedy and systematic cover-up at the heart of the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project, a focus for Ai’s guerrilla investigative activism.

Map of China by Ai Weiwei. Tieli wood from destroyed Qing Dynasty temples, 20 X 70 X 63 in., 2004.

Map of China by Ai Weiwei. Tieli wood from destroyed Qing Dynasty temples, 20 X 70 X 63 in., 2004.

Map of China (2006) is a 3D object made with intricately-assembled old wood pieces and traditional joinery that poses subtle questions and a critique about China’s perceived domination of Taiwan and regions such as Tibet.

Fairytale, premiering at the exhibition, is a 150-minute film consisting of video and images from Ai’s historic 28-day journey with 1,001 Chinese citizens to the 2007 Documenta 12 exhibition in Kassel, Germany.

Not only does Ai unify art and society in his artwork, he is also an activist blogger on the net.

…the high number of school fatalities was due to local officials siphoning money from school building costs. Grieving families said the structures were badly built and collapsed easily during the quake. But officials refused to list the names of the dead students, which could be used to unveil a possible cover-up, so Ai formed the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project with researchers and volunteers who discovered the names of 5,190 students.

Is it a coincident that he’s also the son of Ai Qing, an enemy of the state?

One of China’s most esteemed poets, he was sent to labor camps in northern Heilongjiang Province and western Xinjiang Province for 20 years for criticizing the Communist regime.

A fighter for freedom of choice, Ai also expresses challenging views about the Olympics last held in China and cultural censorship.

The Olympics became a very superficial activity that didn’t lift China into another possible condition but rather created great difficulties for [Chinese] society today.

China is still culturally under strong censorship, so a state museum would certainly never invite me,” he says. “If I have a show, I don’t want to be censored. … That’s not my principle. I don’t care if I ever have a show in China.

Read full article on ARTINFO for more about Ai Wei Wei: his personality, his canon and his views which have led Artinfo to make a bold statement about the importance of Ai Wei Wei.  After this MAM exhibition and

a larger one opening at Munich’s Haus der Kunst in October, Ai may overtake Cai Guo-Qiang as China’s most famous contemporary artist. Although Cai is a skilled, popular showman famed for his spectacular fireworks display at the Beijing Olympics, his work lacks the depth that is so integral to Ai’s many projects.

-Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Posted in Ai Weiwei, Chinese, Collaborative, Identity art, Installation, Japan, Land art, Large art, Museums, New Media, Overviews, Participatory, Profiles, Shows, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Top 5 sites for Japanese contemporary art news by Matthew Larking

Posted by artradar on June 24, 2009


JAPAN ART READING

What are the top sources of information about Japanese contemporary art?

The Japanese art scene can seem impenetrable to non-Japanese speakers and yet, despite  this, there is a growing swell of global interest in contemporary art from Japan. There are several potential reasons:

  • Takashi Murakami, who has probably done more than any other artist ever to make contemporary art accessible. He has been astonishingly effective in widening the market for and interest in contemporary art globally;
  • the maturing of the art scene in Tokyo which has seen a new group of galleries open in the last fifteen years;
  • the wave of interest in manga and video games, spawned in Japan, which has swept across the world;
  • the ‘separateness’ of Japan whose monoracial, monolinguistic island society has developed its own cultural idiosyncrasies, creating ripe ground for art with a fresh perspective.

So what is the best way to keep abreast of art news in Japan? We asked lecturer and, since 2002 Japanese Times art critic Matthew Larking, to give his recommendations about what to read to keep up to date.

1. Tokyo Art Beat –   www.tokyoartbeat.com – “gives updates and everything else on the Tokyo art scene”

From the website: “a bilingual art and design events guide which offers event listings, reviews and a shop. The site is updated daily and lists more than 500 current & upcoming art events, at any moment. Smart data organisation with events sorted by media, schedules, and location, as well as event lists like Closing soon, Most popular, Open late, and Free. Available via any PC or mobile phone.”

2. ARTiT –  http://www.art-it.jp/e_index.php – “the ARTiT site has a few good interviews and bits and pieces here and there”

From the website: “a visually oriented, all bilingual (Japanese and English) quarterly magazine introducing the latest trends in the contemporary art scenes of Japan and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. ART iT features comprehensive interviews with topical artists, in-depth articles on current art-related subjects, and detailed information on exhibitions at top museums and galleries throughout Asia-Pacific.”

3. PING MAGhttp://pingmag.jp/ – “now defunct but with some good archives is PING MAG which introduces a few artists who don’t get so much press in the usual places”

4. Japan Timeshttp://www.japantimes.co.jp/entertainment/art.html “the Japan Times does a full page dedicated to the Arts every Friday, the only newspaper in Japan to do so and many of the writers are very good”

5. Artscape Internationalhttp://www.dnp.co.jp/artscape/eng/

From the website:  “a monthly English web magazine for readers both inside and outside Japan, but especially overseas, with an interest in Japan’s art scene and artists. With one of Japan’s most comprehensive art databases, Artscape compiles up-to-date information about art events throughout Japan, presenting reviews of exhibitions and articles about art trends and artists.”

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How a long recession helped Japanese contemporary art collector, Ryutaro Takahashi

Posted by artradar on June 11, 2009


Ryutoro TakahashiJAPANESE ART COLLECTOR

 A Japanese psychiatrist, Ryutaro Takahashi, has become one of the most important collectors of Japanese contemporary art, having amassed a collection of over 1,500 pieces since 1997. And, in an inspiring story we can all take heart from today, he was able to do so largely because of Japan’s long recession. The Japan Times explains:

The late ’90s were particularly tough for dealers… because the long-running economic downturn had translated into severe funding cuts for public museums. The reason recent art is so underrepresented in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, for example, is that from 2000 to 2004 it had no acquisitions budget. Takahashi was able to snap up dozens of pieces while the nation’s museums went AWOL.

Takahashi emphasises that he did not take deliberate steps to fill the void left by underfunded institutions. So what did motivate this collector and how did he get started?

“I used to hang around Fugetsudo Cafe in Shinjuku,” he tells The Japan Times, describing the coffee shop that was a hippie Mecca during the counterculture years. “We’d hear about the happenings that Yayoi Kusama was doing in New York. She was like a star to us.”

Takahashi was not an artist himself, but the period left him with a fascination for the avant garde.

“In 1997 I saw an exhibition of new work by Kusama,” he says. “At about the same time, a show of new work by Makoto Aida was being held at Mizuma Art Gallery. So, in a short time I saw work by someone I thought was a star and also an important up- and-coming artist. That lit the spark within me.”

The spark quickly flared into a wildfire.

“Once I had bought a few I realized that if I was going to do this, I had to do it properly,” he says.

He focused on young artists from Japan, spending Saturdays roaming cutting-edge galleries: Mizuma, Ota Fine Arts, Tomio Koyama. Soon he was plowing all his resources into the project.

 

Makota Aida "A Picture of an Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns)" 1996

Makota Aida A Picture of an Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns), 1996

One of his first major purchases was Aida’s A Picture of an Air Raid on New York City (War Picture Returns), a giant screen-painting which depicts fighter planes forming an infinity symbol as they bomb New York. Since then he has bought about ten more Aida works.

Usually, big paintings by such respected artists would find their way into public collections. But not in Japan, or at least not in the past ten years in Japan. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, has just one Aida, and the five national art museums have none.

The story is similar with other 40-something artists such as Akira Yamaguchi, Hisashi Tenmyouya and Tsuyoshi Ozawa. Each has been given large-scale, midcareer retrospectives at major Tokyo venues, but none is well represented in any public collection. Takahashi’s holdings, by contrast, include several major works by each.

Read more in The Japan Times about:

  •  how Takahashi believes that Japanese art is becoming divorced from the West
  • what he plans to do with his collection and
  • where it can be seen now

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Japanese contemporary art – changes and trends – by gallerist Koyanagi

Posted by artradar on March 24, 2009


JAPANESE ART SCENE

Gallerist Atsuko Koyanagi discusses:

  • why Japanese galleries group together in different districts
  • how the opening of the Mori museum impacted the art scene
  • Japanese government’s relationship with culture
  • how Japanese and Western collectors differ
  • the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese art market
  • the future for art in Japan

Gallery Koyanagi is one of Tokyo’s top contemporary art galleries, representing major artists such as Sophie Calle, Marlene Dumas, Olafur Eliasson, Mariko Mori, Rika Noguchi, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Tabaimo.

The gallery, a regular exhibitor at Art Basel, Frieze Art Fair, Art Fair Tokyo and CIGE, started out as a contemporary ceramics gallery in 1988 but its founder and director Atsuko Koyanagi reopened the space as a contemporary art gallery in 1995. She talks here to Ashley Rawlings, an art critic based in Tokyo, about the changes in contemporary art in Japan over the last 15 years and about upcoming trends.

Atsuko Koyanagi

Atsuko Koyanagi

AR: What led you to open your gallery as a contemporary art gallery in 1995?

AK: The mid-1980s was when Cindy Sherman was becoming known and photography was starting to be appreciated as an artistic medium in its own right. Back then, with the exception of Zeit Photo Salon, Tokyo didn’t have any museums or galleries dedicated to photography. At that time I also met Hiroshi Sugimoto, and he was looking for a gallery that would represent him, but was being met with a lot of rejection. I was inspired to show his work and make the shift into contemporary art.

The advertising work I had done at Kazuko Koike’s office until then was in some respects close to photography. I felt I had an eye for this medium and that it would offer me the easiest way to enter the contemporary art world. I hadn’t studied art and I had never worked in another gallery before, so opening my own contemporary gallery was incredibly difficult at the beginning. But it was for that very reason that I felt I was open to involving myself with something new. So Gallery Koyanagi reopened as a contemporary art gallery on the first floor of this building in 1995, and then moved to the 8th floor in 2004.

AR: From the mid-1990s you became closely associated with other young gallery owners who drove the Tokyo art scene towards recovery. What was the reason for you all grouping together?

AK: Until then there had been no real talk of bringing Tokyo’s galleries together in the same space. There were, of course, a couple of old gallery associations like the Bijutsu Club and so on, but nothing equivalent for contemporary galleries. People working in the contemporary art world tend to be quite individualistic. It wasn’t like we all had to all be best friends, but given how small the market was back then, we were stronger and stood out more as a group. It would allow us to introduce each other to each other’s clients. So I started to talk to the various galleries about it, and we held a group show at Spiral Garden called ‘G9: New Direction’.

AR: Ever since then the contemporary art world in Tokyo has been characterized by various combinations of galleries grouping together in buildings around the city. What led to the Shinkawa building opening?

AK: Tomio Koyama was already occupying one of the spaces within the Sagacho Exhibit Space, as were Shugo Satani and Taro Nasu. The Sagacho Exhibit Space was doing very well and in 2001 Shugo Satani and I opened the Rice Gallery by G2 within it, but by then the building had been slated for demolition the next year.

Everyone had been working really well together, so we wanted to keep the collaboration going. Koyama-san happened to find the building in Shinkawa, and we moved there in 2003. The Shinkawa building was able to house four of us: Taka Ishii Gallery, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Shugoarts and a showroom extension of Gallery Koyanagi.

AR: At this time the Mori Art Museum was about to open. How did that impact the gallery scene?

AK: I was working with Mariko Mori, and at her wedding party, I had the opportunity to talk with Minoru Mori. I mentioned to him that abroad, the opening of a major museum tends to attract the opening of commercial galleries around it.

The Mori Corporation was buying up old buildings in the area for future redevelopment, so I suggested to him that it might be interesting to rent out those buildings at reduced rates to galleries that wouldn’t mind their condition. He was interested and straight away he introduced me to the planning division, which suggested a building on nearby Imoaraizaka. It was in a pretty run down state, so the rent was very cheap. The galleries that couldn’t fit into the Shinkawa building opened up there.

AR: With the map of Tokyo’s contemporary art galleries having diversified so much beyond the Ginza area, are you still happy to have your space in this neighborhood?

AK: I was born and raised in this neighborhood and my family business has always been here. I guess if I were starting from scratch now, I probably wouldn’t choose to run a contemporary art gallery here. But then this building belongs to my family, so there are financial incentives to be here too.

AR: What do you think the future is for Ginza?

AK: In recent years there have been more and more buildings by foreign companies going up and it’s a little sad to see Ginza losing some of its original character. Ginza is one of the most representative, internationally known parts of Japan, and so I have quite strong views on how it should be and a strong desire to protect its status as one of Japan’s most significant areas.

Areas like Daikanyama, Aoyama and Roppongi are becoming these very stylish places, so I think Ginza has to keep up. On the other hand, the people running old shops here are working really hard too, so I hope we can achieve a neighborhood with the right balance of new and old.

AR: What do you look for in an artist’s work before deciding to take them on?

AK: It’s not so much what I look for in the artist’s work as what I look for in the artist as a person. Of course, when I encounter a work, I want it to have an impact on me, but it’s who the person behind it is that’s more important. I want to know what they see, what they think, what it is they are trying to convey.

The quality of each work that an artist produces may vary, but overall it is a constant process of trial and error that they are engaged with. If I can look at the fundamentals of what they do and feel good about it, then I know I can work with them.

I also have to bear my clients in mind. I know what kind of tastes they have and what they are searching for in contemporary art, so when looking at an artist’s work, it’s incredibly important to consider how it fits in with our current stable of artists. In general if I like the artist and their work, then my clients will like them too.

AR: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese contemporary art market?

AK: One of the main reasons the art market doesn’t really grow here is due to taxation laws. In the United States, you get tax breaks if you buy an artwork and eventually donate it to a museum. This is a fantastic system that allows people with money to buy art, enjoy it and then give it to a museum for the benefit of others, and it helps museums enrich their collections.

However, there is no such system in Japan: if you buy an artwork here it becomes an asset and you have to pay tax on it.

Another problem is that there are very few big collectors of contemporary art. Perhaps that’s because the market hasn’t fully matured. There are of course serious collectors like Toshio Hara, Minoru Mori and Soichiro Fukutake, but overall there are very few compared to the number you would find abroad.

AR: Compared to other large cities in the world, does Tokyo receive enough funding from the government to support the art world?

AK: Not really. The Japanese government has absolutely no cultural strategy when it comes to contemporary art. Of course, when manga suddenly became popular, everybody in the government started to pay attention to Takashi Murakami and government officials started to make use of manga as a buzzword, but that’s not the same as having a strategy.

In other countries, like Switzerland, the government pays for the insurance of artworks. Tohaku Hasegawa’s ‘Pine Trees’ screen is a national treasure, and it was shown in Switzerland last year. The insurance costs for having that work shipped over there must be astronomical and too much for a museum to bear, but it was all covered by the Swiss government. It would be so helpful if there were a system like that in Japan, but there isn’t. If Japan could give tax breaks for donating to museums and cover the insurance costs of shipping artworks, I think the market here would be able to grow much more healthily.

AR: Broadly speaking, are there any identifiable differences in taste between Japanese and foreign collectors?

AK: A lot of artists in Europe and the US make work that really engages with the serious social issues of their time, be it war, economic problems or racism. Those kinds of problems are more immediate in Europe and the US, and the people who live there deal with them in real time. Correspondingly, there are collectors who truly comprehend their work and buy it.

 Japan, on the other hand, is more of a monoracial society; it has not been at war at all for the past sixty years and in general has had much less social instability to deal with. As Takashi Murakami put it, the Japanese suffer from ‘peace lag’ or have been infantilized; they don’t feel themselves to be very connected to the problems that affect the world.

For example, the wars going on in the Middle East are thought of as America’s problem, and the Japanese don’t feel the same anger towards President Bush as everyone else does. If an artist conveys that anger in a work, then there will certainly be American collectors who will identify with it and buy it, whereas Japanese collectors probably wouldn’t. Of course, some work speaks to everyone through technique alone, but contemporary art is about more than just that; collectors have their conceptual preferences as well.

In Japan there is also a tendency for people to rush towards easily comprehensible art. Gallery owners like Tomio Koyama and artists like Motohiko Odani and Takashi Murakami have been instrumental in making art more accessible to a greater number of people, and I think that’s really good, but equally it’s important not to go too far. I think contemporary art should relate to social issues, and I hope that Japanese collectors will also make the effort to understand the nuances that artists are trying to convey.

AR: How has Japanese contemporary art changed over the past fifteen years?

AK: Looking back at how appalling a state the economy was in when I opened my gallery thirteen years ago, I’d have to say the state of the Tokyo art world has changed a lot since then. To talk about these changes simply in terms of prices, fifteen years ago, a small work by Hiroshi Sugimoto would sell for 350,000 yen, whereas now its primary market price at this gallery would be 1.5 million yen. It would then fetch about 5 million yen at auction. A work by Marlene Dumas was worth 350,000 yen back then but now on the primary market her paintings will sell for three to 5 million yen; at auction her work would fetch close to 10 million yen. So just looking at the prices you see how much the market has grown.

I think the market will grow just as much over the next fifteen years as well. But whether it’s Murakami, Nara or Sugimoto, these price rises have largely been due to the growth of the international market, so in a sense it’s like they are being imported back into Japan. These works didn’t increase in value through Japanese auctions, but European and American ones. But their sales abroad caught people’s attention here and have encouraged Japanese people to buy.

Another thing that has changed has been the opening of a new generation of galleries here in Tokyo. I’m very happy about this, as it helps encourage young people to get involved in the art world. Before, collecting habits used to be very divided, with only young people buying work by young artists and only established collectors buying work by big name artists, but that has changed. The market has matured a lot.

AR: What about upcoming trends?

AK: In the past Western artists used to dominate everything and both female and Asian artists were a minority. That’s just not the case anymore. Now artists gain recognition simply according to their individual merits. There are also more and more chances for artists to go abroad these days. In the 1980s it used to be that an artist would have to make it big in Japan before going abroad, but now it’s possible to become popular in other places like New York and then come back to Japan, and I think there will be more artists taking that sort of route from here on.
This interview is an extract from Art Space Tokyo (Chin Music Press, 2008), an intimate guide to the Tokyo art world that features 20 interviews with the directors and curators behind some of Tokyo’s most distinctive galleries and museums, and many others. To find out more, visit Art Space Tokyo.

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Posted in Art districts, Collectors, Gallerists/dealers, Japan, Japanese, Manga, Overviews, Professionals, Profiles, Trends, Women power | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Changes in Tokyo’s art scene 2008 – new fair, art district, art guides

Posted by artradar on January 6, 2009


ART JAPAN

Heiko Blankenstein at Galerie Alexandra Saheb in Tokyo 101 fair

Heiko Blankenstein at Galerie Alexandra Saheb in Tokyo 101 fair

 

 

Tokyo Art Beat, a rare source of information in English about what is happening on the Japanese art scene, has produced a review of art events and news in Tokyo in 2008. Here is a summary of some of the changes.

Last year for art fair Art@Agnes

Art@Agnes, a compact art fair with just 33 galleries and 2500 visitors, held every January at the luxury Agnes Hotel and Apartments in Iidabashi is to close in 2010.

Citing that it has achieved its goal of establishing a new and fresh art fair in Tokyo, the Art@Agnes committee have declared 2009’s edition of the event to be the last, with plans for it to evolve into a new, as yet unspecified event in 2010. 

Gallery movements

A new art district is potentially developing in Bakurocho

Two galleries formerly located in Roppongi have relocated to the blue-collar neighbourhood of Bakurocho in East Tokyo, where they join a handful of spaces that were already there. Taro Nasu Gallery now occupies the same building as Foil Gallery and Roentgenwerke (now renamed Radi-um) finds itself next door to CASHI Contemporary Art. With spaces such as Makii Masaru Fine Art, Motus Fort and Parabolica Bis also already in Bakurocho, the neighbourhood is now something of a fledgling gallery district. Should more spaces open there over the next couple of years, Tokyo’s art scene could conceivably find itself grasping its holy grail: a relatively dense, walkable centre of commercial contemporary galleries.

Tokyo’s first art week

The first week of April was a flurry of art world activity: Tokyo was taken over by art fairs, art awards and numerous gallery openings for what was effectively the first Tokyo Art Week.

Tokyo Art Fair was joined by the inaugural edition of the 101 Tokyo Contemporary Art fair

Created by Julia Barnes of nonaca/Nakaochiai Gallery, Kosuke Fujitaka of Tokyo Art Beat/NY Art Beat and independent curators Agatha Wara and Antonin Gaultier, 101Tokyo aimed to be the antidote to the domesticity and conservatism of Art Fair Tokyo by featuring 28 young galleries – 14 from Japan and 14 from abroad – and injecting a sense of fun and unpredictability into Tokyo’s art market with a lively program of talks, performances, awards and parties.

New art guides 

Such a period of heightened activity was ideal for the launch of two new guides to the city’s art scene. After many months of intensive collaboration with Craig Mod of Chin Music Press, I published Art Space Tokyo, a 272-page guide to 12 of the city’s most architecturally and historically distinctive galleries and museums . Tokyo Art Beat released the Tokyo Art Map, a bimonthly, bilingual mini-guide to exhibitions taking place in key art areas around Tokyo.

Tokyo Art Beat

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Indian contemporary art survey Chalo at Mori in Japan to March 2009

Posted by artradar on November 24, 2008


Bharti Kher The Skin Speaks a Language not its Own

Bharti Kher The Skin Speaks a Language not its Own

 

 

INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART SURVEY

Chalo! India: A New Era of Indian Art 22 November to 15 March 2009

From the press release:
“Chalo” is Hindi for “Let’s go.” With the words “Chalo! India” (Let’s go! India), we invite you to discover an explosion of creativity and vitality in Indian contemporary art. “Chalo! India” will take you on a journey through more than 100 works by 27 artists and artist groups from all over India. Encompassing a broad range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography and installation, this exhibition examines the latest movements in Indian contemporary art.

Movements and themes: modernisn, political criticism, urbanisation and globalisaton

Following independence from Britain in 1947, Indian artists began exploring new forms of artistic expressions-drawing inspiration and ideas from Western modernism, and India’s own distinctive culture. Over the next 60 years, new types of work that powerfully embodied political and social critiques emerged. More recently, Indian artists have been making works that respond to urbanization and changing contemporary lifestyles-art that reflects the rapid economic development, and globalization that has taken hold since the 1990s. Today the lively Indian art scene is spreading its wings both at home and abroad, and has been attracting a great deal of international attention.

“Chalo! India” is a significant survey of new Indian art, including a sociological research project involving architects and intellectuals, and state of the art interactive media work-as befits an IT giant such as India. Most people see India in terms of its rich and influential history, its Gods and devotion, Bollywood movies, or its awakening as an economic giant. However, there is so much more to the complex and dynamic India of today. “Chalo! India” explores and celebrates the depth of this country; the contradictions of its society, the dreams and hopes of its people, and its energy and passion toward the future.

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Posted in Indian, Japan, Jitish Kallat, Justin Ponmany, Museum shows, New Media, Political, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Urban | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »