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Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Posts Tagged ‘art toys’

Art toys – the latest hottest trend from Asia?

Posted by artradar on July 16, 2009


Is urban vinyl the next growth trend in popular art to emerge from Asia and sweep across the world? 

Though it has not yet transitioned to the world of fine art, the genre is reminiscent of Takashi Murakami’s plastics. Popular, collectible and apparently recession-proof, this is a promising area for appropriation by cash-crunched fine art businesses. An interesting piece about the exploding popularity of art toys has just been published in the Taipei Times on the occasion of the Taipei Toy Festival. Here are some excerpts:

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What are art toys?

The terms designer toy, art toy and urban vinyl are often used interchangeably because many of the figures are created by artists or graphic designers, influenced by street art and style, and made from high-quality plastic or vinyl in limited runs.

The art toy movement – where did it start and who started it?

The birth of the designer toy trend is commonly attributed to Michael Lau, a Hong Kong artist who in the late 1990s began making limited-edition vinyl figures based on a comic he had created. The trend quickly spread through Asia and then on to the rest of the world.

What is the top art toy event?

Since 2004 the Taipei Toy Festival, which  is the largest convention in Asia dedicated exclusively to art toys rings together an international coterie of toy makers and distributors.

More than 200 designers made an appearance at Huashan Culture Park, where the 2009 edition was held in early July, more than double the approximately 80 designers who attended in 2008.

Jen Huang (黃仁壽), founder of toy distributor Monster Taipei (台北怪獸), launched the Taipei Toy Festival as a networking event for designers in Taiwan. The festival’s scope has since expanded, and this year’s roster of exhibitors hailed from the US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Italy, England and Australia.

But are art toys really works of art?

Well customers think so…..

“I consider these toys works of art,” said (collector) Wang, who counts Husky x 3, Jason Siu and Toys2R among her favorite brands and designers. Wang added that she has invested about NT$20,000 to NT$30,000 in her collection of nearly 30 figures since attending the first Taipei Toy Festival six years ago.

“Designer toys weren’t really well known in Taiwan back then and I went because I was curious to see what it was all about,” said Wang.

Since then designer toys have become increasingly popular in (Taiwan), thanks in part to their use as marketing tools by retailers. Designer Demos Chiang (蔣友柏), a grandson of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), and popular toy designers Devilrobots of Japan and Hong Kong-based C.i.World, creator of C.i.Boy, have all made limited-edition series for convenience stores.

Recession has not dented interest in art toys

Huang says the global recession hasn’t dented designers’ creativity — or fans’ willingness to drop money on their favorite figures.

“People might not be able to afford stuff like new cars or expensive brand-name items, but they are still willing to spend money on little things that bring them pleasure, and a lot of these toys only cost NT$500 to NT$1,000,” said Huang.

Many collectors were happy to go on a shopping frenzy at the festival, as evidenced by the number of attendees squeezing through the aisles with giant shopping bags in tow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CI Boy set from Hong Kong

CI Boy set from Hong Kong

 

 

 

 

Art toy trend more than consumerism

But (designer) 221trees says that collecting designer toys is more than just consumerism.

“I think a lot of people see their lives as dull and boring, so they have the urge to seek out things that are meaningful to them. As designers, we make figures that represent different points of view or characters. When people see them, sometimes they think, ‘There is someone in the world that thinks like me.’ That’s the attraction for me, too,” she said.

Related links:

Kubricks

Kubricks

The block-style figures from Japanese toy company MediCom are named after movie-maker Stanley Kubrick. Kubricks come in different sizes and are often made for specific licenses, including films, TV shows, comic books and video games.

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Posted in Branding in art develops, Design, Fairs, International, Taiwan, Toys, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Review of Japanese artist Tatsumi Orimoto’s performance Finger Dolls in Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on January 23, 2009


tatsumiorimoto_breadmansonalzheimarmama_sm

Tatsumi Orimoto Breadman son + Alzheimer Mama 1996

JAPANESE PERFORMANCE ART REVIEW

Inside a cramped art space off a small side road at the wrong end of  Hong Kong’s gallery street Hollywood Road, the great performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto bows, his chin-length grizzled hair falling forward. “That’s it” he laughs as he straightens up. “It is four o’clock….my medicine time”. On cue a gallery assistant brings the artist a beer and a stool to sit on as the handful of viewers applaud, laugh and jostle closer to claim his offer of an autograph on a free ‘Breadman’ poster.

Tatsumi Orimoto, also known as  ‘Breadman’ for his world-famous performances in which he wears French baguettes twined to his face, has just completed his half hour performance piece ‘Finger Dolls’ and a lecture. The latter turns out to be a recount of his life’s work salted with comical asides and has been described by Para/Site Art Space’s new curator, Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, as a ‘performance in itelf’. Spaniard Alvaro brings Orimoto to Hong Kong as part of an overall plan for his new role described to Time Out writer Claire Morin. “I want to refocus Para/Site … with more artists from Asia,” he says. “I also want Para/Site to become a social space, a space where things are actually happening, not just exhibited… I want the public to appropriate Para/Site and become a part of Para/Site.”  Arimoto’s quirky performance and engaging lecture are two sure steps towards that vision.

Tatsumi Orimoto Finger Dolls Hong Kong 2008

Tatsumi Orimoto Finger Dolls Hong Kong 2008

Short in stature and dressed in a strange semi-formal ensemble of green tie and waistcoat, Orimoto begins the Finger Dolls piece by wheeling an old bag across the floor and then slowly and deliberately opening and removing from it crumpled plastic carrier bags bearing the names of Japanese stores. These in turn are opened and small grubby dolls – mostly babies – are taken out and either hung around his neck or laid carefully in a semi-circle around him on the floor. The deliberate repetition of movements is puzzling: why this heaviness?  But then we notice one of the dolls has been given a cane and marked with pen-made facial wrinkles, a clue to the meaning behind this work. As Orimoto explains later in his lecture, “They are all Mama” .

Sixty- two year old Orimoto feels a special duty to care for his mother because of the part she has played in his long hard road to art success. Although he  is now a leading name in the global performance art scene, having performed with legendary video artist Nam June Paik and received spectacular reviews at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, this was not always the case.

The Bread Man was born in Kawasaki outside Tokyo to a working class, poor family and began drawing when he was ten. While his mother encouraged him, buying supplies and the latest art magazines for him, his father  a heavy drinker disapproved. As a teenager he began painting with oils which made his father fly into ‘ugly’ rages because he did not like the smell. Dealing with these experiences caused Orimoto to develop a resilience which enabled him to carry on in the face of prolonged rejection by the art establishment later in his life. “Even after I was asked to perform for the Queen of Spain, the Japanese establishment still didn’t want me” Orimoto grins to his Hong Kong audience, ” I don’t care. I call myself International Orimoto”.

But everyone needs a supporter according to Orimoto. “For me my Mama is like Van Gogh’s brother Theodore”.  When he applied to the most-respected art university in Japan, the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music  he was rejected year after year. His father pressed him to get a job but his mother supported his move to New York in the 1960s where he discovered performance art – “there was no performance art in Japan, ah I am so lucky, I saw the early peformance art in New York, I saw people like Joseph Beuys. Soho was exciting, artists came from around the world”.

Helping him financially she worked until she was 75 years old and supported him again when he set out to travel around dozens of countries where he held impromptu performances in unexpected places.  “Art is not only white space gallery, it is also public places, railways stations and restaurants. It is a very important thing”.

Later in his Finger Dolls piece he carefully produces from yet another old bag  a used box and from this, ponderously, in the manner of the elderly he brings forth bizarre mini-heads sculpted from papier mache and odds and ends. Each is individually crafted with its own quirky features (lurid pink eyes , green bobble hair) and treated with tenderness and the special focus only a ‘Mama’ can give.  Cautiously, protectively each puppet is laid on the ground before being donned on Orimoto’s stubby fingers and displayed to the audience during a purposeful unhurried walk around the room. As the piece develops we are increasingly aware of allusions to maternal and filial love and finally we are left in no doubt when Orimoto, rhymically slowly expels the word ‘Mama’ in a series of gravelly gasps.

Today his mother is a source of inspiration for his art and occasionally a participant in his performances. When his mother developed Alzheimer’s disease Orimoto knew that, as a man without wife and children, he had a duty to return home and care for his mother but this was not an easy step: he felt ambivalent and he worried that he would have to give up his art. But with characteristic creativity and perseverance he has turned this setback to advantage and she has evolved into his muse.

Is the work Finger Dolls about the love of a mother for her child or the filial duty of love and care owed to a mother? Is Orimoto playing the part of a mother or a son? At times the roles seem interchangeable. He is a mother who carries his creations wrapped about his neck and he plays a son who calls for his mother but in an ancient crackly voice.  In turn-and-turn-about fashion, he is now the older and now the younger, the mother and the son all in one. What does his art mean? What is it telling us? Perhaps it does not matter why or what his art is saying. As Monty diPietro says in his review of Orimoto’s first ever museum show in Japan at Hara Museum in 2000 when he was finally given deserved recognition, what matters is the effect Orimoto has on the people who watch him perform.  With a satisfying blend of drama and substance Orimoto’s puzzling, eerie performance work thoroughly engages his Hon g Kong audience –  and thankfully the art establishment now too .

Sources and more reviews

Related categories: performance art, Japanese artists, reports from Hong Kong, reports from Japan

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Posted in Children, China, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, Japanese, Performance, Public art, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »