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Published by Sugar & Cream, Friday 24 November 2023

Text & Images by Lynda Ibrahim

Art Festival (In Collaboration With Art Basel) Participated by Over 50 of Tokyo’s Leading Museums And Galleries

Much has been written about springtime in Tokyo, with lingering New Year festivities and cherry blossoms in full bloom. As it turned out, autumnal Tokyo might just be a contender for preferred destination. Beyond beautiful falling leaves amid friendly sunlight, the megapolitan also offers a citywide art fiesta.

Dimotori Atsuko Ninagawa, Art Week Tokyo is unfurled for the third year this month, boasting postwar art from Japanese luminaries and international artists. Museums, galleries, and a video presentation near the grand Tokyo Station are some of the locations where AWT 2023 is presented to local and international audiences, preceded by a welcoming reception at the swanky The Okura Tokyo Hotel graced by the performance of Kaiji Moriyama. Notable works abound, some are highlighted below.

Dancer Kaiji Moriyama at the Cocktail Reception for AWT 2023, The Okura Tokyo Hotel, November 2023

The Museums
The Okura Museum of Art, situated within the sprawling Okura compound by the tony Toranomon Hills, anchors AWT 2023 not just as an opening venue but also as the largest premise for an AWT Focus exhibition, Worlds in Balance: Art in Japan from the Postwar to the Present. curated by Kenjiro Hosaka. Questions over art versus craft, material versus immaterial, nature versus technology are just a few examinations through objects presented over the museum’s two floors, curated by Kenjiro Hosaka who gave a tour during the opening day. Set amid the museum’s traditional architecture, the exhibition frames the Japanese narrative of the citywide art fair.

Material vs Immaterial. Works of Shiro Kuramata (left) and Tatsuaki Kuroda (right), The Okura Museum of Art, November 2023

Nature and Technology. Work of Kishio Suga, The Okura Museum of Art, November 2023

The revered Mori Museum of Art commemorating its twentieth anniversary with an engaging exhibition on ecology problems plaguing the Earth, starting from Japan’s own Minamata Bay tragedy to various disasters worldwide. A well-timed exhibition to be held, not just because the world is facing a global warming, but Japan itself is currently under criticism for its government’s decision to release water from the previously damaged Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean. Stepping onto Nina Canell’s seashell-filled installation as they enter the exhibition, towards the end visitors will step onto Kate Newby’s terrazzo floor consisting of broken materials collected between Roppongi and Ginza, the upscale area near the museum. Throughout the museum, various mediums are employed by Japanese and foreign artists to depict deep ecological pains the Earth is suffering from.

Presented by Som Santoso

Work of Tonoshiki Tadashi, Mori Museum of Art, November 2023 | Work of Kate Newby, Mori Museum of Art, November 2023

Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo holds a retrospective solo exhibition of David Hockney, the largest in Japan in 27 years. Over 100 curated works over the 86-year-old artist’s long career are placed and paced thoughtfully, giving visitors time to digest the information and space to enjoy the art. Eagle-eyed visitors may discover the 3D aspect of one of Hockney’s largest paintings in display, while finely attuned visitors may find humor in Hockney’s cheeky narration at a video on the wall. No doubt many visitors are disappointed that taking pictures is forbidden almost throughout the exhibition, yet the well-stocked museum shop may offer a cure in the form of merchandises.

A continuous panel of work by David Hockney, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, November 2023

The Galleries
Understandably the participating art galleries are pushing local artists or Japanese diaspora, yet foreign artists are also present. A host of mediums, techniques and artistic schools of thought can be found at galleries in different corners of Tokyo. While many galleries are in glitzy downtown some are in quiet residential areas; one occupied a former public bathhouse. Art enthusiasts with high curiosity and comfortable walking shoes can find the gallery-hopping itself a cherished experience.

Akira Fujimoto’s solo exhibition is the perfect first stop after Mori. The artist developed artworks using marine debris, manmade materials that had overflown into the ocean before washed up onshore again. The bright colors and shiny polish don’t shield the raw portrayal of human error behind the source of the materials.

Work of Akira Fujimoto, Kana Kawanishi Gallery, November 2023

Another question on humanity is transpired behind a series of black-and-white photographs by Yasuhiro Ishimoto, a Japanese American artist who spent time detained at a Japanese internment camp in Colorado during World War II. Pain from being subjected to injustice could be traced on several photographs displayed at Tokyo Gallery, which upon its foundation in 1950 became the first gallery in Japan to present contemporary art. Ishimoto’s other renowned Bauhaus-styled photographs of Chicago and Tokyo cityscapes, as well as recapturing of the ancient Katsura Palace, were on full display.

Work of Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, November 2023

Yesteryear’s Japanese idyllic lifestyles are illustrated starkly by Sachiko Kazama in a series of works from wall-sized canvasses to tiny rolls of paper, using stamp and large woodblock prints. Previously presented at Reborn Art Festival 2022, the works hold a certain charm of their own.

Work of Sachiko Kazama, Mujin-to Production, November 2023

Enchanting captures of classic spaces can be viewed on Candida Hofer’s photography of old libraries. Taken mostly on analog lenses, the works manage to bring forth seemingly mundane details that show the space dynamics, quite a treat for photography and design fans.

Work of Candida Hofer, Kotaro Nokuga Gallery, November 2023

A beautiful play on spaces and lines are presented well by the pairing of works by Sol Lewitt and Jiro Takamatsu. Clean lines, sharp angles, a wonderful study of 3D spacing, the gallery’s white walls and incoming sunlight subtly added sensations in viewing the works.

Work of Sol LeWitt and Jiro Takamatsu, Yumiko Chiba Associates, November 2023

Art lovers into more pronounced emotions will find much to relish from the works of Palestinian British artist Rosalind Nashashibi and Japan’s own master Masato Kobayashi. Nashashibi’s address of borders between finite and infinite takes the opposite of Kobayashi’s free and flexible forms, yet both artists invoke immediate emotion upon viewing their works.

Work of Masato Kobayashi, Shugoarts, November 2023

Work of Rosalind Nashashibi, Taka Ishii Gallery, November 2023

The Collectors
The ecosystem supporting AWT 2023 is rounded up with notable collectors, Takeo Obayashi and Kazunari Shirai, opening their doors to selected guests and media personnels. One premise in a well-heeled neighborhood while the other in a commercial district, both multi-story buildings house well-curated, tastefully displayed artworks that are mostly not to be photographed or recorded. For those fortunate enough to be invited, meet the artists whose works are on display or the collectors themselves, the experience is both educational and social—the ultimate highlight of the art-filled week.

Artist Mika Tajima and her work, Obayashi Collection at Yu-Un Guesthouse, November 2023

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