Since the pandemic, Japan appears to be making an ambitious and concerted effort to reclaim its status as a key player in the global art market.
Speaking with Artsy, Tokyo Art Week Co-founder and gallerist Atsuko Ninagawa said, “Japan has one of the largest populations in the world and the third-largest GDP, which makes it culturally self-sufficient to some extent, but it cannot be a true global culture, able to introduce new perspectives. and values to the world, if it does not engage with what is happening with its neighbors and beyond.
She added, “One of the goals of Tokyo Art Week is to maintain and develop Japan’s connection to international discourse, which has suffered from the pandemic.” Tokyo Art Week 2022 is currently running, November 3-6.
Gozo Yoshimasu, installation view of “Voice” at Take Ninagawa, 2022. Courtesy of Take Ninagawa, Tokyo.
Ninagawa, owner and director of Take the Ninagawa Gallery, is not alone in these goals. In early 2021, Taro Kono, a Japanese minister for regulatory reform, worked with other local ministries to deregulate the country’s import procedures, duties and taxes on art businesses in customs areas. Previously, these tax laws, which heavily affected high-value artworks, were seen as a contributing factor to the reluctance of international galleries to come to Japan.
The sculpture of tax regulations may seem long overdue, but it is rather timely, given the recent changes in the gallery scene in Japan.
Satoru Arai, director of COMMON Gallery– a stalwart of contemporary art and street culture in Harajuku – noted that many new galleries have popped up in Tokyo. “A new Japanese art map centered on the three areas of Roppongi, Terrada Warehouse (Tennoz Isle) and Harajuku has begun to emerge,” Arai said.
Waku, installation view of “Afterimage” at Gallery COMMON, 2022. Photo by Yosuke Torii. Courtesy of COMMON Gallery.
Marie Imai Kobayashi, director of the Los Angeles-based gallery’s Tokyo outpost Blum & Poe, agreed: “We have seen several new galleries spring up in Tokyo over the past three years,” she said. “This obviously expands the local market and audience engagement, which every gallery can benefit from.”
Furthermore, the recent Hit as the capital of Asian art rivaled the Japanese art scene. Japan was a dominant force in the art world in the 1980s, with local collectors rupture international auction records, before the economic bubble burst and its disastrous effects became evident, plunging the country into decades of downturn.
“The support provided by both the Korean government and private entities has served them well,” Kobayashi observed. “The Japanese art world can learn from this success; however, Japan will grow through our own unique ecosystem.
Kenjirō Okazaki, installation view of “TOPICA PICTUS Revisited: Forty Red, White, And Blue Shoestrings And A Thousand Telephones” at Blum & Poe, Tokyo, 2022. Photo by SAIKI. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe.
Last November saw the first edition of Art Week Tokyo, organized by Japan Contemporary Art Platform in cooperation with the Contemporary Art Dealers Association Nippon, and supported by major art fair conglomerate Art Basel.
Bringing together 50 venues across the city, the inaugural edition included the renowned Mori Art Museum, as well as international and local galleries such as Blum & Poe, SCAI The Bathhouse and Taka Ishii Gallery.
Not to be outdone, in June 2022, the organizers behind Taipei Dangdai and Art SG – both considered major fairs in the region –announcement the launch of Tokyo Gendai. This new Japanese fair will be held in 2023, from July 7 to 9, at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center.
Last October, aTokyo, which runs Art Fair Tokyo, launched M5 Gallery, a new space aimed at attracting the world’s top galleries without a physical space in the city. M5 Gallery is a response to galleries interested in organizing short-term exhibitions and engaging with local collectors.
Mitsuko Miwa, installation view of “Full House”, at SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, 2022. ©Mitsuko Miwa. Photo by Nobutada Omote. Courtesy of the artist and SCAI THE BATHHOUSE.
Installation view of “STRATA”, at WAITINGROOM, 2022. ©︎ Naho Kawabe and Hanae Utamura. Photo by Shintaro Yamanaka. Courtesy of the artists and WAITINGROOM.
Now, following the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions for visitors to Japan last month, the latest iteration of Art Week Tokyo is hosting 350 VIP visitors from all over the world, thanks to a 48-hour bus tour of more than 20 art galleries and visits to museums and private collections.
This multitude of new initiatives related to the art market in Japan is justified, given the notable rise of the country’s collector base, alongside the growing number of collectors in Asia. “There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Japan-based collectors,” Kobayashi said. “A lot of people here have recently started collecting. It was less common when Blum & Poe opened in Tokyo in 2014.”
A representative of a top notch gallery Perrotin agreed: “We have also seen that domestically, the market is broadening, with younger generations showing more interest, knowledge and involvement in art (both Japanese and international). In recent years in particular, we have seen an increase in the number of Japanese first-time buyers. »
AWT BAR order from Art Week Tokyo designed by Motosuke Mandai. © Mandai Architects. Courtesy of Tokyo Art Week.
In addition to the emergence of young collectors who prefer to buy paintings that look good on digital images, Japanese collectors have also become more independent over the past two decades, especially in terms of developing and respecting their own tastes.
One such collector is Art Week Tokyo co-founder Kazunari Shirai, CEO of asset management firm Sequedge Group, owner of publisher Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, and founder of welfare firm Zenkoukai. , based between Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Shirai’s art collection includes over 300 works of art, spanning minimalism, conceptual art, monochromes and new media art, with a particular focus on works that incorporate language and text. In its aoyama emergence complex, a property in Minami-Aoyama, a selection of the collection can be seen, along with site-specific installations by French artist Patrick Blanc and the Scottish mixed-media artist. Jim Lambie. This space is also the base of Art Week Tokyo’s VIP lounge, information center and bar.
Also worth noting is the unique East Asian art movement centered on Japanese artists that has grown in recent years, according to dealers on the ground.
Arai from COMMON Gallery shared that many artists have been influenced by anime and pop culture, and the pandemic has only encouraged this phenomenon. Additionally, thanks to social media, artists have been able to reach audiences at a rate and scale that they have never been able to reach before.
“On the other hand, the secondary market has seen the prices of works of art soar, and it has above all become necessary for galleries to respond to this calmly”, he added.
Artists contributing to this new movement and growing demand include Shohei Takasakiwho is known for his visually striking and wild paintings; Yukari Nishithe nostalgic surrealist paintings of; Wakuthe innovative and atmospheric light installations of; and Ichi Tashirowith his eclectic works inspired by past movements involving found objects and the art of process.
Haroshi, installation view of “Dive In To The Pit” at Jeffrey Deitch, 2022. Courtesy of Jeffrey Deitch.
Street culture is a well-known influence in Japanese contemporary art, and this phenomenon is not expected to subside anytime soon, given its global appeal. Tokyo-based artist Haroshiwho creates sculptures and installations through a specific self-taught method of relying on old skateboard decks, recently presented a solo exhibition titled “Dive into the pitthis fall at jeffrey deich At New York.
Haroshi already had a solo exhibition at Nanzuka Underground last year. Gallery founder Shinji Nanzuka made Haroshi a key artist in Japan worth paying attention to, especially given his artistic roots in the country’s street culture, encompassing fashion, toys, music and art, since the 1980s.
Ultimately, Japan’s status as a globally respected arbiter of taste and Tokyo’s future as a burgeoning art capital hinges on its consistently diverse and innovative artistic output.
“One of the pleasures of hosting Art Week Tokyo is reconfirming just how deep and rich the art scene here is,” Ninagawa said, “with everything from top-notch international artists to art new media and socially engaged practices as well as underground artists and artists from artisanal traditions.