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Art Fair Tokyo 2007 Review - 04-12-2007, 02:56 PM

Today is the last day of Art Fair Tokyo, the Japanese art event held at Tokyo International Forum. Last held in 2005, the 2007 event is bigger and more heavily promoted than the previous year, as many Japanese art insiders sense an increasing interest in Japanese contemporary art. Could the Japanese art market be getting ready to make like China and explode? Time will tell. For now, let's take a look at Art Fair Tokyo.

According to the (bilingual) literature, there were 90 galleries - representing over 600 artists - in attendance at this year's fair. I didn't count them, but it seemed like a decent number of galleries, considering that the vast majority of them are Japanese. The lack of big name international galleries was just one of the curious aspects of this fair.

Overall, I enjoyed the event. It was great to be able to visit most of the major contemporary Japanese galleries - and quite a few of the smaller ones as well - in a single location. Yes, like just about every other art fair, it was crowded and loud - and each booth was too small to display the art in a way that the artists and gallerists would probably prefer the work to be seen. That said, it's possible to get an idea of what many of the galleries are about in a single afternoon's perusal.

The most surprising - perhaps disappointing - aspect of the fair was the conspicuous absence of several major artists. I don't think I saw a single work by the current kings of Japanese contemporary art - Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara. When you visit an international art fair, these are the artists who represent Japan. When many international collectors and art fans think of Japanese contemporary art, they think of these two artists. Yet, this is the biggest fair inside of Japan and neither of them were anywhere to be found. The other top tier artists from Murakami's Kaikai Kiki family were missing as well. There wasn't (as far as I saw) a sign of Chiho Aoshima, Mr., or Aya Takano.

A few works from the big name Japanese contemporary artists - and perhaps the participation of some of the big galleries that represent them in Europe and America - might have helped to add a little star power to the show, as well as bringing out more of the big international collectors. Beyond the exclusion of these artists and galleries, there was a feeling that some of the major Japanese contemporary galleries may not have brought out their A+ works. Several of the Tokyo galleries showing at this fair also show at Basel and the other big international fairs. Would those galleries have brought the same quality of work to Basel as they brought to Art Fair Tokyo? It's likely they would have brought higher quality works to Basel. Again, Art Fair Tokyo is young, so let's see what happens next year.

Speaking of Murakami: even though his works were missing, Kaikai Kiki did have a booth at the fair. They were promoting one of their up and coming artists - high-school-aged Akane Koide. Quite a crowd gathered to watch the young artist at work in a live painting exhibition. When she wasn't touching up the mural-sized images, a monitor played a video of her painting away in a schoolgirl uniform. By the looks of her works that they had on display, she definitely has talent. Some of the works, though, reminded me quite a lot of Takano Aya.

While some of the big Japanese contemporary artists weren't in the house, Mizuma Gallery had a small but nice installation by internationally known - and often controversial - Aida Makoto at their booth. It appeared to be sold, along with most (or all) of the other Mizuma pieces on display. Other notable Japanese contemporary galleries including Tomio Koyama, Scai The Bathhouse, Koyanagi, Taka Ishii, Shugoarts, Nishimura Gallery, Yamaoto Gendai, and others who I have run out of space to name, all brought interesting pieces. As with most fairs, the galleries offered a mix of work by their well known artists and young artists who they where hoping to expose to a wider audience.

Besides the big contemporary galleries, there were a number of smaller galleries representing emerging Japanese and international artists - and even several booths that seemed to be run by individual artists themselves. One of those was a small space featuring the work of Geisai artist Maki Hosokawa. Hosokawa was working the space herself - talking to interested art fans and handing out promotional material. Her booth was hung with cute paintings of Japanese girls with very large eyes. All of the pieces appear to have been sold.

There were also quite a few spaces dedicated to non-contemporary art - older looking Japanese art and antiques. Due to a lack of time, and more of an interest in contemporary art, I didn't have a chance to visit that area in much detail. Thus, I'll avoid commenting on that part of the fair.

The day that I attended, the fair was pretty crowded, but not so crowded that you couldn't move around comfortably. There were a mix of Japanese and Westerners in the crowd. From what I could tell, people seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were several talks being held during the fair on various subjects relating to art.

While Art Fair Tokyo didn't have all of the glamour or star power of the big international art fairs, any event that brings more attention to Japanese art and artists should be applauded. The fair is still young, with plenty of time to grow and find its own identity in the crowded world of art fairs.

Hopefully, many of the people who visited this year's fair for the first time will leave inspired to visit Japanese galleries more often - and maybe even buy some Japanese art of their own.

More photos: Art Fair Tokyo 2007 Gallery

Official Site: Art Fair Tokyo
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04-16-2007, 10:08 PM

That looks amazing, wish i could of gone, perhaps another time though.
Looks so good and so inspiring.


"You don't take a photograph, you make it."
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Talking Hiya~!!! - 07-29-2007, 06:11 PM

Hiya~!! Do you live in Japan, or were you just visiting?

People keep saying that flying is the safest way to travel, but I've never seen a tricycle get hijacked by terrorists. OHMIGAWD~!!! I just burned all your butts! Put that in your juice box and suck it advertisers!

Someone should sue red bull for false advertising. It does NOT give you wings...I found that out the hard way...

What we do today will forever echo throughout eternity...so don't screw it up.
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