Taking place at the conveniently located Tokyo International Forum, ART FAIR TOKYO is organized by the Art Tokyo Association and is a mere 1 minute walk from Yurakucho Station near to the famous Ginza district. This fair not only has the accolade of being the largest art fair in Japan but also the oldest in Asia. The fair features a wide range of art from modern and contemporary art to nihonga paintings, sculptures, installations and even antiquities.
With the original press release of the fair citing social innovations and the impact and evolution of technology and the diversification of media I expected to see art that would involve flashing lights, LED screens and perhaps even robots which are always crowd pleaser’s and popular on Instagram. Thankfully the fair had none of these things and was elegant, well curated and in line with previous years.
Having said that, this year marked a slight difference in the feel of the fair as there was a stronger presence of galleries from outside of Japan, which included galleries from France, Switzerland and Italy along with the debut of over 20 fresh galleries to the fair. There was a strong presence of edition works from various artists such as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Yayoi Kusama, which now seems increasingly popular at all art fairs as it offers people an affordable way to collect a top tier artist blue chip artists. With a total of 137 galleries the fair certainly had something for everyone!
One of the key visuals for Art Fair Tokyo 2017 was a graphic with a feeling of three-dimensionality that conveyed this year’s theme and catch phrase of the fair which was: “Art is Alive: Getting Closer to Art, Art Getting Closer.
Art is crucial in today’s society as it can serve as a form of communication that anyone can use as it has the unique ability of crossing over the barriers of time, location, culture and language.
At the fair, we caught up with Kato gallery who along with their usual stable of artists, had brought some Singaporean based artists including some colourful abstract works from the Singaporean artist, Terence Teo. It is always important to see Singaporean artists being exposed to new markets, with this incursion hopefully the start of a new opportunity.
A gallery of note was NUKAGA GALLERY who in contrast to previous shows, where their works were filled with various colours, opted to feature basic black and white. The owner of the gallery, Kotaro Nukaga, told me that he was inspired by the displays that he saw in Europe at Art Basel 2016 and that he sought to recreate the effect but with solely Japanese artists. I must admit that, even though I love colour, the grouping of monochrome works by various artists from different genres really looked amazing, with all eyes turning to the stunning 1950’s piece from Yayoi Kusama.
Another interesting feature at the fair was observing the fusion of fashion and art, which seems to be ever more prevalent, with collaborations of luxury brands and artists. Following the theme of “living close to art” the partnership of Tokyo Girls Collection 2017, Spring/Summer Collection sought to connect art and fashion to different generations of consumers and quite frankly, I loved it, as I found it different and fresh.
My special find and star pick of the fair goes to Momoe Fukomoto, who was represented by Gallery Tazu Art.
Momoe was born in 1984 and has been an artist since 2015. The themes of the works that she presented at the fair were that of both flowers and birds. Her works take about 2-3 weeks to complete and are created with natural pigments on Japanese paper. Under her brush, the delicate petals of the flowers have a light and ethereal feel to them, the bird’s feathers a vibrant and playful glean and both seem to convey a sense and depth of reality, subtle yet intriguing, drawing the viewer ever closer.
This was another exciting effort from a fair that never fails to deliver and this writer looks forward to its next annual edition.