If you are in Tokyo and need to see something new I’d recommend visiting the annual Japan Media Arts Festival exhibition held in Roppongi’s National Art Center. This year is the 17th festival, that was started to promote outstanding works in the categories of Art, Entertainment, Animation and Manga. 4347 entries from 84 countries competed for cash prices and a chance to exhibit here in Tokyo. Naturally the entries are Japan-heavy but there are a few international entries as well. This year’s show was slightly different from last year’s, in that the exhibition room was bright and airy compared to the darker space created last year. My favorites was a little fly held aloft by sound beams and manipulated by a hand held light, the Lapillus Bug, as well as a fantastically beautiful video game, “rain“. There were lots of other cool stuff as well,too many to mention here, but the official website has a lot of info and links.
If you haven’t already seen it, the MACHINE-Z robot band was also a pretty cool entry that unfortunately failed to woo any of the resident judges.
Of all the artists exhibiting at this year’s graduate show at the Tokyo University of the Arts, Yasuhiro Asai (浅井保宏) was my favorite among the painters. I found his dark and action filled oil paintings to show both his imagination and his skill, which for me is very important in young artists. I foresee a great future for this artist, born in 1989 here in Tokyo.
If you are in Tokyo this week and remotely interested in modern art then you could worse than spending a day at the Tokyo University of the Arts Graduation Works Exhibition. Tokyo Geidai (for short) is one of Japan’s oldest art unis, dating back to 1887, and the campus looks the part of of an old well established art school. Today Geidai has over 2000 graduate students and half that again in post-grads. In a nation of 127 million you can imagine that being accepted as a students is pretty difficult. I consider myself a more than averagely experienced viewer of graduation works and I’d say that the Tokyo University of the Arts excel at sculpture with a quite a few exceptional works produced by grad students every year, although it is impossible to infer the actual studying experience in a school just from the graduation show. For westerners, the schools two most famous alumni might be the composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and the artist Takashi Murakami.
Even if you are not into art itself, attending the graduation show is a great opportunity to see the inside of a Japanese art university, the buildings, the labs and the grounds are quite unique with lots of history and that unique mix of Japanese high tech combined with grotty concrete studio rooms and the little fun details provided by generations of creative students. I took these photos in and around the campus, focusing more on the buildings than on the art. I think I could go back and spend another day or two just picking out details and odd architecture! The place has some fantastic views and rooms.
As it was the first day of the graduation show and also on a Sunday it was very very crowded. I sometimes had to wait quite a bit to get the relatively empty photos of this series. But it also meant that there were lots of interesting artists in place to explain and discuss their work and I spent a lot of time just listening to them describing their work. Artists, especially Japanese, have such a down to earth matter of fact way of talking about art, very different from the way media, critics and auction houses do.
The graduation show goes on until noon on the 31st of January and is located very close to Ueno Park. You can use the JR Ueno, Nippori and Uguisudani stations or the Nezu suway station. Official web site in Japanese is here.
Isetan is the name of a large department store chain here in Japan, who happens to have an excellent sense in illustrators. A few times a year the store runs a major shop window decoration campaign relying heavily on the art of a relatively young illustrator. The other day as I was passing by I saw these windows using artwork of the fantastic Kyotaro, an illustrator with an impressive and varied resume (make sure to visit the gallery on this site). It’s not easy to take decent photos of shop windows, but it was a swelteringly hot overcast day so I think I did a reasonable amount trying to keep the glare out of the photos. If you pass Shinjuku make sure to walk past Isetan!