Tokyo Art Fair
The annual event offers a time to indulge your senses and trust your taste
By: C.B. Liddell | Apr 1, 2010 | Issue: 836 | 5 Comments | 31,596 views

Does the traditional gallery system have any real merit in the modern era? With the internet and other avenues open to them, artists have plenty of ways to publicize their work without paying hefty commissions to what are essentially middlemen. But one thing is certain: in light of the tough business climate, galleries are trying extra hard to justify their existence.

One result of this effort is Art Fair Tokyo, whose fifth annual edition takes place this weekend in Yurakucho. Scheduled in the spring when optimism is at a high, the event sees the gallery world circle its wagons by hiring a chunk of Tokyo International Forum and putting on an impressive show. The implicit message seems to be: “We’re still here, and we still count.”

Last year’s fair attracted 45,000 visitors, and this year, with 138 galleries participating, the organizers are hoping for even more. The conjunction of artistic expertise and curatorial cognizance is sure to throw up some interesting works, and might possibly point to some intriguing trends for the coming year.

Because of the sheer diversity of pieces on display, the fair is likely to strike visitors as a kind of “art jungle” through which to thread their way guided only by their personal tastes. So, in a similar spirit of aesthetic subjectivity, here are my top seven picks from this year’s extravaganza.

1. Friends (2009), by Suzuka Yoshida

Images courtesy of Art Fair Tokyo

A sense of nostalgia permeates this charming, dreamlike painting

2. Wicked Fish Swimming in the Darkness (2009), by Shugo Tajima

A playful imagination is unleashed within the confines of nihonga art

3. Harmony of the Fairy and the Dragon (2007), by Masaaki Sasamoto

Using traditional Japanese painting techniques, Sasamoto’s canvas creates a sense of story and character

4. A Fat Woman (2008), by Liu Zheng

The pose of the woman in Zheng’s photo unexpectedly reveals the beauty and melodiousness of her obese curves and rolls of fat

5. Untitled (2007) by Kaoruku

Kaoruku’s paintings of vampish cuties are always interesting, but this one has beautiful color harmony and a surrealistic twist thanks to the goldfishes

6. A Road Mirage to Mirror a Cloud On (2010), by Kazuhiro Uno

Uno’s hyper-realist painting is both a tour de force of brushwork and a tasty piece of trick art

7. Kappa (2009), by Hajime Emoto

Reminiscent of zoological hoaxes and frauds, Emoto’s playful attempt to create what looks like the desiccated mummy of a kappa appeals to the Fortean in all of us

Tokyo International Forum
Art Fair Tokyo 2010. Various media. Apr 2, 11am-9pm; Apr 3, 11am-8pm; Apr 4, 10:30am-5pm. ¥1,500 (1 day free pass). 3-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-5221-9000. Nearest stn: Yurakucho.



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  • angangang

    To answer the (perhaps rhetorical) question:yes,traditional (meaning,I suppose,flesh-and-blood,bricks-and-glass) galleries have as much meaning as ever.

    I suppose the question is predicated on the dated belief (old when it was new) that somehow a phoney gallery with no existence but on some obnoxious screen might be considered a substitute. This always made about as much sense as tv being a substitute for an actual life with real people and things.

    Tokyo’s particular problem has to do with the abysmal lack of quality of its so-called art galleries,at least in the private,contemporary,commercial realm.

    Where ARE the art-lovers in Japan? Hiding behind keyboards in ad agencies? Cutting expensive hair? Designing yet more handbags/eyelashes/fingernails/stuffed cute toys? —Where are they?

    The general run of jaded,antiquated pseudo-intellectual posturing is pathetic and would have qualified as pretty mouldy in the West,twenty years ago.And the rest?….manga?!….bunnies and kitties?………..pornish photos of schoolgirls?

    The sad thing seems to be that just about all the real visual-art talent in Japan has been sucked up by commerce and is only allowed to show itself obliquely in advertising or shop displays or whatever.—And that’s it!….a lousy,watered-down corporate mush with anything mentally or visually nutritious buried deep in the porridge.

    That,at least,is the only alternative to strictly traditional “copy” art,whether caligraphy or ink-brush or whatever.(Which is fine,but it still isn’t actual living breathing evolving contemporary art.).

    There seems to be a shameful lack of enterprise and imagination among gallery owners and/or directors in Japan.Why isn’t there some glimmer of light,of competitiveness?

    Thank goodness for the ricefield murals!
    The score seems to be: farmers,10….gallery owners 0.

    Yay,farmers! so far,you are the only hope for spiritual as well as physical nourishment in Japan.

    ………….A. White.

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  • Dave Irontail

    The fat woman was adorable. Thanks for perceiving beauty where others fail to see.

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