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
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. www.artfairtokyo.com