Yuken Teruya, Minding My Own Business, 2011
Beginning of the year witnessed series of contemporary events such as The Yebisu International Festival for Art&Alternative visions, New Tokyo Contemporaries and Tokyo Frontline, a new art fair held at 3331 Chiyoda Arts in Akihabara which in tandem with G-Tokyo now in its second year emerged as a competitive alternative to Art Fair Tokyo. G-Tokyo which is limited to 15 of Tokyo's top contemporary galleries opened on Feb 19th with an impressive group of Japanese artists on view. Although rising young artists has been Tomio Koyama Gallery successful card this time the gallery took a bold step to present veteran conceptual artist Kishio Suga hoping for his revival while Mizuma Gallery showed works by Akira Yamaguchi which sold out in the the first 30 minutes of the collectors' preview.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that followed sent the Japanese art world into a kind of stunned silence. Some exhibitions and events were postponed immediately in the disaster aftermath. By mid year life in Japan started to come back to normal though throughout the year numerous galleries held several auctions to rise the money for the victims and shows featuring past and present works addressing the disaster.
Kohei Nawa, PixCell-Elk#2, 2009
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT) run by renown curator Yuko Hasegawa, presented sculptor Kohei Nawa whose work has been getting attention both in Japan and overseas. The exhibition brought together sculptures and drawings created using six mediums that Nawa is famous for: beads, prisms, liquids, glue, polyurethane foam mist and ink droplets. It was followed by Architecture space for the 21st Century, a show curated by SANAA which was a vital follow up to World Congress of Architects held for the first time in Tokyo. National Museum of Modern Art (MOMAT) showed a retrospective of Taro Okamoto that marked the centennial of his birth. Privately run Mori Art Museum (MAM) presented stop-motion video of Berlin-based Yukihiro Taguchi followed by Metabolism - the City of the Future.
Located in the commercial complex in Shinjuku Tokyo Opera City art gallery held Takashi Homma New Documentary along with Lee Ufan retrospective followed by House Inside City Outside House: Tokyo Metabolizing featuring contemporary architects such as Atelier Bow-Wow and Ryue Nishizawa seen from the Metabolist perspective. Next door NTT InterCommunication Center which focus on new media art presented emerging artist Seiko Mikami's interactive installations while Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography organized mid career show of Naoya Hatakeyama.
In Tokyo's neighbouring metropolis of Yokohama, Yokohama Museum of Arts hosted Tadasu Takamine ambiguous show Too far to see followed by the fourth Yokohama Triennale Our Magic Hour organized by the museum's director, Eriko Osaka, and Akiko Miki, chief curator at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Among works by 77 artists were pieces from graphic designer Tadanori Yokoo, Yagi Lyota, Taro Izumi, Imamura Ryosuke, Yokoo Tadanori, Takahiro Iwasaki and Noguchi Rika. Northwest of the capital, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, held a large solo show of monochrome, metallic paintings and installations by New York-based veteran minimalist Tadaaki Kuwayama. To the southwest, National Museum of Art, Osaka presented Kuwayama's all-white paintings and retrospective of photographer Daido Moriyama.
Makoto Aida, Ash Color Mountains, 2009-10
Abroad, Japanese art were present at the Venice Biennale with Tabaimo new animated video telecosoup on view in Japanese Pavillion, Tatzu Nishi installation at the Singapore Biennale and Yuken Teruya, Saburo Ora and Yanobe Kenji at the biennale City_net Asia at Seoul Museum of Art. It was particularly big year for Yayoi Kusama, who exhibited recent sculptors and paintings at Victoria Miro in London, Gagosian Gallery in Rome, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid and had her first French retrospective at Centre Pompidou. In New York , The Guggenheim Museum held a major retrospective of Lee Ufan, a Mono-ha artist and Japan Society presented Bye, Bye Kitty !!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art curated by David Elliot, a former director of MAM, presenting 16 artists who rejected kawaii aesthetic of contemporary Japanese pop culture. Hopefully those shows steal back some attention for Japan from Asian hottest Chinese, Indian and Korean art.