Art Fair Galapagos


Good to see that some effort was made at Art Fair Tokyo this past weekend to discuss failures in the internationalisation of Japanese contemporary art. This took place during a talk show debate on Saturday under the title “An End to Galapagos-ization: Energizing the Japanese Art Scene”. Unfortunately, however, despite all the kind and encouraging remarks to welcome international visitors at Japan’s biggest shop window of modern and contemporary art, no-one seem too concerned at this talk with the big irony that the lack of any translation for the discussion meant that any international visitors were effectively excluded from the event. Without a very high level of advanced oral Japanese, there was no way that any foreigner could participate. As one such visitor commented: “Demo Galapagoso-go o hanashimasen!”

Yet that’s precisely what Galapagos-isation is all about! It was good to hear intelligent and critical minds such as Misa Shin, Akira Tatehata and Edan Corkill discuss these issues in relation to the art market, the museum system, and the lack of international experience of younger curators. But it is hard to imagine a similar mono-lingual approach at, say, an international art fair in Singapore, Taiwan or Shanghai. Art Fair Tokyo really should have spent some money on some decent intepretation for these talks.

Another version of Galapagos-isation was on view across town at Spiral in Omotesando, in a much advertised show called Koh-Jutsu curated by the irrepressible Tsutomo Ikeuchi. Yes, many observers, me included, have observed a distinct return to fine craftwork, elaborate skill, and hard technical labour in much recent contemporary art in Japan. Another version was on show last week at the MOT Annual Neo-Ornamentalism selection. Yet the conceptual complexities that lie behind this choice for practicing artists – I think of the work of Satoru Aoyama, Kei Takemura, or Ruriko Moriyama, for example – are completely lost in Ikeuchi’s reduction of some artists’ recent work to a specifically “Japanese discipline of craft and technique”. In the text accompanying the show, Ikeuchi goes for pure nihon jinron. He speaks of the “pride and nobility” of Japanese craft, as if there was nothing to these artists apart from their extraordinary “delicacy and dextrousness”. It’s a dangerous line of thought. It flirts with aesthetic nationalism, and also underlines the complete irrelevancy of Japan to most theoretical trends of the global art scene.

A third version accompanied the press presentation of Roppongi Crossing 3 at the Mori Museum. This is a strong and very well curated show, and there is no need for any shame among those involved in presenting it as the best of Japan now to curious foreign visitors. In fact, what’s wrong here is the sheer apathy and ignorance of the Western art press about contemporary art in Japan after Murakami and Nara, such that nobody from this press even shows up at the opening of the show. It doesn’t fit their theories or art critique, and anyway they are more easily bought by free tickets to China or India these days. As we know, too, hardly anyone either ever makes the effort to understand past decades of art history in Japan and their importance to art today. “Dumb Type? What’s that? We thought everything began and ended with Superflat and Micropop”.

However, I was alarmed by the reaction of the curators, particularly Chieko Kinoshita, to my question about this issue. Kinoshita, a tough minded and bold curator, simply dismissed the problem. She was not disappointed at all that Western critics apparently are not interested in their show. We don’t need to get a reputation with them, she said. Japanese art has to mature in its own ways. What we need to do is worry about getting Japanese society interested in Japanese art, she continued. The art we show has to have meaning first and foremost to Japanese society.

Galapagos was an island in which many weird and wonderful creatures evolved and matured in isolation. There were birds that couldn’t fly, iguanas that lived like fish, and tortoises the size of small elephants. Rather like contemporary art in Japan – which often takes mutant forms of more familiar Western and Asian currents – they flourished in many small ways on the island, without needing to face the pressures of the outside world looking in. However, although a lot of these forms can mature if left alone, they simply die out when they come into contact with outside life, unfit in evolutionary terms to deal with the pressures of global competition. Some leading art world figures in Japan think that Galapagos, untouched and unbothered by the outside world, is a good place to be. But a lot of artists I know in Japan do not think this way at all about the art they are doing. They are global artists; they have travelled and learned from foreign countries, and they want to be appreciated on those terms. So why all this folding in against the outside, as if Japan has nothing to contribute to the world, or is only talking to itself?

Still, for me, there is one consolation in all this Galapagos-isation. The island of Galapagos was remote and hard to understand. But it also gave birth to the ideas of arguably the most important and influential scientist of the last two hundred years. Mr Charles Darwin – a writer much beloved by Damien Hirst, among others.

[On The Origin of Species, 150th anniversary edition, cover illustration by Damien Hirst]



日本のアートは、単に、重大になり、他をまねするのをやめる必要があります。 メディアは、無分別な装飾のギャラリーにより清算されることをやめて、真実によってパワーに立ち上がるために、いくつかのボールを持っている必要があります。 アートに広告内容を傾ける S.M.A.Pと違って、製造アート星 who stick窶 sorry テッペイ、ナワ、千葉、ケンゴ、ニナガワなど を傾けます
確実なアートは楽しみであるかもしれないけれども、そこで、work.を持ち上げる簡単な審美的な喜びより多くである必要があり いくつかのアイデア 、評論、curation、および少ない詐欺を改良します。 実際アートを、心から、去る傾向があらせようとするアーティストに気づいてください。 どこでしますか ニシTatzu 横澤典、タダシカワマタ、ライブであるカワラなどの畠山直哉 ? なぜ従って?
segoiとkawai?を過ぎる「市場」または実際の危険な議論の間、開始評価アートが、いくらかの弱い大宣伝引き起こされた希望ではなく、内容に基づいて貸されます。 公的なごみと、そしてそれらに供給しているどの内容=どのart.生活費も、通り過ぎるのをやめず、到来買物およびナンセンスがやめられます。

2010/05/06 21:00



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Art Fair Galapagos
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