I created this site back in 2009 to share content gathered from my favorite online sources: most of them related to art and design but also websites, videos and short essays on anything from science and management to cool infographs. More often than not, figments has been about distributing content rather than creating it. I have also shared someimpressions about my most recent trips abroad. I recently came back from a four-months journey to India (studying at IIM-Lucknow); if you've followed my previous entries, you will know I am fascinated by Asian cultures.
Theme used: Six to Close by Richard Woodson
Out of seven days in Tokyo, five have been mainly for walking its streets, its different neighborhoods, doing some window shopping, discovering restaurants and well, some actual shopping too. To give a glimpse of the atmosphere of the city I hope to post some pictures when I get back home, so this post will be about the other two days, which I saved almost entirely for galleries and exhibits.
One day was spent at Roppongi. Three institutions have turned this mainly residential area into one of Tokyo’s hubs for contemporary art: the National Art Center, the 21_21 Design Sight, and the Mori Art Museum (atop of the Mori tower).
At the National Art Center, I visited various galleries. Three of them were really just a compilation of (what looked to me like) students work. Some ‘Class of 2012 collection’ of sorts, with scores of works on various mediums, and no curation effort whatsoever.
The main exhibition however, GUTAI: The Spirit of an Era, was well worth a visit.
Celebrating the NACT’s fifth anniversary, the show is a recap of the most remarkable work by this group of Japanese abstract artists. The GUTAI movement lasted two decades (from the 50s to the beginning of the 70s) and while it was widely acclaimed abroad, it did not have so much of a success in Japan. Some of the works featured in the exhibition were shown in their home country for the first time when this show opened.
21_21 Design Sight had a remarkable monographic show called TEMA HIMA: The Art of Living in Tohoku. Naoto Fukasawa and Taku Satoh show in TEMA HIMA, which translates roughly as ‘effort and time’, the craft of 55 japanese artisans. The exhibit was divided in three main spaces. The first room featured a short documentary showcasing the work of all the different craftsmen preparing rice cakes, dying silk or carving wood among others.
The adjacent space displayed samples of the works with pottery piled up and lacquered bowls. The exit of the room led to a corridor with black and white pictures of the craftsmen’s hands. I have always admired craftspeople, so it was worth the time to see how these traditions are preserved here.
I went to the Mori Art Museum warned by the inconsistency of its shows. As the gallery is at the 52nd floor of the colossal Mori Tower, I thought the view would pay off regardless of the work on display. I must admit I would never have expected a contemporary arab art show in Tokyo, but I came away quite satisfied by what I saw.
I confess to be a complete ignorant of arab art, ancient and new, but this definitely picked my curiosity. The highlights for me were Ebtisam Abdulaziz’s Re-Mapping of the arab countries (pictured above), Maha Mustafa’s Black Fountain, and Postcards of war (from the Wonder Beirut series) by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige.
Putting the works that were shown in the exhibitions aside, these three museums have one thing in common which is the beautiful constructions where they are set in. The NACT is featured above, 21_21 is a minimalist underground structure by Tadao Ando and the Mori Tower is one of the most impressive skyscrapers of the city. New-ish contemporary art museums often fail at matching great architecture with good enough art (Zaha Hadid’s MAXI in Rome comes to mind) the way that the big established institutions have in the past; think MoMA or Guggenheim. I am glad to see this is not the case in Tokyo.
Except for 21_21’s brochure, all pictures are my own.