‘Modern Da Vinci’ celebrates birthday with art exhibition

Haruhisa Handa, who wears many hats as a calligrapher, painter, singer, noh performer and philanthropist, held an opening ceremony for a solo exhibition of his painting and calligraphy works in Tokyo on March 18.

The exhibition, which runs until March 31 at Izumi Garden Gallery in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, displays 182 of Handa’s more than 3,000 works, including nine paintings he recently completed, 23 created earlier this year and last and 150 other pieces from his portfolio.

The opening ceremony began with greetings and speeches by prominent guests, including many well-known politicians, who congratulated Handa, also known as Toshu Fukami, on the opening of the exhibition and his 66th birthday. The exhibition is titled “Toshu Fukami’s 17th Birthday Exhibition.”

The first guest to speak was former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who was in office from November 2008 until December. Last month Key accepted a position as ambassador for the International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS), of which Handa is the chairman. Key has been to Tokyo several times and has met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The ISPS was the sole title sponsor for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open golf tournament, which was held earlier this month. The ISPS is a major supporter of blind golf, as well as the internationalization of the Japanese golf industry, and promoter of other sports.

“On behalf of people in New Zealand, I wish you a very happy birthday,” Key said to hundreds of attendees eager to see the Handa exhibition.

Other politicians in attendance included Shizuka Kamei, who has held several ministerial posts and is also the International Foundation for Arts and Culture (IFAC) honorary chairman; Jiro Hatoyama, a Lower House member and the son of late Liberal Democratic Party bigwig Kunio Hatoyama; Kenko Matsuki a former member of the Democratic Party; Banri Kaieda also of the Democratic Party; and others.

“Dr. Fukami is often said to be today’s Da Vinci. While some people say that is an exaggeration, I truly think he is a modern Da Vinci,” said Kamei, who served as the state minister of banking and postal services from September 2009 to June 2010 in addition to holding other ministerial posts.

The next speaker was Koji Kinutani, an honorary professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts, who said, “I learn every day from Dr. Fukami’s energy and the strength of his heart.”

After the guest speeches, Handa greeted them and the audience, thanking them for coming to enjoy the 17th birthday exhibition.

“I would like to keep trying new things. The way you feel a year is long is to do something you have never done. If you do the same thing as you did last year, the time passes really quickly,” he said.

Handa has been involved in the arts his entire life and has always taken on new challenges. He took up sho calligraphy in high school, began performing noh in college, started painting at age 35 and playing music at 40.

Handa, who is also an advisor to the Modern Japanese Calligraphers Association, chairman of the International Calligraphy Research Institute and author of several books on calligraphy, then showed off his calligraphy skills, writing the kanji character haru (spring) with a brush the size of a broom on paper the size of a table tennis table.

He has done live calligraphy performances in several places in the past, including at the British Museum in November 2014. His art works were also displayed at the museum.

The calligraphy demonstration was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the exhibition.

Handa then showed Key and his wife around the exhibition and explained some of his works, including “Flying Yayoi Kusama.”

In addition to ISPS, Handa is also the chairman of IFAC, which has held international concerts in Tokyo featuring famous singers and musicians such as David Foster, former Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera and many others, including Grammy Award winners. The IFAC also holds the International High School Arts Festival every year, in which the foundation gives awards to top art works created by Japanese and foreign high school students in the spirit of nurturing tomorrow’s artists.

He is also the chairman of the Tokyo Art Foundation (TAF), which organizes various concerts and plays.

On the philanthropic front, Handa is the chairman of Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), which holds a variety of summit meetings on world welfare. He is engaged in AIDS eradication activities in Lesotho and supports orphanages and carries out other philanthropic activities in Cambodia.

The Izumi Garden Gallery is four minutes from Roppongi-Itchome Station on the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line and eight minutes from Kamiyacho Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.