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I’m happy! The reason I’m happy is I love art, and this month a total of four — yes four — new contemporary art spaces opened in Tokyo.

On Oct. 15, the folks who organize NICAF (the sporadic Nippon Contemporary Art Fair), debuted their Nishi Azabu art showroom, “Glass House.” Three nights later, Command N (Masato Nakamura’s avant-garde collective) previewed their new office and gallery in a renovated old house in Yushima. Later that same evening, 500 guests joined Johnnie Walker to fe^te the incorrigible art impresario’s new two-story gallery, A.R.T. Ebisu.

And of course, the main event: Friday, Oct. 17 was the much-anticipated opening party at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi.

The Mori’s nine galleries occupy 2,875 sq. meters on the 52nd and 53rd floors of a resplendent erection called the Mori Tower, which rises from the middle of real-estate tycoon Minoru Mori’s 11.6 hectare “Artellegent City,” Roppongi Hills. The largest-ever private urban development project in Japan, this was 17 years in planning and construction, and cost gazillions.

The Mori Museum was designed by American architect Richard Gluckman, and is nothing short of fabulous. The inaugural exhibition, “Happiness: A Survival Guide for Art and Life,” was curated by Mori director David Elliott and guest curator Pier Luigi Tazzi, and features around 250 works in every imaginable medium by some 150 artists from the 6th century through to the present. Give bold international curators a fat budget and a cutting-edge space, and this is what you get: The best exhibition I’ve ever seen in Japan.

I really don’t have the space to properly cover this show, so please trust me, dear reader, and go and see it. Laugh and cry with the Gilbert and George videos, shake like a leaf before the hauntingly beautiful Fred Tomaselli collages, drift into the ethereal night skies of the most underrated artist of the 20th century, Vija Celmins. And check out the humongous members on those shunga dudes! Go for the breathtaking view; go for the Happiness.

The works are grouped not by historical period or genre, but rather into four categories — “Arcadia,” “Nirvana,” “Harmony” and “Desire.” Thus, in the “Desire” section, for example, viewers will find an 11th-century copper statuette of Lord Shiva’s curvy wife Parvati; a 1906 watercolor of a partying Dionysus by the Fauve artist Andre Derain; and Yayoi Kusama’s 2000 infinity-mirror piece, “God’s Heart.”

This manner of organizing art allows for creative cross-referencing and imaginative juxtapositions, and recalls the controversial decision of the Tate Modern, London, to divide its collection into unorthodox categories (“Landscape/Matter/Environment,” “Nude/ Action/Body,” “History/Memory/Society”) when it opened in 2000.

The centerpiece of the Tate’s inaugural exhibition was French sculptor Louise Bourgeois’ giant steel-and-marble spider statue, “Maman.” The same 9-meter tall piece now stands outside the Mori’s main entrance, and I wonder if that is why many guests at the ritzy opening, and more than a few journalists, have been likening the Mori to the Tate — or to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, or the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Financial Times made the comparison in its preview piece on the Mori, while the New York Times and the London-based Art Newspaper also mentioned these other institutions in their coverage of the Mori opening. For four years now, the Mori has been cultivating relationships, engaging, as “international advisers,” Tate director Nicholas Serota, Pompidou director Alfred Pacquement, MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry, and several other respected and influential overseas museum directors.

And so, the space works, the international bigwigs are online, the affable and dedicated Elliott (former director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Stockholm) is signed on for five years — and the staff have excellent Yohji Yamamoto uniforms, which the Mori Web site informs us were “created so as not to interfere with the viewer’s appreciation of the art on display.”

Everything is in place — except for the museum collection.

Gosh, what a sticky point that is turning out to be. Initially, the Mori seemed to be avoiding comment on the question of a permanent collection. The first reports I heard were that they were going to run not a proper museum but rather a showroom for traveling exhibitions. Now the official line — influenced presumably by Elliott, who supports collecting — is that the Mori will make a decision on how to proceed vis-a-vis a collection in two years’ time.

Amassing a collection is a major undertaking, to be sure. When we visit a show at the likes of the Tate, we see but the tip of a highly structured environment. Below the surface — aside from the people working in research, education and curating — are archive, conservation and restoration departments managing, in the case of MoMA, more than 100,000 works of art. So far, all that lies below the Mori is a very big shopping mall.

And so for now, and wisely I think, the Mori’s priorities are elsewhere — on building and maintaining the goodwill which will allow it to borrow (and rent) pieces from established museums, while developing and implementing local educational and outreach programs. If this stage goes well, we can hope that the next steps will come more easily. After all, MoMA has been building up its collection since 1929.

I also consider wise and good the Mori’s stated intention to position itself with a focus on Asian and non-Western art, which will distinguish it from the collectionless department-store “museums” that popped up in Japan during the bubblicious 1980s.

At the end of the day, now that the Mori has finally opened, the real work and the real challenge begins. So, what are you waiting for — get out and support the place, bring your friends, hang out in the cafe downstairs, make suggestions, buy membership (artists qualify for a discount, so become an artist!), get involved and get happy. Remember, in the words of Robert Filliou: “Art is what makes life more interesting than art.”

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