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21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo Midtown
Closes in 87 days

Lots of art can communicate, but there’s nothing quite as refreshing as art that skews our perspective of the ordinary. At Tokyo’s newest gallery, Tokyo Midtown’s 21_21 Design Sight (www.2121.designsight.jp), “Chocolate,” the world’s most universally loved food, is the sole dish on the menu. Chocolate block handbags by Issey Miyake sit next to stick figures made from the Japanese snack food, Pocky; the cheap convenience store candy bars we have all tucked into are displayed, melted and remodeled into visual puns and encased like expensive jewelry.

This may seem overtly sweet stuff, but, like most desserts, when physically confronted, it’s hard to resist. Directed by renowned product designer Naoto Fukasawa, the show consists not only of work by artists and photographers, but also by graphic, fashion, sound and interior designers. The result is a playful exhibition that lacks pretentiousness. Part contemporary art, part elegant, witty lifestyle goods, one finds oneself teased from product to product as if in a lifestyle shop.

Tadao Ando’s building, which elegantly houses the show, adds to the explorative feel and is like a luxurious candy wrapper as likable as its contents. Descending the complex’s stairs and turning its corners one can’t help think of the excitement the Mori Art Museum and Tokyo City View once had. Is 21_21 Mori’s smaller successor? Only time will tell, but in this overtly design-conscious age, for a short time — at least until the next megacenter is planned — it seems likely.

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