39art Day

by Jason Jenkins

Taking place internationally on March 9

Mark it on your calendars, folks. The ninth day of the third month of the year is “Thank You Art” day. Artist Yoshiaki Kaihatsu started “39art Day” (www.39art.com) eight years ago to encourage people to consider the place art has in their lives (3-9 in Japanese, san-kyu, sounds like “Thank you”). It was also a way for the gallery/museum scene to reach out to the public at large. How one participates is up to them: Discounts on artwork and entrance fees are common, as are extended hours, free lectures, museum tours and complimentary refreshments.

A handful of local participants has blossomed into over 150 locations in Europe, the Americas and Japan. Gallery participation dipped this year because March 9 falls on a Sunday, gallerists’ usual day of rest, but museum participation is up, and many others are simply interpreting the date loosely.

Visitors to the Ueno Royal Museum’s “Vision of Contemporary Art” exhibit get a ¥100 discount from March 14-30 just by “saying ‘Thank you’ with a smile at the reception desk,” according to Kaihatsu. The Maru Gallery in Tokyo’s Minato-ku will allow any artist to show their portfolio there, while Yokohama Bank Arts will hold an art fair with works from more than 100 young artists.

Koichi Watari, director of the Watari-Um Museum in Aoyama is giving a gallery tour, while performance troupe Boice Planning, who blew many people away at last year’s Art@Agnes art fair, will hold a one-day show from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Participation is not exclusive to Tokyo as venues and artists from Sapporo to Okinawa have joined. Saitama’s Kawaguchi city is going all-out with a Web site and walking tour of 13 galleries.

Founder Kaihatsu has sweet dreams for the future of his little project: “A long time ago, there was no Valentine’s Day in Japan,” he explains, “but a few chocolate companies pushed and pushed, and gradually it became common. Now people don’t remember a time without Valentine’s Day. That’s what I want for 39art.”