When I interviewed 28-year-old curator Shinya Watanabe a month ago, he surprised me when he said his dream was to curate Documenta, the massive exhibition of international contemporary art held once every five years in Kassel, Germany. He might as well have said all he wanted was to be the most famous curator in the world.

In the last two decades, Japan’s visual artists have become as prominent as its scientists, and its designers as respected as its businessmen. But local curatorial talents have never stood out on the world stage.

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