OSAKA - Hotels have long been synonymous with artwork, as opposed to works of art: Much of what you’ll encounter are replicas at best or just plain kitsch (ahh, the Eiffel Tower … again).
Art Osaka attempts something different. This weekend, more than 50 galleries from Japan and overseas will take over an entire floor at the Hotel Granvia, which is attached to Osaka Station, and transform its bedrooms into a warren of galleries showcasing contemporary art. The rooms are open to the public for perusing and making purchases.
First held in 2002, Art Osaka has become a fixture on the arts calendar in Kansai. During its 13-year history, the event has wandered from a giant exhibition space down by the waterfront to a move uptown to the Dojima Hotel, before settling at the Granvia in 2011. However, according to Art Osaka manager Noriko Miyamoto, the event has never lost sight of its commitment to showcase contemporary art.
“At that time,” Miyamoto says recalling the early years, “it was really rare for contemporary art to be sold in Japan. The audience for art, including art lovers, wasn’t so much interested in buying art; they just wanted to see it in museums. People didn’t understand the role of the gallery.”
From the outset, Art Osaka has been a gallery-led initiative. Takashi Yamaguchi, owner of Gallery Yamaguchi kunst-bau, based in Osaka, spearheaded Art Osaka until 2010. This year 53 galleries from throughout Japan as well as a handful from South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and France will be showing work on the 26th floor of the Granvia.
Visitors can expect to see a range of contemporary art by artists fresh out of university, as well as established artists. According to Miyamoto, most of what will be on show, which includes photography, sculpture, painting and installations, is new work. There will also be a special exhibition space for ambitious installation pieces, which will be available for purchase.
“This year there will be a particular focus on Japanese abstract painting,” Art Osaka director and Tezukayama Gallery owner Ryoichi Matsuo tells The Japan Times. “For several years there has been a huge growth of interest in Japanese postwar painting. We want to support and nurture this reawakening of interest in this period of Japanese art.”
Indeed, a painting by Kazuo Shiraga, one of Japan’s most famous postwar abstract painters, sold for $3.7 million at auction in Germany last year. The seller bought the painting for about $17,000 in 1992. Art Osaka could well prove to be a happy hunting ground for collectors.
Art Osaka takes place on July 4 and 5 at the Hotel Granvia in the Umeda district of Kita-ku, Osaka. Open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on July 4, and 7 p.m. on July 5. A one-day pass costs ¥1,500 and can be purchased at the reception desk of the Hotel Granvia. For more information, visit www.artosaka.jp.