Art

A world of art on display at Tokyo International Art Fair

by Katherine Whatley

Contributing Writer

This year’s edition of the Tokyo International Art Fair will feature paintings, sculpture, photographic illustrations, jewelry and a “sumo-size” book, with the work coming courtesy of hundreds of artists from 30 different countries, fair organizer Joelle Dinnage tells The Japan Times.

The festival, now in its fourth year, is run by the Global Art Agency, which organizes art fairs in cities around the world including Barcelona, Miami and Amsterdam.

“Almost 10,000 people visited the event last year, connections were made, and everyone was extremely satisfied,” Dinnage says, summing up the 2017 edition held near Shibuya Station. The fair has hopped to different venues and neighborhoods in the capital each year — from Harajuku to Omotesando and then Shibuya — and this year’s festivities will once again get a new look when they take place at Bellesalle Roppongi on the weekend of May 25.

It’s important to note, however, that while the event begins Friday, it doesn’t open to the general public until Saturday. The Friday night kickoff requires tickets that, according to Dinnage, will get you a “Champagne reception, private viewing and a first opportunity to buy (the art).”

Tickets for the VIP viewing can be purchased online or at the door.

TIAF will open to the general public on May 26 and anyone can take a look for free. Live painting will take place during the day, and evening festivities on Saturday include the Global Art Awards Ceremony at 6 p.m.

When asked what she’s most looking forward to sharing at this year’s fair, Dinnage says they are “very excited” to have art book publisher Taschen exhibiting. The German company will be showing a 50 × 70-centimeter publication featuring “precious surviving murals of Tibetan Buddhist culture.” What stands out most about the images in the book is the color — filled with deep blues, striking reds and vibrant golds. As a bonus, the book has been signed by the Dalai Lama and comes with a bookstand designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban.

Even if your small Tokyo apartment can’t quite accommodate such a hefty item, or your wallet can’t quite afford such a large purchase, it’s worth it just to sneak a peak.

In addition to Taschen’s Tibetan mural book, the work of renowned artists such as Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami will also be on hand. Because its profile has risen over the past few years, TIAF organizers almost seemed spoiled for choice when it comes to exhibitors.

“We received over 1,000 applications for exhibitors wanting to take part, and unfortunately we can select only 100-150 people, so sometimes we have to disappoint people,” Dinnage says.

Other artists and groups set to show their work this weekend include the four Singaporean artists of DisQuiet Gallery, who focus on mental illness and the various ways in which it manifests within us; Canada-based artist Keiko Imaizumi, who will display prints with nature motifs that are illuminated by LED lights; Malawi-born artist Franco the Creator, who produces spiritual art designed to connect us to our emotional truth through colorful geometrical paintings; and the Cuen Gallery from Mexico, which will be showcasing the conceptual art of Oaxaca-born Ramon Jimenez Cardenas.

While the focus is on international art, TIAF does its best to fit in with the local art scene, of which Dinnage is a fan.

“I really like the art scene right now in Tokyo,” she says. “I adore the Mori Museum in Roppongi, which will be close to our venue.”

In fact, Dinnage is quick to praise institutions such as the Mori Art Museum that have helped create the city’s rich “art and culture” scene. She hopes that the movers and shakers of Tokyo will be able to be a part of her own event. “The style of Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama is something that will be reflected back in our event too,” she says.

The Tokyo International Art Fair takes place at a time where the Chinese market in particular is growing, and there have been record-smashing payouts for pieces of art at auction. Dinnage mentions Zozotown founder Yusaku Maezawa’s purchase of a 1982 painting by U.S. painter Jean-Michel Basquiat at a Sotheby’s auction last year for $110.5 million.

“The art market right now is very interesting indeed,” she says, “and I find that more and more people are getting interested in investing in art, which then also gets attention from people that might have never considered it before.

“It’s always a challenge to try and curate a good selection of art for the show that is refreshing, new and interesting.”

The fourth edition of the Tokyo International Art Fair takes place at Bellesalle Roppongi in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on May 25 (6-9 p.m.; ¥1,500) and 26 (11 a.m.-7 p.m.; free entry). For more information, visit www.tokyoartfair.com.