Contemporary art is having a bumper autumn in Tokyo this year, with the Tokyo Biennale, Sumida Mukojima Expo and Art Week Tokyo all happening in October and November. Of these three, Art Week Tokyo is the most conventional in terms of the exhibition of art objects in neutral gallery spaces that lean toward the cosmopolitan and urbane. The Tokyo Biennale, on the other hand, focuses on the local and exploring art as a process that connects people.
This notion is front and center for the 2023 biennale, titled “Create Linkage.” According to the online mission statement, it “aims to be an event where various ‘I’ meet and ‘we’ share.” This is not unusual for art festivals in Japan, most of which owe their existence to urban and rural regeneration projects and tend toward reaffirming the value of community. Compare, for example, the theme of the upcoming 2024 Venice Biennale: “Stranieri Ovunque: Foreigners Everywhere,” through which Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa aims to convey the message that “no matter where you find yourself, you are always truly and deep down inside a foreigner yourself.”
Min Nishihara, one of Tokyo Biennale’s two general directors, is a trained psychotherapist, and I asked how her professional background informed her role.