Designart, Tokyo’s annual festival encompassing all creative genres, is a cornucopia of design-related presentations and exhibitions within galleries, shops and event spaces. Celebrating its second iteration at a larger scale this year, the festival has its eyes set on the future: beyond 2021 to be precise.
“With the Olympics just two years away, we are heading into a historic period for the public and private alike,” the organizers state in the festival’s magazine. “But we believe the games should not be our stopping point. We believe sustainable activities are what is truly crucial in making what lies ahead even better.”
With more than 120 designers presenting works in over 100 locations — the majority spread out across the Omotesando and Harajuku areas, — it’s an ambitious offering that promises to showcase innovations in craft revitalization, functional design, technological advances and more.
It would be quite a feat to see everything, so here’s a few picks from Designart Tokyo 2018’s lineup.
Big things you can’t miss
Artist Akira Fujimoto and architect Yuko Nagayama have collaborated to create “2021 #Tokyo Scope,” an impressive, large-scale installation of the numbers 2, 0, 2 and 1 on display at the Avex building in Gaienmae. Designed to encourage thoughts on a post-Olympic Tokyo, its focal point, a giant mirrored cone, becomes the 0 of 2021 when viewed head on, and represents the circle of Japan’s Hinomaru flag.
Installation veteran Sou Fujimoto’s collaboration with Canada Goose in Harajuku, “Particles of Life” is a far more ethereal work. Feathery tufts of goose down have been attached to wires to form a three-dimensional grid that appears to float in the space. The slightest movement of air causes the work to sway and tremble, highlighting the fragility of nature and the transient but influential attributes of the elements.
Watchmaker Grand Seiko’s “The Flow of Time” by design studio Takt Project and computer graphics director Shingo Abe, immerses visitors within a projection mapping display of time-passing imagery — think sunrises, blossoms, autumn foliage, tides. Debuted at Salone del Mobile Milano this year, the work incorporates plinths displaying transparent acrylic objects, each encasing all the inner workings of a Grand Seiko watch.
All new and Under-30
Brand new to the festival, the Under-30 program promotes five emerging creators under the age of 30 and based in Tokyo, each selected by the founders of Designart Tokyo.
Artist Yuu Minamimura’s unusual sculptures of cloud-like figures (at Shibuya Hikarie) takes a whimsical approach to our relationship with nature, while Shoto Hayakawa’s interactive video (at Francfranc Forest, Omotesando) looks at human communication by superimposing the viewer’s real-time image and gestures into video footage of a group discussion.
The other creators bring actual products to the Under-30 table, with artist and musician collective Epistroph Inc., launching +a, its first clothing collection (at Francfranc Forest); Akii presenting new minimalist LED lamps; and Laura Sattin showcasing a collection of elegant glass vessels, all mouth-blown without the use of molds (at Abahouse, Jingumae).
Also new to Designart Tokyo is a central hub and exhibition area at interior store Francfranc’s new design photography studio, which opened in Omotesando in August. A vast concrete space, Francfranc Forest houses 14 artists’ works, including Yoshiki Matsuyama’s “Cut Out the Sky,” an installation of lamps filled with solutions of acrylic and water that scatter light wavelengths to emulate the colors of daylight from sunrise to sunset. Also on show is Baku Sakashita’s Isamu Noguchi-inspired Japanese paper Suki lights — delicate white geometric shapes suspended on stainless steel wires and illuminated by tiny LEDs.
A new generation
Most of the up-and-coming designers being showcased at “New Generation” in the Axis Building in Roppongi, have already enjoyed the limelight at Salone del Mobile Milano.
Yuri Himuro brings her Milano Salone Satellite award-winning Bloom collection of double-faced woven textiles that reveal completely different patterns on each side; Yoy, whose unique shadeless lamps have garnered much acclaim, is introducing works that haven’t been shown in Japan before; and Yuji Okitsu is presenting his huge “Focus” mobile of multifarious lenses that not only distort vision, but also diffuse light to alter our perception of the space. Also on display are pieces by RHTMA, a collective of young designers who have joined forces just for Designart Tokyo.
Though Japanese design is the focus of Designart Tokyo, there are still plenty of international contributions. Among them, two shows stand out. Ung Svensk Form (Young Swedish Design) has collaborated with design company String for “Swedish Design Moves Tokyo,” an exhibition of young designers’ experimental work at the World Kita-Aoyama building, while Tokyo Midtown Galleria in Roppongi is hosting Taiwanese architect Johnny Chiu’s “Happier Cafe,” which is made entirely from paper and houses a collection of Taiwanese designers’ works.
For more information on Designart Tokyo 2018, visit designart.jp/en.