Designart — Tokyo’s annual festival of international art and design — is back in action this year with exhibitions and installations on display at more than 40 venues across central Tokyo. Even though the most recent state of emergency has been lifted, visitors will be required to follow COVID-19 precautionary measures and, like last year, the festival’s talks and conferences are being streamed online.
This year, the event takes the word “chance” as its theme. Ahead of its opening on Oct. 22, “On: Design” has picked a few standout events from this massive showcase of new design to help you make the most of the festival.
“Under 30” is Designart’s in-house selection of the best international up-and-coming creators, each chosen by a founding member of the festival to show their works at various locations in Roppongi, Shibuya and Harajuku. This year, three Japanese design units and artists, plus one from China and another from Scotland, have been chosen to present innovative ideas related to serendipity and everyday interactions.
Interior designer Atushi Shindo explores commonplace materials found in Toyama Prefecture, including stone, glass and even loofahs, to create conceptual works designed to reconnect people to nature. Taking into account the materials’ natural beauty, physical properties and local craftsmanship, Shindo’s pieces for “Blink,” which is on display at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, are sleek and minimalist, yet still evoke the warmth of their provenance with smooth contours and soft shapes.
Shanshan Liu and Xiulai Zhou of Salt In have a similarly holistic approach to design. The two Musashino Art University graduates explain that “salt” refers to their search for the right amount of “seasoning” — the inner details of materials that influence design — to create innovative works. Thorough investigations into materials and objects, from composition and production to history and contemporary usage, inform Salt In’s unique and witty works on show at Think of Things in Harajuku.
Bringing subtle humor to the quotidian is Kathleen Reilly, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art and 2019 Daiwa Scholarship winner. Currently based in Tsubame, Niigata Prefecture — Japan’s center of metalworking — Reilly rethinks our relationship with everyday objects, particularly tableware, with playfully subversive creations that bridge art and functional design. For Designart, she presents “Oku,” an unusual knife with a twisted handle, made in collaboration with Tsubame cutlery makers and aptly exhibited at Blue Bottle Coffee in Roppongi.
In line with Designart’s theme of chance, Kentaro Takagi of design unit Aroundant is showing “W-M project,” a loom that weaves a pattern produced by the movements of attached musical instruments. The aim, Aroundant explains, is to create a new and unpredictable textile from the capricious nature of playing music. Also from Aroundant, this time Soichiro Tanaka, is “Less than instrument,” a sheet of expanded metal mesh lit by tiny LED lights invisibly embedded in the underside of the metal to create a mysterious glow. Both works, collectively titled “Purism,” can be seen at Sloth in Shibuya.
The last of the “Under 30” five is Hiromasa Fukaji, who combines precise digital data with the inconsistencies of old-school art mediums. Fukaji’s Plotter Drawing converts vector image digital data to program a device that can be fitted with a pencil, pen or paintbrush. His resulting monochromatic drawings, showcased alongside Salt In’s work at Think of Things, are complex and minutely detailed. Look closely, however, and the drawings preserve the tiny deviations and blemishes of penmanship or brushwork, further influenced by friction, gravity and surrounding humidity.
Hibiya Okuroji — a 300-meter passageway of shops and eateries below a viaduct running between Yurakucho and Shinbashi stations — will be home to displays of ceramics, artwork, furniture, interior products and more.
The lineup of exhibits from young talents and new projects includes minimalist pieces from the Tsuyama Furniture collection, all created out of locally grown wood; a digital installation by Karakuri that turns Fukujugama’s Arita porcelain into an interactive art experience; and the Johanna Gullichsen Rakusai Collection, a collaboration between Gullichsen’s Finnish geometric textiles with Japanese furniture.
“On: Design” favorites have to be Pivoto’s exhibition of unusual Japanese cedar and cypress wood chairs designed by eight architects, and Yushima Art & Okunote’s collaboration with artisan Kiyoshi Isshiki for its “New TRASHditional Crafts” collection of everyday waste reinvented into artworks using traditional decorative paper techniques.
Kuradashi — The Archetypes
For visitors looking to buy an original design piece, Kuradashi — The Archetypes, a creative market curated by Jin Kuramoto at Designart’s hub, the World Kita Aoyama Building in Minato Ward, is a must-see. The roster of participating high-profile names is more than impressive, including interior designers, artists, architects and more.
Designart promises this to be a rare opportunity to purchase original one-offs, such as prototypes, experimental works and studio pieces that somehow never made it to market. With internationally big names, such as product designer Fumie Shibata, architect Jo Nagasaka, interior and product designer Teruhiro Yanagihara, textile and fashion brand Mina Perhonen, and lighting and product designer YOY, there is sure to be something for any discerning design or art aficionado.
Kuradashi — The Archetypes will also be available online via the crowdfunding service ubgoe for those unable to make it to the Tokyo venue.
Designart runs from Oct. 22 through 31 in various locations across Tokyo. For more information, visit designart.jp/designarttokyo2021.
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