Letter from Tokyo: five unmissable exhibitions and museums

Travelling to Japan? We have chosen new unmissable destinations for art, photography, design and architecture. Uncovering the most inspiring and unexpected venues that the Japanese capital has to offer this autumn.

Yang Fudong, Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo

Tokyo is a metropolis where it is easy to witness the rapid evolution of constantly-changing trends and dynamics. This is why we have chosen five unmissable exhibitions and venues to visit over the next few months: art, photography, video-installations and anthropological reflections on the concept of creativity accompany visitors in the discovery of very differing areas of Tokyo, where every event is profoundly tied to the museum and architectural space that hosts it.

“Tadao Ando: Endeavours” at the Tokyo National Art Center
Tokyo has dedicated a grand exhibition to the famous architect, which is divided between two venues and covers almost 50 years of career. From the fundamental project regarding Tadao Ando’s personal study-residence in Osaka, the subject of various restructuring projects, to the first manifesto-homes such as the famous Azuma House, visitors will have the opportunity to examine the most intimate details which characterise the constant and obsessive search for the radial and, at the same time, poetical essentiality which marks the architect's work. Designs, various scale models, as well as written material and entire interiors faithfully reconstructed (such as the nave of the Church of Light), allow for the exploration of the fulcrum around which all of Ando’s production has been developed: the purity of space. There is another, no-less important, element linked to the transformation of the figure of Ando into a starchitect, and how this re-definition of his identity is mainly reflected in clients such as fashion brands and large-scale museum complexes: art and fashion as alternative elements to ancient cults in the form of contemporary creeds.
until 18 December 2017, The National Art Center Tokyo

“Tadao Ando: Endeavors”, Tokyo National Art Center
“Tadao Ando: Endeavors”, Tokyo National Art Center

“Scrolling through Heisei part 3” and “Nagashima Yurie”, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Over the last few years, the Photographic Art Museum has made its name as one of the most cutting-edge institutions in its proposing of representations of the present, which have seen the presentation of a series of highly important contemporary artists, also proposing names and themes which are not exactly mainstream, such as the one-man exhibition of less than a year ago dedicated to the Thai artist and director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, or the recently-concluded exhibition on Japanese Expanded Cinema. At the moment, there are two exhibitions dedicated to the generational and visual account of a precise moment in Japanese history: with “Scrolling Through Heisei part 3”, the curators have examined the current Heisei period (which began in 1989 with the coronation of Emperor Akhito), questioning whether a Heisei style emerging in the period between the 1990s and the 2010s is already recognisable. From the photographs by numerous artists shown in the exhibition, it could be said that the style of this thirty-year period in Japan has been characterised by a progressive liberty in its self-representation and the photographic formats used to demonstrate such developments. Furthermore, there is an underlying theme which binds all of the Japanese artists: a dreamlike view applied in the description of the most banal of situations, perfectly expressed by artists such as Rinko Kawauchi, and the necessity to re-define relationships between individuals, as the parallel one-woman exhibition dedicated to the photographer Yurie Nagashima perfectly describes.
until 26 November, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

Yayoi Kusama Museum
The museum dedicated to Yayoi Kusama, the most famous living Japanese in the world, opened on 1 October. From her first experimental performances, environments and works, right up to present times, Yayoi Kusama (now 88 years old) has become a true legend through her career, which is profoundly tied to her personal life. The fascinating building designed by the Japanese studio Kume Sekkei, and built on a very small plot of land in the Bentecho district, is comprised of five floors which seamlessly lead visitors from one space to another, in an organic series of stacked boxes which are the perfect hosts for the works (some of which have never been shown before) selected for the opening exhibition : “Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is What Brings You Closer to Art”. The world of Yayoi Kusama, beyond the iconic “pumpkins” and the famous polka-dots (which here even appear in the museum’s toilets) is in fact also an account made up of spaces, environments, illusions and refractions, such as those in her mirror hall, but above all of imaginary openings onto infinite dimensions, as extensively documented by the hundreds of publications dedicated to the artist which can be viewed in the small library on the top floor of the newly-opened museum.
until 26 February 2018, “Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is What Brings You Closer to Art”, Yayoi Kusama Museum

Yayoi Kusama Museum
Yayoi Kusama Museum

“Wild: Untamed Mind”, 21_21 Design Sight
Right from its opening in 2007, 21_21 Design Sight has been hailed as one of the most important venues, not only for the highly contemporary expressions of design and architecture presented, but also for the study of those forms of social behaviour and phenomena expressed by those who live and use the spaces and objects. The museum, created by the architect Tadao Ando and the designer Issey Miyake in the Roppongi district, is currently hosting the interesting exhibition “Wild”: Untamed Mind”, curated by the philosopher and anthropologist Shin’Ichi Nakazawa, famous for his interdisciplinary research and publications which examine various fields of knowledge. The exhibition aims to study how the concept of wild thought influences instinct and intellect, generating each creative process and solution. Nakazawa examines the figure of Kumagusu Minakata, a famous naturalist from the Meiji period, who is credited with various discoveries and inventions which, while not coinciding, are in some way interconnected. Through works by artists from various fields, “Wild: Untamed Mind” tells of how much rational processes, nowadays driven by technological dogma, require an element of instinct and non-domestication.
until 4 February 2018, 21_21 Design Sight

“Wild: Untamed Mind”, 21_21 Design Sight
“Wild: Untamed Mind”, 21_21 Design Sight

“Yang Fudong, the Coloured Sky: New Women II”, Espace Louis Vuitton
The elegant building dedicated to contemporary art opened by Louis Vuitton in 2011 in the Omotesando district presents the world of the Chinese artist Yang Fudong (Beijing, 1971). The powerful five-channel video installation entitled “The Coloured Sky: New Women II” (2014), projects the viewer into a profoundly evocative and dream-like place. Those who know the work of Yang Fudong, and in particular his previous video and photographic works, will recall the refined work on the construction of suspended imagination through a rich and magical re-interpretation of the history of China, in sophisticated black and white. “The Coloured Sky: New Women II” creates an environment of vivid colours which deliberately declare the artificiality of the sets which host the various scenes, populated by five women in bathing costumes in an atmosphere which is a blend of mirage, glamorous abstractions and 1930s Chinese cinema. 
until 11 March 2018, Espace Louis Vuitton.

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“Yang Fudong, the Coloured Sky: New Women II”, Espace Louis Vuitton
“Yang Fudong, the Coloured Sky: New Women II”, Espace Louis Vuitton

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