Editor’s Note:There are many sides to modern Asian metropolis, and just as many ways to visit them. For collectors and art lovers, the best way to explore new urban scenarios and learn about a country’s cultural, social and political situation is certainly through contemporary art. However, the question for those who set foot in a new city for the first time is always the same: where do I start my artistic adventure from?
Here at CoBo we have a few, very exciting cues; for our Asia’s Art Cities Guide we have asked the most authoritative local collectors to share their best kept secrets about their own city’s art scene. Whether it is Kim Camacho’s Manila, the Jakarta art scene through the eyes of Tom Tandio, Adrian Cheng’s recommendations about the new cultural districts in Hong Kong, Disaphol Chansiri’s anticipation of the two new biennales in Thailand, Ivan Pun’s exploration in Myanmar, Ichrio Fukano’s highlights on art and lifestyle in Tokyo, the exclusive insights of Tarana Sawhney on Delhi, Higgin Kim’s insider’s take on Seoul, or Zheng Hao’s all-time favourite Shanghai, we want to give you a foray into what these Asian fast-developing cities have to offer.
In conjunction with our collectors art tours, we want to bring you straight to the galleries, art spaces, or informal hangouts that will influence trends for the Asian art scene to come, to see by yourself in which direction the artistic stream is going. If it’s true that exploring the Asian art scene means getting off the beaten path and taking an unconventional look at these vibrant hubs, then wearing the lens of these bunch of top-notch insiders is the best way to do it.
One thing is for sure with Ichiro Fukano: he doesn’t sugar-coat the art world. It is indeed this critic edge that made his collection different. A Tokyo bred and born, the collector describes himself as a “Serious Consumer” devoted to fashion, design and, of course, art – an area in which he was mentored by another prominent Japanese collector: Daisuke Miyatsu. The focus of his collection is mainly emerging artists inside and outside Japan, as he believes that buying works of already famous artists won’t add much to the conversation.
Ichiro Fukano – Tokyo
How would you describe the art scene in Tokyo?
Unfortunately, I cannot say that we have an art scene in Tokyo. There are many museums and galleries, and sometimes we see some high quality exhibitions. However, I don’t see any dynamism or the organic development of whole exhibitions and projects in Tokyo, such as point to point, area to area interventions that could create a movement as a result. It is not easy to check the galleries because there is no one place, like a so-called ‘gallery district’, as the galleries are dispersed all over the city.
The biggest art fair in Tokyo, Art Fair Tokyo, is very eclectic. There is contemporary art, but also antique and Japanese-style paintings. No internationally distinguished gallery participates at the fair as I believe it to be quite domestic. No museums or art centres organise special collateral projects during the fair. G-Tokyo, which I believe was a small but quite a superb art fair, has gone already.
On the other hand, alternative spaces or artist-run spaces are increasing. There are some interesting initiatives, such as the Open-studio Tour operated by artists in Tokyo. But when I ran the space JIKKA, I found that there were not many independent art spaces.
I wish that all of the city’s players in contemporary art would work together to develop the art scene in Tokyo.
What is your favourite gallery in town?
The XYZ Collective is an artist-run space in Tokyo. The director shows intriguing artists and artworks, famous or unknown. I feel that, as a collector, it is a challenge to try to understand the exhibitions there.
What is your favourite art space in town?
I like ASAKUSA because they always put up shows that are challenging for museums or galleries. Normally, museums care about the number of visitors, and commercial galleries focus on the sale figures. ASAKUSA deals with academic projects, and that helps to expand my territory of contemporary art and stimulate my brain.
Best art event you shouldn’t miss in Tokyo.
You should not miss Mot Annual and Roppongi Crossing.
MOT Annual is a consecutive series of group exhibitions launched in 1999, organised by the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT), and it showcases the young artists who represent new trends in contemporary art in Japan.
Held every three years since 2004, Roppongi Crossing is an exhibition series that offers a comprehensive survey of the Japanese art scene. Mori Art Museum curators join hand with a team of guest curators to plan the exhibition, selecting 20 to 40 Japanese artists via the intersection or “crossing” of multiple viewpoints.
Where to go for an artsy meal?
In the Tsukiji market, there are the so-called Inside (Jonai) and outside (Jogai) areas. The professional buyers work in the Jonai area, which is also open for the public; while restaurants are to be found in the Jogai area. My favourite restaurant is Uogashi-Yokocho. It used to be the place where professional fish buyers had breakfast and lunch, so that the standard of food is quite high.
Daiwa-Zushi (大和寿司) is one of the most well-known sushi restaurants. They serve “Edomae” sushi, literally means “old Tokyo sushi”. The Edomae-style sushi consisted of fishes – either simmered, pickled or marinated – sit on top of vinegared rice base. In the Edo era, there was no refrigerator or efficient means of transport, so Edomae sushi chefs had to do extra works to preserve the fishes. As a result, Edomae sushi doesn’t reserve with soy sauce. Like many traditional Edomae sushi, Daiwa-Zushi is also famous for its tuna (Maguro) sushi, especially the fatty tuna (Toro) which is really fabulous, it melts in your mouth.
Edimae sushi is old, fast food-style meal. So, the cool Edokko (Tokyoites) never stay long in a sushi restaurant. They order, eat, pay and go. No photo, no chat! Cool Tokyoite hates “Nagacchiri” (stay long).
The Tsukiji market opens from 5 am to 1 pm. Please visit before October 2018, since it will move after that.
Where to shop for an artsy look?
I have so many shops to recommend, but if you only have time for one, then it would be United Arrows in Harajyuku. The shop has a variety of brands for both men and ladies. It is the place to go if you are looking for edgy and emerging Japanese brands, not COMME des GARÇONS, but young domestic designers. If you have time, you can also visit District UNITED ARROWS and H BEAUTY&YOUTH. They are all same group of United Arrows and they are the best in terms of quality, service and knowledge of the salesperson.
What should art lover know before they set foot in Tokyo?
Those who need exhibition and gallery information, please check out Tokyo Art Beat.
Tokyo is a nice city to walk around. It is a big city, nevertheless. So you can also take Ginza-Line of the Tokyo Metro. One nice routing is to go from Asakusa, then Ueno, Suehiro-cho, Ginza, and finally Omotesando and Shibuya. You would cover all the main areas. I believe that the best way to discover a city is by getting lost in it. So, no need to prepare too much. Enjoy!!