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August 31 2013

Risques : exercice d'entraînement à Tokyo, 90 ans après le grand séisme de Kanto. ❝Sirènes…

#Risques : exercice d’entraînement à #Tokyo, 90 ans après le grand #séisme de Kanto.

Sirènes hurlantes, ambulances, camions de pompiers et voitures de police...Pas de catastrophe, juste la célébration du « jour de lutte contre les désastres » au Japon. Rien de très festif dans cette fête pourtant :quelque 5 000 résidents et salariés d’entreprises du quartier central de Ginza à Tokyo se sont entraînés vendredi à faire face à un violent séisme, un risque redouté dans la capitale.

March 15 2011

geiger_counter_tokyo on USTREAM: 東京江東区の屋内で稼働しているガイガーカウンタをうつしています。単位はCPM[1分あたりのカウント量]ですが、(起動してからのカウント数)÷(起動してからの時間) で計算されているので、長時間動いている時には値が動きにくくなります。また、この数... | 2011-03-15

February 05 2010

Galleries galore

There's more to Japanese art than calligraphy. Robin Powell uncovers the capital's edgiest contemporary culture – from bathhouse paintings to an exhibition in a public loo

Like any world-class capital, Tokyo has its fair share of major galleries. The largest national and private collections, such as the National Museum of Modern Art or the Mori Art Museum, are up there with the best. But plenty of smaller Japanese gallerists, collectors and artists also manage to find a foothold here. From venerable buildings that have survived earthquakes and bombings to the boutique art houses where every inch of wall is a potential display space, Tokyo is a haven for art lovers in search of something a little different. So why not take an improvised tour of the city's lesser-known galleries, to find out what makes them tick? And how do they manage to survive in a crowded city where space is the most precious commodity of all?

I start my tour, perhaps surprisingly, slap-bang in the middle of the city's main shopping area, the Ginza district. But the sober, brown-brick structure I'm standing in front of couldn't be more different from the neon-clad consumer paradise just a stone's throw away. This is the Okuno building, constructed in 1932, one of the first sets of flats in the city to have mod cons such as a lift and telephones. It's now a rabbit warren for Tokyo's art scene, hosting everything from established galleries and antique dealers to first-time solo displays and design firms. No fewer than 20 galleries are based here – many in what were once small bedrooms, and even, in one case, a former communal bathroom in the basement. This last is occupied by Gallery Serikawa, a cosy space whose ancient plumbing betrays its origins.

Gallery Serikawa is currently showing works by the Japanese artist Kiyoto Maruyama, appropriately enough because he is one of the last surviving painters of so-called "hot spring pictures", large-scale landscape paintings often found on the walls of Japan's public baths. These tranquil, generic nature scenes are designed to put the mind at rest as the body soaks in the hot spring. Upstairs, though, things are far less serene. In room 511, high up in the building, I locate the tiny gallery A Piece of Space, displaying a sculpture by the Swiss artist Susanna Niederer – an elegant, dusted bronze windchime with five bell-shaped chimes suspended from the ceiling. Elsewhere, lacquerware artist Tamaki exhibits decorative boxes and trays imprinted with gold leaf. A few steps down the corridor, I find the Y's Arts gallery, covered wall-to-wall in British and European antiques.

Next stop is yet another public bath enjoying a second lease of life as an art gallery: Scai the Bathhouse. Bordering one of Tokyo's most famous cemeteries, it's an elegant building with high ceilings and windows, flooded with natural light. The gallery specialises in Japanese and international contemporary artists; Anish Kapoor and Louise Bourgeois have shown here. I find myself hooked by a subversive animation by the Korean multimedia artist and sculptor Jeon Joonho, his first solo show in Japan. The 13-minute piece, entitled Welcome, shows the serene landscape depicted on a North Korean 50 won note being disturbed by a flotilla of helicopters, one of which crashes, turning the olive-green fields into a raging bushfire. As in a previous piece of political satire by Jeon – an animation of a US $20 note, during which a workman gradually paints over the windows of the White House – the artist seems to be attacking the symbols of statehood as well as satirising the fallout from military intervention.

Next, I wander over to the Takahashi Collection, art bought by possibly Japan's most important private collectors, which has popped up at a variety of temporary spaces over the last few years, and is currently appearing in Hibiya, a faintly nondescript business district close to the imperial palace. A practising psychiatrist most of the week, Takahashi reserves Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons for his hobby, and has amassed more than 1,000 works since 1997, shuttling them between different temporary spaces across Tokyo. The current space – open since April 2009 - will only be available until this December.

Takahashi tells me that he started buying work by contemporary Japanese artists such as Makoto Aida after hanging out at Ota Fine Arts, one of the most highly-respected private galleries in Tokyo. At that time, the work of Yayoi Kusama – a Japanese artist known for her multi-coloured, polka-dot designs – was a particular favourite. Takahashi concentrates on younger artists now, he says, but denies that he has ambitions to become the Japanese Charles Saatchi. "I don't have enough money to build a gallery," he smiles. "I spend it all on the art."

Perhaps he should follow the example of Tokyo's younger gallerists, who several years ago set up shop well off the beaten track, in the industrial Kiyosumi district to the east of the city. This nameless group – made up of gallerists and art dealers who made their name in the mid-1990s – brought their businesses under one roof in 2005 to create one of the largest gallery spaces in Tokyo. ShugoArts is here, one of the key forces behind the gallerists' collective, as is the groundbreaking Taka Ishii gallery. But the real heavyweight is the Tomio Koyama Gallery, which introduced the world to Takashi Murakami, probably the best-known Japanese artist working today.

But getting there isn't as easy as it sounds, as I discover. You take the metro to a rundown industrial area surrounded by warehouses; the galleries themselves – I have to ask directions – lie down a quiet road, opposite a cement factory. Once inside the building, improvised paper signs sticky-taped to the walls lead you to an industrial elevator. It feels rather like trespassing on criminal gang territory. And when I get inside, the galleries are largely deserted. The clean walls and bright lighting make for a flexible exhibition space – one of the largest in Tokyo – and there's a wonderful variety of work here, but the lack of visitors does nothing to improve the atmosphere. Tomio Koyama's current show is devoted to painter Atsushi Fukui and has the English title I See in You. Fukui has British connections, from an ongoing artistic collaboration with the musician David Sylvian, formerly of the 1970s rock group Japan. Fukui's mystical nature scenes, reminiscent of fairy tales, hang alongside framed cartoon pages.

Impressive though Tomio Koyama is, however, when it comes to one-off galleries or bizarre spaces, few can compete with Design Festa in the trendy Harajuku district. Once a drab block of flats, four stories high, it is now a riot of pink scaffolding and garish murals. Every inch has been painted and decorated – and practically every inch can be rented out as well. It hosts the freshest art in the capital and attracts a young, international crowd. As I walk through, I find more than enough to catch the eye on the colourful walls: in one corner a manic cartoon, in another hundreds of painted cat designs. In another, a huge human face sculpted from concrete. Inside the gallery, students – who, drawn by the cheap rates, make up more than half of the artists exhibiting here – show off their latest creations: everything from video installations to cutesy knitware and keyrings, from portrait photography to manga-inspired sketches. I can't say that I love everything on display, but it's exciting nonetheless.

Design Festa is in fact two buildings merged to form one art complex, complete with restaurant and cafe. Its director, Takeshi Araki, shows me around. "Our smallest space is an 80cm square on the wall, which costs 525 yen [around £4] for a day," he says. "We also have a gallery in the toilet." Who could resist? I head downstairs for a closer look: it is indeed there, its walls crammed with small paintings, postcard-size pictures and sketches, all for sale. For one of the most crammed cities in the world, it's somehow fitting. "We like to have all genres, all ages, all kind of artists," says Araki. "We don't have any limits." You can say that again. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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