Art Fair Tokyo

An artwork, Three Wise Girls, at the fair

Art Fair Tokyo is one of Japan’s leading and world class art shows that have definitely and significantly affected Japan’s art scene. It is one of the few art shows, according to Misa Shin, the fair’s former executive director, that have sought to bring back art into Japanese culture. This year’s event will be held on March 20 to 22 at the Tokyo International Forum.

Art Fair Tokyo was established in 1992 as the Nippon International Contemporary Art Fair. Since then, the fair has been known to have a dynamic theme as it has shifted from different art styles to another. While some critics have dubbed the fair as confusing, some would also call it exciting. This is because audiences and artists never really know what to expect from this fair. One year could be completely different from the next. An example of this back and forth rhythm was the fair’s theme in 2010, G-Tokyo. The fair’s elements of surprise and uncertainty have made it into an affair that people look forward to seeing every year.

Last year’s fair

“Usually an art fair is based on an art market, but when NICAF started, it was the other way round,” she tells The Japan Times. “The fair was intended as a tool to help create the market. In those days, because of the bubble economy, there was lots of confidence, and people thought anything was possible.”

Misa Shin also stated that the economy’s fall caused a collapse in Japan’s art market. This was because young artists were not supported, and artworks were not sustainable. Contemporary art, today, brings back the art that was once lost, but Misa Shin is highly skeptical of Japanese politicians who would rather support traditional Japanese cultures. Unless Japan’s art scene opens its doors to international art events, its market will only continue to suffer.

Photos from Japan Times and Terrada

Mitsubishi’s New Software

How the software works

Imagine you were an architect or an interior decorator and you wanted to redesign an already existing structure. Imagine the amount of time and effort you have to put into studying every corner, measuring every inch, drawing every detail, and having to redraw it every time a new idea pops into your mind. Architecture and interior designing may sound really fun and creative, but it also takes a lot of skills to get it right. In this modern age, professionals in those fields now have more opportunities to do their jobs in less amount of time. This is because of the developments of technologies that help make their tasks a lot more efficient.

In line with this, Mitsubishi Corp. has developed a new tool that architects and designers will find very useful. This piece of technology is a three-dimensional model reconstruction technology that instantly recreates models of large indoor areas. All you need is a tablet with a 3D sensor which you point onto an area and click. From the recreated model, experts can efficiently do on-site and even virtual planning of renovations. The software operates in real time processing of the 3D models which helps experts save a lot of time. The company is also working at making the technology available for offices, factories, and elevator shafts three years from now.

The software

The development of such a tool will definitely change the phase of the fields of architecture, engineering, and interior design. Moreover, the applications of this tool can crossover to so many other fields that may have not even been discovered yet. What’s amazing about this tool is the fact that it is not just a tool that will help make their jobs more efficient, but more accurate as well. Availability of the company’s new tool is much awaited by many.

Photos from Mitsubishi Electric and fareastgizmos

Zaha Hadid Fires Back at Her Critics

Zaha Hadid

The various issues on the new design and construction of the Tokyo Arena for the 2020 Olympics have stirred a lot of controversy from the very beginning. It all started when architect Zaha Hadid’s design was chosen by the Olympics Committee. When her works were shown to the public, many were displeased about its over-the-top features. Consequently, Zaha Hadid changed her design to a cleaner and greener version, which was still criticized by many. Many of her critics were also her peers, who hit her works with criticisms calling them as “a monumental mistake” and “just ridiculous”.

Finally, after over 2 years of controversy, Zaha Hadid stands up to her critics. She calls her Japanese colleagues, who have been her major critics, hypocrites. These Japanese architects such as Toyo Ito, Kengo Kuma, and Sou Fujimoto, have all been adamant about their desire to scrap the project. Arata Isozaki said it even looked “like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away”. A group of Japanese architects even went out to support a petition to end the project. The petition gained around 33,000 signatures.

Hadid’s design for the National Stadium

Hadid fires back at them by saying that they were all just against the fact that a foreigner was tasked to design Japan’s National Stadium. Hadid was also insulted by the fact that some of her critics were also her friends and colleagues whom she has worked with in the past. She has also supported many of her critics in the past. She also says that they are hypocrites because the very same architects who are criticizing her have also had works abroad. She says, “I understand it’s their town. But they’re hypocrites because if they are against the idea of doing a stadium on that site, I don’t think they should have entered the competition. The fact that they lost is their problem.”

Hadid also designed the aquatics center for the London 2012 Olympics and the Al-Wakrah stadium for the football World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

Photos from e-architect and the guardian

Aman Resorts

Aman Resorts Tokyo

The Aman Resorts is known to be a secluded property in havens like Bora Bora or Bhutan. The company has decided to open its first urban hotel in Tokyo’s Otemachi district, packed with towers housing the nation’s leading banks. It opened last December and hopes in trying to take advantage of the sudden boom of tourism in Japan. The hotel is near the recently rebuilt Tokyo station, which is the busiest station in Japan accommodating around 350,000 passengers a day. The hotel occupies the top six floors of Otemachi Tower and features 84 rooms and suites. The room rates ranges from ¥75,000 to ¥160,000 ($628 to $1340) per night.

It has an impressive lounge area located on the 33rd floor that has a bar, cigar lounge and a restaurant. It has a spectacular view of Tokyo’s famous landmarks such as the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji. Aman hotels are known to design their hotels based on local cultures and traditions. The architect of the Aman Tokyo hotel is Kerry Hill who adopted elements of classic Japanese housing styles such as shoji paper sliding door made of wood and washi paper and a Japanese-style “engawa” porch on his design.

The lounge area at the resort

According to the hotel’s general manager, Jeffrey Seward, their guests will have the opportunity to connect with the legacy and heritage of their brand in a new and fascinating urban environment. The Aman hotel would greatly benefit from the growth of tourists visiting the country as the 2020 Olympic Games date approaches. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to attract 20 million tourists in 2020.

The Aman Resorts Tokyo also has a visitor program which allows non-hotel guests to use its facilities including a spa and a 30-meter swimming pool, take exercise lessons and dine at a restaurant. Guests could also visit the global headquarters of Mizuho Financial Group, Japan’s third largest bank.

Photos from travelplusstyle and wsj

TeamLab

Digital Sky Tree mural by TeamLab

It is widely apparent and known that art nowadays is going digital. Technology and art are now being used with one another, that the line between them has become blurred. Almost all art today is transcribed into an electronic copy. There are efforts on converting everything into a digital copy so as to make dissemination easier. It seems that art that is in electronic copy is much more accessible than those that are not. Although there is nothing wrong with this new form of art, the rapid advancement of technologies has made it increasingly difficult to keep up with it. However, despite the rapid changes in this field, one company has successfully proven that technology and art are not that difficult to put together.

One of Japan’s leading digital arts companies, in fact, has had a pretty good business in the industry. It has grown throughout the years, and has made a bigger name for itself when it designed the stunning 40-meter digital mural of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Not many may be aware that this company was the creative brains behind the mural that has been welcoming them into one of the world’s tallest structures. That is why it is interesting to get to know more about this company.

TeamLab dubs itself as an “ultra-technologists” group that consists of a variety of talents with both technical and creative backgrounds. It employs engineers, mathematicians, architects, animators, programmers, designers, artists, and many more. Founded in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko, the company is now one of Japan’s most sought-after companies as it creates some of Japan’s hottest and most creative art works. It has also worked with galleries, art festivals, and other artists to make truly unique and captivating works.

One of the company’s most enthralling projects was the 2013 Singapore Biennale, which featured various digital art installations of colorful dancing Japanese holograms. Another is the creation of souvenirs of the mural which are selling like hotcakes. Currently the company is hosting Future Park at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The exhibition features incredible and visually stunning interactive installations that fuse art, creativity, and amusement-park entertainment in one event.

Photo from shifteast

The Fab Mind

One of the art works

Even with the evolution and expansion of the internet, the world today still suffers from the lack of information dissemination. Even though vast amounts of information are already available due to the existence of the internet, many are still choosing not to be informed. In fact, in today’s time, there is no excuse for ignorance because of the internet. News and current events, although they are being reported in various forms of media, are still forgotten or buried by the more interesting events in pop culture. Also, while the rate of advancement in technologies has increased greatly, people still have the lack of opportunities to be socially aware. The apparent need for ways to promote communication, critical thinking, self evaluation, and social awareness has prompted different people to take action through a variety of ways.

One of these ways is through an innovative exhibit in Japan called “The Fab Mind: Hints of the Future in a Shifting World”. It centers on the dissemination and awareness of various social issues through art and design. This socially relevant exhibit was established by journalist Noriko Kawakami and curator of art and design Ikko Yokoyama. The two have shared a love for art and an interest in today’s most pressing social issues. Because of this, the exhibit features 24 artists and designers from over ten countries, all of whom share a unique perspective in evaluating society and human interactions.

The different artworks and designs showcased at the exhibit portray the beauty and relevance of issues in society today. At the same time, the exhibit also proves that art and design can also be used as a tool for conveying more than just pretty things. Its potential in sending powerful messages can also be realized.

Some of the artworks featured include photography, product design, sketches, installations, and many more. One artwork shows 500 sweaters knitted by a woman who has been making them since the 1950s. Another features the possibility of drones living in human society. All of them, in their own way, make a comment on the future of society. The exhibit runs from October 24, 2014 to February 1, 2015. General admission costs around 1,000 yen.

Photo from 2121designsight

Tokyo Designers Week

Kenji Kawasaki in a Talk

Imagine the craziness surrounding an event filled with creative minds. This is exactly what the Tokyo Designers Week is like. It is the one place where all kinds of people and imaginations meet. It is a hodgepodge of architects and interior designers with different styles and trademarks. Held annually, the event features the latest trends in the creative world of structures. The event last year gained praises for its unique and fun way of showcasing its various segments. Design Association Chair, Kenji Kawasaki, promised an even better event this year. Once again many expected the event to exceed expectations and be even crazier, and of course, it delivered.

Established in Tokyo in 2005, the event, based on England’s 100% Design London, was initially called 100% Design Tokyo. The event aims to establish itself as the country’s best and most important interior design and architecture fair where people not only get to share their latest works, but also open their works up for potential business ventures. Apart from being a reputable design fair in Asia, Tokyo Designers Week has also been a popular destination of global companies in search of innovative ideas.

This year the event was held from October 25 to November 3 at the Meiji Jingu Gaien Mae, Tokyo. Throughout the years, the event has only grown bigger and attracted more people. It attracts over 100,000 people every year. This year’s fair focuses on four major themes: design, art, fashion, and music. Therefore, the event not only focused on one particular aspect of the arts, but also three others. This goes to show how the event is expanding its relevance towards other forms of art.

Some of the notable things from this year’s fair are the works of Sebastian Masuda, Kohei Nawa, Tama Art University, and Gwenael Nicolas. Harajuku artist Masuda turned a shipping container into a giant pink bear which would resemble a child’s playroom. Nawa made his artworks into a virtual reality by using a gadget called the Oculus Rift. Tama Art University created an unusual wall made of straws called “Appear, Disappear”. French designer Gwenael Nicolas created a three dimensional sculpture of Mt. Fuji which can immediately be seen as visitors enter the fair.

images by toto.co.jp

Tokyo Station Marunouchi

Outside View of Tokyo Station Marunouchi

Old buildings have a way of telling stories that books and pictures cannot depict. Behind every crack and dent on such buildings show every piece of history it has gone through. They serve as memoirs and true witnesses to the happenings around them.

In Japan, one of oldest buildings with a rich historical background is the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building. Built in 1914, the building was established to represent the country’s growing railway system. During the start of the country’s railway operations in 1872, the first stations built were in Shinbashi and Ueno.  A need for a centralized hub where all terminals could connect to was apparent to the then central government, so the Tokyo Station was built. Since then, the station became the country’s main station. To symbolize the significance of the station, the Marunouchi Building was constructed.

The building was designed by then famous architect Kingo Tatsuno, who was also famous for his work on the Bank of Japan. Around the time that design proposals were being made by Tatsuno, the country also won the war against Russia. The timeliness of the win proved to be favorable to the architect because the project’s budget was increased from 420,000 yen to 2.8 million yen.

The design of the building features a historic and classic red brick façade. It spanned 335 meters north to south, and had an area of 23,900 square meters. Throughout its life, much of the original structure has been destroyed by a series of disasters in the country. The first was during the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which resulted to a massive fire, although minor damages were incurred. However, it was during World War II when major damages were done by bombing raids.

The need to continue its operations resulted to the hasty renovation of the building after the war. This is why the roof design was simplified, and a portion of the building was closed for budget constraints. Fortunately, in 2007, the renovation and restoration of the building brought back its original façade. It was completed in 2012.

The building also stood witness to the attack of two prime ministers, Takashi (Kei) Hara and Osachi Hamaguchi.

image by ryumeikan-tokyo.jp

The Tokyo Midtown Design Touch

Last year’s Tokyo Midtown Design Touch

Throughout the ages, various types of events have been put up in the name of food, art, science, music, books, and all other types of cultural things. Most exhibits, however, give focus on just 1-2 of these things per event. Tokyo Midtown DESIGN TOUCH addresses this by creating an event made specifically to awaken and use all five senses in the appreciation of design.

Tokyo Midtown DESIGN TOUCH is a large-scale two-week annual event that started since 2007. It is an event where its visitors experience a unique and refreshing new kind of exhibition. The event ranges from exhibitions to informative seminars. Also, it presents works of modern design and their designers. At the same time, visitors can dine and shop to create an event more well-rounded experience. This year’s theme is “Design Switch”, which is all about that intangible switch in every artist’s being. It is all about being inspired to turn on everyone’s design switch.

One of the main attractions is “The Forest of Chairs – Design x Science”, which is displays various unique chairs on an open field of grass. These aren’t just ordinary chairs. Some may change colors as you sit on them, while some are able to talk and encourage you to reveal some secrets. Some of the participating designers are Haruka Furuya, Galileo Studio, and Yasuhiro Suzuki.

Another attraction is School in the Forest by Roppongi Future Talks held at the Midtown Garden. It features various classes that teach special lessons. The school’s library also provides a collection of books from 50 different authors. Here, visitors can take a book of their choice, and read while relaxing on the grass.

The Tokyo Midtown Awards 2014 will be held at the Tokyo Midtown Hall B. The awards recognize and support various talents from Japan. Fourteen works out of the thousands submitted by aspirants will be awarded and exhibited. The Design Touch Conference also features a variety of special lectures given by creative talents in Japan.

Several other attractions such as the Salone in Roppongi, Mazda Design Exhibition, Make House, Video Installation, INADA Stone Exhibition, and many more will also be present. This year, the event will be held from October 17 to November 3. The number of visitors this year will hopefully surpass the 1.43 million present last year.

Photo from Pingmag.jp

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Earliest human relatives, a work by Sugimoto

Simple and elegant are two words that could best describe artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. With an impeccable taste for the hauntingly beautiful realm of life and death, Sugimoto has become one of the world’s most interesting and thought-provoking artists. Many would agree that his works serve a greater purpose than spreading the beauty in the world. Sugimoto’s works go much deeper than that, but before anything else, let us take a look at his life.

Sugimoto was born in the country’s capital, Tokyo. Since his teenage years, Sugimoto had already been actively taking photographs. Since then, his love for photography had already been showing. He initially studied politics and sociology in Tokyo, but later on moved to California to get his degree in Fine Arts. He then lived in New York, where he now divides his time with Tokyo.

His artistic style is marked by a strong sense of history, calmness, and eeriness that can only be seen in his photos, mostly in shades of black and white. He regards his work as a time capsule for a series of events in time. True enough, common elements in some of his works involve a combination of things that one would not normally see in one time. It’s as if he took photos at different periods of time and then combined certain elements of each photo. His works also explore the themes of life and death, as well as the transience of life.

His famous series include: Seascapes, Theaters, Dioramas, Portraits, Architecture, Colors of Shadow, Conceptual Forms, and Lightning Fields. All of these have the distinct Sugimoto style. Even if these pictures are merely photographs, they evoke a lot of emotions and thoughts. This is why he is highly regarded in his field. For him, art is not just about making something pretty, but also about making something relevant and thought-provoking.

Sugimoto has been recognized and awarded for his works. He received the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 2001. He won the Photo España prize in 2006. In 2009, he also received the Paemium Imperiale Painting Award from the Japan Arts Association.

Photo from jlgaliano