Wednesday, 2 May 2012

ART KYOTO 'Making Kyoto an art tourist city'?

Last weekend Kyoto was the base of national young contemporary artists. Two main venues and nine galleries participated in a new event that has come to Kyoto three years ago. All the participating locations where spread throughout the city, but handily never far from the stations of the Karasuma subway line. The quality of the work was high at the main venue, the Kyoto International Conference Center, and I would have liked to see more of it! To my surprise I was allowed to take pictures, which strangely enough is not a given in this photo-crazy country, so this really made my day!

A kokeshi collector myself, one of the interesting projects was by Tsunao Okumura. Day-in-day out he's carving away at the faces of vintage traditional kokeshi to remove all the colour. And he even kept all the shavings in a jar was revealed to me by the gallery owner. Another project that got my attention is called 'New World Transparent Specimens' (top right) by Iori Tomita. As the artist states on his website: ''People may look at my specimens as an academic material, a piece of art, or even an entrance to philosophy. There is no limitation to how you interpret their meaning.'' And these are just two of the fascinating art works on show at this venue alone. The other main venue, Hotel Monterey had works on show a little less high in quality, but was not less interesting! I could even call it 'quirky', but in a good sense. Two floors of the Monterey were occupied with Art Kyoto, in each hotel room a different gallery. The art stood, hung and leaned against the hotel beds, night stands and dressing tables. Even some galleries used the bath and lavatory to show art works. The event being bustling with art lovers, going in and out of the rooms took some squeezing and patience. But I applaud the creativity of it, the quirkiness and fun it gives to this new event in town! So let's hope Art Kyoto will show you again in 2013 what contemporary Kyoto has to offer, specially if it is on a toilet bowl!

I might not be unfair to say that Art Kyoto might have looked for inspiration to the Art Fair Tokyo. But what Tokyo does internationally, Kyoto wants to achieve for their domestic talent. The aim is not so much to develop a market for Japanese contemporary artists outside Japan, but what it rather wants to achieve is to create interest from the national art market. I understand is has been quite hard to attract attention to contemporary art as opposed to traditional and modern art, specially in Kyoto.
This year Art Kyoto was able to attract over a 100 galleries. Two years ago the organization brought together 35 galleries, so this event is growing quickly! And it's not a coincidence it is set in the first weekend of the Golden Week, the busiest week of the year for Kyoto. Let's hope a big chunk of all those tourists coming here went to see the up and coming of contemporary Japan at Art Kyoto 2012.

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