7 Artists To Watch At Tokyo Gendai 2024

Eri Takane, fair director of international art fair Tokyo Gendai, talks shop, and spotlights the exhibiting artists and artworks to watch out for at its upcoming second edition, set to take place in Yokohama, Japan, from 5 to 7 July

The future for Asian artists, art collectors and art markets is looking bright, says Eri Takane. “Asia will continue to assert its position within the global art world, and the framing of ‘international’ being synonymous with European and American [art] will continue to be revisited,” expounds the fair director of
international art fair Tokyo Gendai, which returns to the Tokyo Bay area for its second edition this July at Pacifico Yokohama.

At the same time, the balance of power within the region is in flux, says Takane. As she explains, while the market was initially tightly focused on Hong Kong, it has expanded over the last decade to encompass further cultural focal points, as befitting the great economic and cultural importance of many
of the cities within the region. “While Hong Kong will remain important to the art world in Asia, exhibitors and collectors are looking to broaden and deepen their relationships across Asia Pacific and discover its varied and rich cultural hubs,” she states.

Eri Takane

And this is where Japan comes in. The world’s third‑largest economy is noted for its disproportionately modest art market—representing just 3.7 per cent of the global market in 2020, according to the 2021 Japanese Art Industry Market Research Survey—but that is starting to change with the launch of events such as Art Week Tokyo in 2021 and Tokyo Gendai in 2023. The latter, the first international art fair held in the Tokyo Bay area in more than three decades when it launched last year, is shaping up to be a hotbed of top Asian art talent, featuring contemporary works presented by leading galleries such as Mizuma Art Gallery, Sundaram Tagore Gallery and Taro Nasu.

“The global cultural reputation of Japan and its significant reach beyond its borders make it uniquely positioned within the region,” Takane says. “Japan has a well‑established local art infrastructure, with a vibrant gallery scene dating back more than 50 years, and has one of the highest curatorial standards in
the world [when it comes to programming and presentation].”

Testament to that is Tokyo Gendai 2024, which will spotlight exhibitors chosen by a committee that includes Tim Blum, founder of Blum in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo; Huang Yaji, founder of Each Modern in Taipei; and John O’Doherty, director of Sadie Coles HQ in London. The works shown will be grouped into three sectors: Galleries, featuring presentations by leading international galleries; Hana (Japanese for “flower”), dedicated to solo or duo‑artist presentations by up‑and‑coming or mid‑career artists; and Eda (Japanese for “branch”), showcasing solo or duo‑artist presentations by established or historically significant artists in Asia, or curated or themed presentations.

Among the works from this year’s 73 exhibiting galleries, Takane highlights seven as a sampler of the contemporary pieces Tokyo Gendai represents.


Photo by Shu Nakagawa © Kenjiro Okazaki, courtesy of Takuro Someya Contemporary Art

“Since his debut in 1981, Kenjiro Okazaki has continued to have a profound influence on Japanese art and culture. This tile piece, one of his most important and rare works, has been exhibited at Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (its installation view is shown above), so we’re very excited that Takuro Someya
Contemporary Art will be exhibiting it at Tokyo Gendai.”


Photo by Osamu Sakamoto, courtesy of Anomaly

“Anomaly presents works by two artists, Yusuke Asai and Keisuke Tanaka, with the theme of ‘More than Human’. Both explore the relationship between life and nature from their distinct perspectives and point out the feasibility of coexistence with other species. By using earth collected in various places as paints,
Asai fills canvases with mythical‑looking images that bring to mind plants, animals, human beings, and hybrids of human beings and plants or animals.”


Photo by Sebastiano Pellion di Persano, courtesy of Taro Nasu

“[Part of Taro Nasu’s] group exhibition that poses questions about the disconnect between fixed concepts and existing frameworks, as well as identity issues of today, and new forms of communication and visualisation enabled by modern technology, [Koichi] Enomoto’s artwork reconsiders the importance of historical awareness as a means of gaining broader cultural understanding.”


Photo by Michael Brzezinski, courtesy of Alison Jacques

“British artist Sophie Barber has created new works for Tokyo Gendai [that explore] symbols significant to Japan while simultaneously referencing historical chronologies of Western art. Barber frequently paints on tightly wrapped offcuts of recycled canvas, which she stuffs with recycled materials (such as chocolate bar wrappers and ephemera from her studio), creating rounded, cushion‑like compositions.”


Photo courtesy of Each Modern

“Each Modern’s presentation, titled Writings as the Universe, recognises the boundless potential of its exhibiting artists, including Tseng Chien‑Ying. His paintings and sculptures, both abstract and figurative, nurture individual and collective identity, transformation and celebration, and emphasise the importance
of reclaiming narrative traditions.”


Photo courtesy of Veta by Fer Francés

“Filipino artist Manuel Ocampo confronts us with complex and lively compositions, sometimes reminiscent of surrealism, and invites us into both a dark and unsettling contemplation. Satire is everywhere in his practice and all symbols of power, whether political or religious, are ironically distorted, reverted, or subjected to parody.”


Photo courtesy of Tang Contemporary Art

“Tang Contemporary Art presents works of zodiac animals made out of Lego bricks by renowned Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, who is famous for his conceptual artworks that challenge authority as well as explore the links between the contemporary world and traditional Chinese culture. His strong aesthetic statements resonate across today’s geopolitical world.”

This story originally appeared in the June/July 2024 issue of GRAZIA Singapore.


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