Japanese Art Exhibitions outside of Japan

Japanese art exhibitions worth catching this summer

With longer days and more beautiful sunshine to be enjoyed, summer brings a lot of reasons to head out including seeing great exhibitions on Japanese art. Just as summer months can lift moods, I believe art can also restore our inner energy. How exciting then that this summer brings a whole host of Japanese art exhibitions in the UK. Japan is hot! In this edition, I would like to introduce three Japanese contemporary art exhibitions.

Beyond Time. Installation by Chiharu Shiota, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Chiharu Shiota: Beyond Time
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
From 30 March until 2 September 2018

‘Beyond Time’ explores artist Chiharu Shiota’s interest in the memory of space. Her site-specific work in the sculpture park’s 18th century Chapel is immersive and engulfing. Like stepping into an ancient room inhabited by widowed spiders who have studiously spun her web for thousands of years, Shiota’s installation invites visitors to peer into a world of memories both lived and yet to be experienced.

Chiharu Shiota is a leading Japanese artist who is based in Berlin and has lived in Germany since 1997. She received her international acclaim for her representative work, ‘The Key In The Hand’ at the Japan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition in 2015. Her mesmerising installation involved a seemingly impenetrable web-like structure made using red strings with hundreds of keys attached to the ends and suspended in mid-air. One of the audience captivated by her work was the senior curator of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park who invited Shiota to create an exhibition at the sculpture park.

Shiota says that strings are her way of drawings in space. Her three-dimensional work using strings expresses human emotions, which is often complex and is not easy to understand. The Chapel where her work can be experienced was originally built in 1744. It has since been deconsecrated in 1970s. . ‘Beyond Time’ consumes the entire inner hall. Hundreds of white strings spew from the ceiling and walls which Shiota manipulates to create a giant woven structure that cascade down to key points on the ground. The centre piece is an outline of a piano made using black wire. This is her second work using white strings and the first installation that uses purely white strings. The artist describes that the colour white symbolises purity in its blankness and life as white is also associated with death in Japan. Using 2000 spools of white wool, she attempts to visualise memories, activities, and church services that took place in the Chapel. Her work is intended to connect with and reflect on people who were involved with the chapel in the past to those viewing her work in the present.

Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future
Japan House, London
From 22 June until 5 August 2018

An exhibition on Sou Fujimoto’s work, “Futures for the Future”, will celebrate the opening of the Japan House in London this summer. Fujimoto is a leading architect who works effortlessly on the world stage. “Futures of the Future” is a touring exhibition held in collaboration with Tokyo’s TOTO Gallery MA. Fujimoto describes the process of constructing architectural vision for the future as akin to “planting seeds for the future.” That is, rather than presenting a fully articulated landscape, his aim was to present work that would act as a seed of inspiration and potential. The exhibition first opened in TOTO Gallery MA in 2015 and has since travelled to the Japan House in Sao Paulo from November 2017 to February 2018. The exhibition not only display his current projects, but also Fujimoto’s architectural experiments for the future.

Fujimoto is no stranger to the UK. “The Cloud Pavilion” at the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2013 was his first major solo exhibition in London. Some may have seen his work “House NA of 2011” at the Barbican last year. Fujimoto’s work focuses on people and space and their relationships with the environment. For visualising his ideas, he always places human figures on each of his architectural model. He does so to structures that are impossible to build, such as those using plastic bottle and a shredded paper. He argues that the “figures” help define architectural spaces. The exhibition is both a retrospective of Fujimoto’s practice and a step into the future he envisages. Some of the projects have been realised while others have not, and demonstrates his ambitions and the future potential of architecture.


Chim↑Pom: Why Open?
White Rainbow, London
On now until 7 July 2018

On for only a little while longer is the exhibition “Why Open?” at White Rainbow Gallery in London featuring Chim↑Pom, one of the most dynamic collectives of young Japanese artists. The group consisting of Ryūta Ushiro, Yasutaka Hayashi, Ellie, Masataka Okada, Motomu Inaoka, and Toshinori Mizuno are all, apart from Ellie, self-trained. They are known for their provocative critique of contemporary social issues. Chim↑Pom are notorious for their seemingly uninhibited method of tackling sensitive issues. They have created works and happenings that have on occasions caused a great deal of controversy and outcry.

“Why Open?” shows some of their collective artworks that have been exhibited at various places and occasions. Bound by the question of civilian rights and identity, the selected works in “Why Open” re-examine our sense of belonging in contested territories, such as the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone and the U.S.-Mexico border.

The exhibition features selected pieces from “Don’t Follow the Wind” project. Organised and produced by Chim↑Pom and international group of curators, the group produced an exhibition held in the inaccessible nuclear no-entry zone in Fukushima. With still dangerously high radiation level, no one is for sure if and when the exhibition in the Fukushima nuclear zone will open to public.

Another collection of work exhibited are selected pieces from “The Other Side”, a series of work on the theme of identity, migration and freedom. Centred around Ellie’s personal experience of being denied entry into the U.S., “The Other Side” highlights the enduring reality of segregation experienced in U.S. today. Chim↑Pom received the Prudential Eye Awards in 2015 for Best Emerging Artist Using Digital/Video and Best Emerging Artist of the Year.

“Why Open?” presents works that are not all possible to see in their originally intended context. The exhibition closes on 7 July, so do please take the rare opportunity to visit White Rainbow soon.

All the exhibition details and publication information introduced here and more can be found on the comprehensive research database, developed by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, known as Tobunken. As a research partner of Tobunken, the Sainsbury Institute contributes by gathering data and information on Japanese art exhibitions taking place outside of Japan and publications in English.

Miwako Hayashi Bitmead
Japanese Arts Database Officer