Art Week Tokyo: Three Museum Exhibitions To Look Out For

Art Week Tokyo: Three Museum Exhibitions To Look Out For

From a Lee Ufan survey show and a Shinro Ohtake retrospective to Rinko Kawauchi’s solo exhibition, here’s three institutional exhibitions in Tokyo not to miss.
From a Lee Ufan survey show and a Shinro Ohtake retrospective to Rinko Kawauchi’s solo exhibition, here’s three institutional exhibitions in Tokyo not to miss.
Art Week Tokyo’s AWT PASS app.

J ust last month, as Japan lifted the last of its travel restrictions, including scrapping its 50,000 daily arrivals cap, the buzz and anticipation to visit the island country was simply electric. Exciting chatter of ramen and shopping filled every conversation and Instagram feeds were saturated by travel snaps. All this is just in time for Art Week Tokyo (AWT), which has already kicked off with its VIP events while the four-day citywide initiative presented in collaboration with Art Basel is officially set to take place from 3 through 6 November. The soft launch edition in 2021 – during a time when Japan was still closed off from visitors – saw 20,000 people attend exhibitions and events across 50 institutions and galleries. For this year’s edition, which sees 52 participants, expectations are high now that travel has resumed. 

So with the vast number of events, where does one begin to navigate AWT? While we think you should definitely utilise AWT’s complimentary bus services and newly launched mobile app to gallery hop and plan your way around the 41 galleries and 11 institutions, here are three exhibitions that should be bookmarked first.

Lee Ufan | National Art Center, Tokyo

Lee Ufan, Relatum–The Arch of Versailles, 2014, stone and stainless steel. Collection of the artist.
Photo Archives kamel mennour, courtesy the artist, kamel mennour, Paris, and Pace, New York.

A pioneer of the Mono-ha (“School of Things”) and Dansaekhwa movements, Lee Ufan is most recognised for his paintings and sculptures that explore the relationships between matter, viewer, time and space. His works are collected in many collections around the world, and he has been the subject of exhibitions in both Europe and Asia, most recently opening a Tadao Ando-designed permanent space, Lee Ufan Arles, in southern France which join the ranks of other Lee Ufan exhibition venues in Japan and South Korea. Born in 1936 in Haman-gun, Lee came to prominence with the Mono-ha movement, executing the first work of his seminal ongoing Relatum series in 1968. In the early 1970s he began the series of paintings From Point and From Line where colour is depicted in the process of gradual fading. While the 1980s was about dynamic brushwork, the end of the 1980s saw the use of empty space become more prominent. By the 2000s, Lee moved away from his painterly gestures with radical experiments involving just a few brushstrokes. At the National Art Center, Tokyo a major retrospective mounted for the 15th anniversary of the institution celebrates Lee’s nearly seven-decade-long career, spanning his early pre-Mono-ha period all the way to his latest works.

Shinro Ohtake | National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Shinro Ohtake, MON CHERI: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed, 2012, mixed media, timber, electronics, sound, steam, dimensions variable. Sound production cooperation: Masaru Hatanaka. Photo Masahito Yamamoto, © Shinro Ohtake, courtesy Take Ninagawa, Tokyo.

With a multi-disciplinary practice that ranges across collage, drawing, architecture, sculptural assemblage, and sound, Shinro Ohtake is well respected as a leading artist of contemporary Japanese art, rising to prominence following his participation in documenta in 2012 and the Venice Biennale in 2013. The exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo will be the first major retrospective of the Tokyo-born artist in 16 years and is held in conjunction with the museum’s 70th anniversary this year. This highly anticipated exhibition showcases nearly 500 works and items across seven themes – Self/Others, Memory, Time, From One to Another, Dreams/Retina, Layer/Stratum, and Sound – presenting everything including his earliest works, and seminal pieces previously shown in international exhibitions, to recent works created during the pandemic.

Rinko Kawauchi: M/E On this sphere Endlessly interlinking | Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

Rinko Kawauchi, Untitled, from the series "M/E," 2020.

The largest museum exhibition in Japan of Rinko Kawauchi and her first solo exhibition in six years, “M/E On this sphere Endlessly interlinking” at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery explores the prolific photographer’s oeuvre in photography, video and other media of the past decade, centred around her new series M/E which she began in 2019. Underscored by her delicate sensibilities and ability to capture the mystery, strength, fragility and radiant aspects of life, Kawauchi’s expressive works invites its audience to reflect on vast questions about our relationship with nature. The exhibition showcases several series of works, including Illuminance, an ongoing video work that was first unveiled in 2011 and grows with each time it is exhibited; Light and Shadow, inspired by an encounter with a pair of pigeons; Ametsuchi, captured on a 4x5 film camera; 4%, shot in 2011 in San Francisco and 2012 in Los Angeles, exhibiting for the first time in Japan; An interlinking, shot in the iconic 6x6 square format, and will include previously unseen work drawn from Kawauchi’s archives; and M/E, the namesake and heart of the exhibition.

Contemporary Art

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