Art Fairs are a hub of cultural exchange, most famous being Art Basel (Miami/Hong Kong/Pairs) followed by Seoul Frieze. However, Tokyo Gendai’s debut really stepped up to the plate and gave them some healthy needed competition.
Here’s a handful of my favourites from the up-and-coming Tokyo Gendai
The purpose of Tokyo Gendai is to gather collectors from across the globe in hopes of them finding their special piece. ‘Gendai’, meaning contemporary, has instantly put Japan back on the map in the art world with its idiosyncratic style of futuristic juxtaposed with tradition.
It all started at the entrance with an installation by Tokyo-born sculptor Ryuichi Ohira for Nanzuka. “The Circuit” immediately captured guests’ attention with fluorescent fruit sculptures on a racetrack with pineapple vehicles circulating. To add to this colourful banality, Ohira’s head was sculpted as a passenger. Discombobulation at its finest to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter for Tokyo Gendai.
Nanzuka also hosted live portraits on three occasions by the extraordinary visual artist ‘Boubou Design’ from Senegal. Brush or roller? Scrap that. Boubou is known to draw with whatever he can get his hands on. From an individual’s head to a wheelchair – you name it, he’s drawn with it. He also has a talent of drawing his subjects upside down. Is BouBou superhuman? He’s certainly done the rounds on social media with many high-profile celebrities taking a fancy to his unique style.
Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing
Ai Weiwei’s infamous ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’ portraits hung by Tang Contemporary Art appear at Tokyo Gendai. Unusually on this occasion, the portraits are made from Lego bricks – a strong statement in the replication of a valuable antique. The Lego is representative of his work which creates sparks of controversy towards transformation and destruction.
Jonathan Lyndon Chas
Sadie Cole’s HQ, London
The impressive pieces by Jonathan Lyndon Chas are unique in outlining ordinary events juxtaposed with queer black love. Hung by Sadie Coles HQ with bountiful shapes and vibrant coloured frames. Chas’s work represents his own relationships and experiences from early life.
Over the Influence, Hong Kong
Invader (a pseudonym) never fails to impress. His work, presented by Over the Influence, highlights his 21st-century Rubikcubism style. Rubik Flowers and La Nuit Etoilee both express liberalism. His unusual project ‘Space Invaders’, with its mosaic detail, sparked interest by bringing out the demographic audience of gamers from the sofa to urban streets.
Toyin Ojih Odutola
Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola has attracted many admirers with her ‘Homeroom Transfer’ painting, curated by Jack Shainman Gallery. She strips it back to basics, using paper, black ballpoint pens, pencils, and pastels. All are prominent in her work, outlining the very intimate creases and curves of her subjects.
With an array of eclectic contemporary works, Gendai is off to a promising start. As the pandemic severely impacted Japan’s economy from the cancellation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and lack of tourism, events such as Tokyo Gendai are contributing towards the economy’s gradual return. Magnus Renfrew Co-founder of Tokyo Gendai expresses his vision for the future of the fair by saying that it has the “potential to galvanise the community and put Tokyo in the spotlight of the international art world”.