Tokyo’s art scene is a thriving mix of well-established museums and smaller innovative galleries showcasing the best of the new.
A full-fledged art destination on par with Basel, Miami, Hong Kong, or Beijing, Tokyo is attracting legions of art lovers as never before. Galleries here cover everything from Western art to ukiyo-e to contemporary works such as those featured at Complex 665 in Roppongi; public art and personal exhibitions abound as well. The Ginza district alone has more galleries than Art Basel. Browsing for art and talking with curators and gallerists about the stories behind the works and artists promises a satisfying visit for any art lover. Here we introduce three popular galleries and the artists they represent: one a rising star of oil painting, another an internationally renowned ceramicist, and the third a leading figure of the avant-garde.
The gallery’s entrance on Sotobori-dori Street. The stone figures have stood unchanged since prewar years.
Japan’s oldest gallery of Western art has represented hundreds of artists in Japan and abroad, principally in the media of oil painting, prints, and sculpture. “No matter who comes here, they’ll always find something they like,” says press officer Yoshino Mizuguchi. The more than 100 works on display encompass everything from museum-class pieces to creations by up-and-coming artists. Galerie Nichido enlivens Japan’s art scene with one museum and six branches in Japan and abroad.
2018 was the 53rd anniversary of Nichido’s annual “Showa-kai,” a competition that supports young artists. Many eminent artists practicing in Japan today have been honored with its prize; the latest is Michiru Sato, a rising star to watch.
Persian Silk Tree and Boat by Michiru Sato
An old boat abandoned in a forest hints at the aftermath of some natural disaster, while the silk-tree flowers and spreading light suggest hope. The rich imagery and its powerful expression are a quiet message of strength for the present. Winner of the 53rd Showa-kai.
President Tokushichi Hasegawa
Gallery interior. The distinctive red sofa and tatami mat seating area were designed by the late Shigeru Uchida.
Opened in 1996, Ippodo handles many superb contemporary works by Japanese artists. “We seek out and exhibit works that will grab people’s hearts,” says CEO Keiko Aono, who deeply values Japan’s sense of beauty. Ten years ago she opened a branch of the gallery in New York to help new artists “spread their wings and reach the world.”
Aono says her current favorites include photographer Kenji Wakasugi for two-dimensional works and Toru Matsuzaki for lacquer. For ceramics, she adds, “Shiro Tsujimura is very special.”
Natural ash-glazed pot by Shiro Tsujimura Tsujimura works at his creations, which include calligraphy and paintings, in the mountains of Nara. In ceramics he is unrivaled—likely the best-known artist in the medium in Japan. His stunning works are on show at the Ippodo Gallery.
CEO Keiko Aono
Kishio Suga’s recent exhibition at the Tomio Koyama Gallery in Complex 665 in Roppongi
Closely linked with the work of such high-profile artists as Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami, Tomio Koyama Gallery has been a leader of contemporary art trends in Japan since its founding in 1996. It frequently stages exhibitions by artists from Japan and overseas, including Mika Ninagawa and Hiroshi Sugito, as well as Kishio Suga, who shows new work almost every year. “Suga is a remarkable artist who even at the age of 74 produces new work regularly,” says staff member Emi Kanesaki. “The older he gets, the fresher his work becomes.”
Merged Surrounding by Kishio Suga
Suga, a well-known artist of the Mono-ha “School of Things,” shows “mono” (things) just as they are, while hinting at new relationships and spatial perceptions through their juxtapositions. He can be found at work in his Shizuoka studio creating new pieces every day.
CEO Tomio Koyama