Posted:May 18, 2009

A Beginner’s Guide to Design Festa

Design Festa Vol. 29 is fast approaching but what is all the fuss about? Tokyo Art Beat explains the basics…

Design Festa is a massive exhibition cum art market. It’s a bonanza for artists to exhibit and offer their work to the public.

It is run by the Design Festa Gallery in Harajuku. It features seven thousand exhibitors, including foreign artists from twenty-eight countries worldwide. Official visitor numbers total nine million for all the events to the present.

Given the scale it is no surprise that it takes place at Tokyo Big Sight (West Hall 1, 2, 3, 4 Atrium and Outdoor). Some of the exhibition area will be under ‘dimmed lighting’, where performance and multi-media works will be presented.

Held for the first time in 1994, it is now in its fifteenth year. Held biannually, it’s a truly massive event, lasting two days. Vol. 29 is on May 16 and 17.

Design Festa is an event for artists of all ages and levels to meet, exhibit and sell their work. It is intended to be totally accessible, both to take part in and to visit.

Image courtesy of Design Festa

Image courtesy of Design Festa

Design Festa is a highly accessible event; it is for everyone and anyone. Whether you are taking part or just taking a look, there is no hint of snobbery or elitism. Further, as you’d expect from the large number of booths, there is a huge amount of variety on display. This extends to performance, video and 3D works too, so it’s not just paintings and posters. There is also a visible international presence.

Scale is a double-edged sword: although it brings variety it also brings overload. Trying to see it all will tire out even the most athletic of visitors. And quality will of course vary wildly. Competition from GEISAI is also an issue, which has led some people to comment that both events are trying to do the same thing (although GEISAI has the backing of mega-corporation Kaikai Kiki Co. and celebrity judges).

For further reading, see this TABlog manga review of Design Festa Vol. 25. TABlog also has small report on vol. 22.

Visit the official website.

William Andrews

William Andrews

William Andrews came to Japan in 2004. He first lived in Osaka, where he was a translator for Kansai Art Beat. Arriving in Tokyo in 2008, he now works as an writer, editor and translator. He writes a blog about Japanese radicalism and counterculture and one about Tokyo contemporary theatre. He is the author of Dissenting Japan: A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture, from 1945 to Fukushima.