Last Updated:Jun 16, 2007

Rising Japanese stars at bargain prices

When the Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami launched the first ever Geisai art market in Tokyo, he hailed it as ‘a revolutionary art event in the 21st century that will pave the way for a friendlier, interactive art world’.

Performance.jpg
Performance.jpg

Since then, the biannual art festival continues to showcase hundreds of cutting-edge upcoming Japanese artists in intimate, open-market style settings, supported by Murakami’s company Kaikai Kiki.

Geisai #9, held this March, invited high-profile industry experts such as Francois Pinault, owner of luxury-goods company PPR and the auction house Christie’s, and architect Tadao Ando, as part of their panel of judges (previous judges include Yayoi Kusama, Yoshimoto Nara, NY artist David Ellis, among others). The judges’ awards for young artists, who each take their own stands, bring them a step closer to the professional art industry. For others, the day-long Geisai offers a relaxed environment to interact with the 10,000 or so visitors.

Rokkaku and Perrotin.jpg
Rokkaku and Perrotin.jpg

Prices range from 100 yen ($0.80) postcards, to sculptures and installations worth over 2000,000 yen ($17,000). Second-time Geisai participant Rokkaku Ayako held a small booth overflowing with manga-like acrylic paint illustrations of girls on cardboard sheets, going for 3,000 yen to 10,000 yen depending on size ($25 to $85). “I show my work in Geisai and Design Festa (another biannual art event in Tokyo) because it’s cheaper than exhibiting by myself. I have no specific goals, but I want to keep drawing for as long as possible” says Ayako. The self-taught 24 year-old’s booth attracted many young art fans, as well as the eye of one of the sub-judges, gallery owner Emmanuel Perrotin, who was seen buying her work.

The coveted Francois Pinault award went to 2004 Maebashi Art Competition winner Junichi Saito, for his risqué sculptures and works of art depicting Japanese high-school girls. Museum curators and art buyers exchanged business cards with Saito and admired his work, ranging from 70,000 yen ($590) for the nude sculpture, up to 300,000 yen ($2,500) for his female torso, “The whereabouts of Lust” which won the award in 2004.

Sculptures, installations and performance art were everywhere at Geisai #9, with a distinct lack of photography. “Through past Geisai events, young artists have realized that the market for photography is extremely small in Japan,” says gallery owner Tomio Koyama. “As a result, many photographers seek work overseas rather than attend domestic festivals like this one”.

The same article is also posted on The Art Newspaper.

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Lena Oishi

Lena Oishi

Born in Japan in 1982, grew up in England and Australia. With a BA in Media and Communications and MA in Cinema Studies, she now lives in Tokyo as a freelance translator and occasional editor. Works include VICE Magazine, Japanese editorial supervision of "Metronome No. 11 - <i>What Is To Be Done? Tokyo</i> " (Seikosha, 2007), and translation for film and art festival catalogs. She can also interpret simultaneously if you give her enough candy. Lena likes making her eyeballs bleed after watching way too many films while eating ice cream in the dark.

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