Mori Art Museum examines the evolution of contemporary Japanese art

STARS brings together Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Lee Ufan, Tatsuo Miyajima, Yoshimoto Nara and Hiroshi Sugimoto, exploring the arc of post war contemporary art in Japan.

by Shraddha Nair Published on : Nov 04, 2020

In an aptly titled exhibition, STARS, at Mori Art Museum, are featured works of six iconic Japanese artists whose careers have become internationally known representations of the Eastern nation’s contemporary art landscape. With a curated range of artworks, which date from as far back as the late 1960s right up to 2020, Mori Art Museum brings to fore the dynamic nature of each artist’s extensive oeuvre. The museum brings together Yayoi Kusama, Lee Ufan, Tatsuo Miyajima, Yoshimoto Nara, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Takashi Murakami.

An installation view of Lee Ufan’s work at STARS | STARS | Lee Ufan | STIRworld
An installation view of Lee Ufan’s work at STARS Image: Courtesy of Takayama Kozo for Mori Art Museum

In an exclusive chat with STIR, Director of the museum and co-curator of STARS, Kataoka Mami, discusses the relevance of this exhibition, “We (the curatorial team) started to share and convey our ideas of the STARS exhibition with each of these six artists. We have commonly asked all of the six artists to show at least one of the notable works with which they made their ‘international debut’, as well as the most recent works, so that our visitors could see the changes and also the consistency throughout the artists’ entire careers simultaneously. Exhibition plans of all six artists were finalised through separate and individual dialogues at the different timing, and some of them have in fact ended up reflecting what we have been experiencing (or have experienced, to say the least) during the pandemic”.

‘Cherry Blossoms Fujiyama Japan’ (2020) by Takashi Murakami | STARS | Takashi Murakami | STIRworld
Cherry Blossoms Fujiyama Japan (2020) by Takashi Murakami Image: Courtesy of Mori Art Museum

The exhibition puts into employ a range of archival materials as well, seeking to document the arc of the practices developed by the artists on display. The addition of these materials is an essential layer in the exhibition, allowing viewers to engage deeply with the works and immerse themselves in the stories which subsequently unravel around them. The extensive documentation ties together the threads which interweave to create the socio-political backdrop of the time, during which these artists grew into names of international renown. This inclusion contextualises the artists highlighted within a larger framework, encouraging closer inspection of the way Japanese aesthetics were integrated into worldwide contemporary culture through art. The archival materials go further so as to locate the exhibition in the development of a global economy post the second World War, inviting the viewer to consider all the various elements at play including those outside the realm of art.

Mami describes this further saying, “There are two parts to the ‘Archives’ section. One, called ‘Artists’ Archives’ is about six participating artists showing their respective exhibition history, list of awards, monographs/catalogues, as well as selected articles and reviews at different times and places, so that visitors could see how each artist had developed their career over time. Second part is titled ‘How Has Contemporary Japanese Art Been Introduced to Foreign Audiences?’, displaying 50 ‘selected’ exhibitions of Japanese contemporary art outside of the country, from 1958 to 2019. This includes information concerning exhibition framework, the organiser, list of artists, catalogue and in some cases, with actual reviews. This timeline is correlated with the different timings of societal history as well, including when Japan had started to garner some attention from the rest of the world, such as around 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, or the late 80s when Japan was in the midst of the bubble economy”. 

The exhibition looks at the evolution of Japan in the realm of global contemporary art through an extensive curation of archival materials | STARS | STIRworld
The exhibition looks at the evolution of Japan in the realm of global contemporary art through an extensive curation of archival materials Image: Courtesy of Takayama Kozo for Mori Art Museum

The curatorial objectives discuss some crucial questions, which come at a timely moment, as the world witnesses a global crisis. It questions the essential role of art and what defines an artist's success. Against the backdrop of a global epidemic, this dialogue has become more relevant than ever as the art economy slips into an ocean of unknowns. Mami describes eloquently, “While this exhibition was essentially planned before the pandemic (COVID-19), it would become an important, groundbreaking statement for the museum as well; especially since we are ‘reopening’ after five months of temporary closure, with this particular show. In the six separate yet powerful whole-gallery installations, some could be regarded more as ‘condensed retrospective’ while others take a rather minimal approach to convey their careers, by showcasing from early works to the most recent works. Visitors would certainly encounter vital energy from each of these different spaces, and that physical and emotional experience would provide some answers to the said question regarding the ‘essential role of art’. One would then reconsider and redefine what ‘success’ means to each of these artists by looking at their own individual history of numerous challenges, full of patience, repetitions and fortunate encounters. Everyone has different stories and visitors would be assured that there is no one in the exhibition who has become a superstar overnight. Their endurance, consistency and resilience would provide some insights and cast light on our current world situation”.

The exhibition was inaugurated on July 31, 2020, and will remain on display at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, until January 03, 2021.

‘STARS’ takes a close look at the growth of these iconic artists through archival materials | STARS | Yayoi Kusama| STIRworld
STARS takes a close look at the growth of these iconic artists through archival materials Image: Courtesy of Takayama Kozo

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