Japan’s largest gallery show closed a few weeks ago, running from the 20th to the 22nd of March 2015, with a record number of 55,000 visitors. The Artling interviewed Art Fair Tokyo’s Executive Producer, Naohiko Kishi, & the fair’s Program Director, Takahiro Kaneshima, to find out more about how the fair has changed since its inception and where they see it going in the future.
ARTFAIR TOKYO used to be NICAF, which was held eight times from 1992 until itchanged its name to ART FAIR TOKYO and took on a larger commercial dimension. Thenew incarnation of the fair was held for the first time in 2005. Then we had around 80 gallery booths and some 30,000 visitors, whereas now there are close to 150 booths, including galleries, corporations and partners, with some 55,000 visitors. We have also developed the fair to be a platform examining art in a variety of ways, putting efforts into projects like the Artistic Practices series, talks, and workshops.
In five years’ time the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in Tokyo. The Games are not simply a sporting event and we aim to integrate our fair with them to form a large festival of culture and sports. With our tenth anniversary now here, we are entering a new phase where we need to consider how the fair will engage with the upcoming Olympics.
Visitors from Japan are in the majority, but this year we held the fair right after Art Basel – Hong Kong, so there was an increase in overseas visitors compared to last year. Many of our collectors do indeed live in Tokyo but depending on the season, collectors come to Tokyo from all over the world and often purchase expensive artworks.
We believe they will increase. With the government’s measures to increase inbound tourism, the weakening of the yen, and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, not only overseas tourists but also affluent visitors to Japan will increase. We often hear people talking about their hopes to develop business models within the culture unique to Japan, so overseas exhibitors will surely increase in the future.
We will continue with this policy. We feel that a major difference between ART FAIR TOKYO and other art fairs is its Japanese-ness. It features a wealth of artworks that can only be seen here in Tokyo, from antiques to crafts that have matured through the cultural influence of Europe, America and Asia, as well as the modern art that expanded from this. This has become a major characteristic of ART FAIR TOKYO. Antiques and crafts are a necessary element of our fair.
Since 2012 we have included a section in the fair called Discover Asia (for our 2015 fair we unfortunately could not include it due to being too close to Art Basel – Hong Kong), and by continuing this program we sense that Japanese collectors are, little by little, developing overseas perspectives. Many Japanese collectors also went to Hong Kong this year and I feel that we are proactively joining up with the global trends of the art world.
Interest in the international scene is increasing. As a fair, the focus has indeed been mostly on Japan until now, but though we are always exploring the question of what is a “Japanese” art fair, it is not the case that we are aiming to specialize only in Japan. As we head towards 2020, we want to develop the fair further while maintaining our awareness of this Japanese character.
It used to be the case that only people related to the art scene would purchase certain artworks, but over the past few years the scope of collectors has opened up and there has been an increase in the number of ordinary people collecting art, including regular office workers and employees. The types of art being collected are also all on the rise, with people who previously only had an interest in antiques now also taking an interest in contemporary art, while young collectors who only had interests in contemporary art also starting to collect antiques. This is a very ART FAIR TOKYO-esque phenomenon.
The art scene in Japan has until now been heavily supported by public investment, but every year government budgets are reduced. Today the situation where public agencies collect art is facing difficulties, meaning there is an urgent need for an art eco system appropriate for Japan, one that can stand on its own feet without relying on national or regional governments. As part of this, I feel that one of the roles for ART FAIR TOKYO is to further integrate the private sector that purchases art (both individual collectors and corporations), while building a framework for supporting art through the strength of the private sector and by enriching the layers of the art market.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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