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Art Space Tokyo: An intimate guide to the Tokyo art world


Nobumasa Takahashi Illustrates “Tokyo: Portraits and Fictions”

Takahashi Nobumasa, the artist who illustrated Art Space Tokyo, has provided some astounding work for a new book on Tokyo.

French architect Manuel Tardits’ Tokyo: Portraits and Fictions is a meditation on the urban planning and spatial culture of the Japanese capital. Reminiscent of Roland Barthes’ Empire of Signs (1970), the publication spans the genres of history book, travelogue, and architectural critique. Its 85 chapters are short, eulogistic streams of consciousness that cover concepts and narratives ranging from “Steps” to “Urashima Taro,” “Shadow,” “Ubiquity,” “Enclosures,” “Heroism,” and “Superflat.”

Architects are prone to flowery and overwrought writing, and the text in this book is no exception. What might be a bit of a rushed translation into English also seems to add to the awkwardness in some places. So while one could read the book from start to finish, it may be more pleasant to dip in to it at random intervals and digest it in morsels, one idea at a time.

Takahashi’s pen-and-ink illustrations are as always a playful array of crisp lines, wobbly protrusions, and dense compositions. In his hands, Tokyo is a web of silhouetted telephone lines, a cascade of neon shop signs, and a tangle of elevated expressways and railroads cradling the head of the Giant Buddha of Kamakura.

I was also pleased to discover the work of the book’s other illustrator, Stéphane Lagré, a French architect based in Nantes. His grainy photo-collages are an unnerving take on the city. One stands out in particular: a panorama of Tokyo in which Mount Fuji looms large on the horizon and nine white rings ominously encircle different areas of the city. They recall one of the early scenes in Katsuhiro Ohtomo’s Akira (1988), in which the nuclear explosion that destroys Tokyo is depicted as a rapidly expanding dome of light that consumes the metropolis.

Snow Magazine Launches

Following weeks of dropping hints and teasers on his blog, long-time Tokyo-based design writer and editor Jean Snow has finally launched his new online magazine.

Snow magazine offers news and guest-columns covering the cultural landscape of Tokyo and Japan, as well as some syndicated content from the Néojaponisme web journal and Paper Sky magazine.  And it’s a joy to look at!

It’s a much-needed successor to PingMag, the popular online design magazine that ceased publication with the recession.

Art Between Tokyo and New York

I just want to direct readers’ attention towards Johnny Strategy’s Spoon & Tamago (Spoon and Egg) blog. Ostensibly it covers “art, somewhere between New York and Tokyo” but over the last six months, since I’ve started following it, the emphasis seems to be firmly planted on Japanese soil.

Mr. Strategy’s special editions sections, including Contemporary Japanese Architects and Japanese Industrial Designers 101, provide great jumping points for deeper exploration into these fields.

Spoon & Tamago offers a keen observational eye into a wide range of Japanese art, design and architecture — in other words, it’s a blog you should be reading. 

New Gallery Building Opens in Ebisu

Earlier this week, the NADiff art bookstore, which vacated its Omotesando premises last summer, finally reopened its doors in Ebisu. The new building also houses three galleries — Magical Artroom, G/P Gallery and Art Jam Contemporary — as well as a new bar/café, Magic Room. I posted a photo report of the extremely crowded opening party here, on Tokyo Art Beat.

New Gallery Building to Open in Ebisu

This is the latest chapter in Tokyo’s ongoing series of gallery relocations of the past six months. The building will house Nadiff bookshop, Magical Artroom and G/P Gallery.

Nadiff, Tokyo’s number one art bookshop, left its main premises in Omotesando last summer, and since then has been running only its museum shop outlets. The Roppongi gallery building closed in February this year, forcing its occupants to find new locations throughout the city, and news spread that Magical Artroom would be joining Nadiff in Ebisu. However, the opening date for this new building has been repeatedly postponed since then.

Magical Artroom was previously operated by a collective of Tokyo art world figures — collector and psychiatrist Satoshi Okada, art critic Kentaro Ichihara, and editor Shigeo Goto, with Haruka Ito running the office. Now, Haruka Ito is running the gallery, with Satoshi Okada as president and Masami Shiraishi (director of SCAI The Bathhouse) as a professional adviser. The former directors will also remain as advisers.

Shigeo Goto also announced recently that he will also be opening his own photography gallery in the same building, called G/P Gallery.

The new building will open on July 7, 7pm.


Takashi Murakami’s ongoing collaboration with Louis Vuitton has incited heated debate about the relationship between art and commerce. Love it or hate it, the next five minutes of video are, well, undeniably cute.

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A place to keep abreast of Art Space Tokyo related news, reviews, events and updates.

Art Space Tokyo is a 272 page guide to the Tokyo art world produced and published by Craig Mod & PRE/POST.

It was originally published in 2008 by Chin Music Press.

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