|IN SEARCH OF A SPECIFIC SCHOOL OF ART IN FUKUOKA 
by Shaela Sharmin (residential researcher in 2006)
|Updated on 25 September, 2008
THE GALLERY ARCHIVES
There are more than 10 galleries and alternative art spaces in Fukuoka. Most of them provides continuous support towards the contemporary art of Fukuoka by organizing numerous group exhibitions, solo, workshops, event from all genres, artist talks etc. either initiated by them or the artists/curators. The archives of these Galleries were informative on the local art movements. Regular visit was made to make enquiry about the history of Fukuoka art scene as the owners the Galleries, most of whom are enthusiastic art lovers, provided useful information very much eagerly. There were regular displays of works done by local artists as well as international ones at the time of staying in Fukuoka which helped a lot to understand the recent local art of Fukuoka. At least 10 time visits were made in Art Space Tetra within three months to enjoy different exhibitions of which a video-art exhibition by emerging artist Suzuki Atsushi from Kita-Kyushu seemed interesting enough to make positive comments on the stimulating atmosphere looked for in the local art of Fukuoka.
Short introductions on these Galleries and Alternative art spaces are given bellow:
modern art bank WALD: WALD is a gallery space located in Chio-machi, Hakata ku, opened in 1993. WALD has enabled artists from various genres to exhibit within a free and supportive environment; all genres are encouraged. This place seeks to support local artists as well as artists from elsewhere.
Gallery Oishi: It’s a small space in Tenjin. An exhibition here by Furukawa Yoshishige was on display. He is a local artist born in Fukuoka. He took his education in some where else. Lived in New York for 40 years. When it was asked to him whether he could feel some local influence in his work his answer was positive. He lived in a very natural and calm-quite place beside a river. So this quietness comes again and again in his work.
MOMA Contemporary: This gallery space has an atmosphere that is exceptionally conductive to enjoy the works being exhibited. As well as exhibiting local artist, the MOMA team have also organized exhibitions by international artists such as Cristo and hold annual exhibitions by Kusama Yayoi. Recently MOMA has been exhibiting work by Taiwanese artists exclusively in Fukuoka.
Gallery Towaru: As far as I had learned, this place was own by very active and art lover lady. But went live in Tokyo so the spirit of the place is not so much visible as before. But it has organized some important exhibition before.
Art Space BAKU: Since 1977, Art Space BAKU has constantly been supporting local art for close to 30 years. The small gallery holds various types of exhibitions through the year by local artists as well as artists from elsewhere in Japan.
Mitsubishi-jisho Artium: Artium located near Rainbow plaza on the 8th floor of the IMS building in Tenjin. Comprised of a small gift shop and a large exhibition space, Artium holds monthly exhibitions by both international and Japanese artists. In the past the space has held design, video, installation exhibitions as well as more traditional mediums.
IAF Shop: IAF Shop in Yakuin has been operating well for a decade. It constantly holds exhibitions by local artists and is a weekly meeting spot for artists and art lovers to passionately converse, argue and drink until dawn. The exhibition space is quite small but local artists often find interesting ways to deal with spatial limitations.
Sangosoko: Located at a massive warehouse in the port area of Fukuoka Sangosoko (Warehouse No. 3) houses group and solo exhibitions by resident artists sponsored by an anonymous business person and artistic director Kazakura Sho, historical performer based in Oita. The enormous exhibition space allows and further challenges artists to produce often fantastic works of art.
Gallery Artlier: Organize exhibitions in the 2nd basement floor of the Riverain Center Building. The activity of Museum City Project also led from here.
Art Space Tetra: An old house became contemporary art space. Music and movie, painting and installation, performance and symposium, all genre of art are welcomed specially by younger artist.
A SHORT LIST OF THE PEOPLE MET
During the stay in Fukuoka I made a list of residing artists, curators, art people related to the contemporary art scene of Fukuoka, Kita-Kyushu and nearby cities, taking information from catalogues, printed material, gallery archives and authoritative persons. At least 50 of them were either met or interviewed for the research purpose.
These artists are mostly based in Fukuoka, but also included those who reside in neighboring prefectures while showing continuously in Fukuoka. Here, a list of the people whom I met.
Yamaguchi Yozo, Fukuoka Art Museum
Kawanami Chizuru, Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art
Endo Mizuki, Art Space tetra
Yasunaga Koichi, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Yamano Shingo, Museum City Project
Miyamoto Hatsune, Museum City Project
Kuroda Raiji, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Nakamura Mitsunobu, MOMA Contemporary
Mori Yuji, WALD
Oda Ritsuko, Art Space BAKU
Takahashi Kozue, Gallery 130, Kita-Kyushu
A TOUR TO THE OTHER CITIES TO MAKE A COMPARISON
To find out the unique quality that the local Fukuoka art might posses- it was needed to compare with the art scenes of other local cities as well as the centre-Tokyo. Kyoto has long traditional artistic background and very proud of their inheritance, which they intended to preserve. For this reason it was needed to know the traditional art as well as the contemporary art of Kyoto. From the research in Fukuoka it was obvious that art scene was very much eager to grasp and achieve the standards of the center-Tokyo, which is still canonized by the western world. It was a necessity to experience the latest trends of the contemporary art scene of Tokyo.
In the last days of October a 10 day long research visit was made possible during the residence program. It was intended to make a compare between the art scene of Fukuoka with the most happening places of Japan -Tokyo and Kansai. Brief meetings were arranged with some curators of contemporary art of Japan which includes Mr. Amano Taro, associate curator of Yokohama museum of art and, Ms Nagasaki Yukiko of Gallery 58, Ginza, who was the founder of gallery Towaru in Fukuoka which organized some important exhibitions of contemporary art; Ueda Yozo Gallery Q – projects for Asian art, Ms. Seki Naoko, curator of Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Conversation with them informed about the current trends and styles of Japanese art. Several catalogues and printed documents were checked including Yokohama Triennale of contemporary art 2005, Nihonga painting: six provocative artists, all Mot annual catalogues since 1999 till 2006 and more. The galleries and exhibitions I had visited in Tokyo are listed below:
Yokohama Museum of Art: the permanent collection of western art and Japanese contemporary art. An exhibition titled IDOLS in which, photographed living idols, as well as imaginary idols inspired by real ones in various media such as painting, photography, Manga, moving picture, dance and game was on display at the time of visit in the museum.
BankART, Murata Makoto office are the alternative art spaces in Yokohama where past exhibition catalogues as well as ongoing exhibitions were checked.
Mori Art Museum: retrospective of famous Video artist Bill Viola was on display.
Galleries in Roppongi Complex: Gallery Machi, Ota Fine Arts.
In Ginza area: Gallery 58, Gallery Q, Gallery Koyanagi, Shiseido Gallery
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art: Retrospective of all works done by infamous artist Ohtake Shinro; a painstakingly huge exhibition was on display during the visit. Also the permanent collection of modern and contemporary collection of western and Japanese artists was enjoyed.
Kiyosumi Shirakawa Complex: Works of Yoshimoto Nara and Kawashima Hideaki were on show at Koyama Tomio Gallery.
Shugoarts and Taka Ishii Gallery visit was also made.
Ueno Mori Art Museum: Salvador Dali centennial exhibition.
Tokyo Wonder Site, Shibuya: Emmanuelle Antille video art exhibition was visited.
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery was also visited and two ongoing exhibitions of architecture and contemporary art were on show.
And last but not least visit was made in NTT Inter Communication Center to have a look on the permanent collection of recent high-tech media art of Japan.
Municipal Art Museum: Mr. Ozaki Shinji, curator, discussed about the contemporary movements of Kyoto.
Galerie 16: Since 1962 till 2006. Ms Inoue Michiko had shown the archive of the Gallery and some documents was collected which contained the history of 40 years of galerie 16.
In Neutron there was a show of a very young artist of Nihonga, Mise Natsunosuke, who is trying to make contemporary style of art from the traditional paper, color and techniques as well as esthetic thinking, and subjects, was on view at the time of visit. A brief discussion with the artist revealed about a trend, which is receiving new attention today.
VOICE gallery: The archive was checked. In this gallery it was very exciting to find the catalogues of young experimenter artists using traditional lacquer as a medium to make provocative contemporary art.
Kyoto Art Center: This is a successful example of recycling former school building in downtown as an alternative art space for visual art as well as performance. An installation and site-specific work exhibition of artist Matsui Shiro was on display. About an hour discussion with the artist about the current art movements and trends of Kyoto as well as the art of the younger generation of today was made possible. It gave much light as the artist seemed anxious of the superficiality, lack of depth, proper conception and perception among the younger artists.
The National Museum of Art, Osaka: A meeting was arranged with Mr. Nakai Yasuyuki curator of the museum to give a briefing about the alternative art world of Osaka. The permanent collection of Japanese contemporary art and a huge show by the famous artist Shinji Ogawa was on display at the time was visited.
Visit was being made at Shinanobashi Gallery, Gallery Haku, Fukugan Gallery, Gallery wks, O Gallery eyes: Most of them are for young artists.
SAI GALLERY represented artists such as Fujimoto Yukio, Ishikawa Ryo, Ichihara Hiroko.
KodamaGallery: Handa Exhibition
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art: Collection of Gutai works was viewed.
In Gallery Shimada a meeting coincided by the artist Sadaharu Horio of Gutai group from the nearest town Ashiya in his one-man show titled Doux. It was a very memorable moment to see a living history in front of own eyes.
The tour in the Galleries at different cities of Japan was completed by a visit in the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. Located on a beautiful hill top the museum was showing an exhibition of popular Japanese doll, Kaiyodo. The huge exhibition was titled The Chronicles of Kaiyodo.
This wisely planned tour to the numerous galleries provided the chance to understand the contemporary art of Japan more profoundly. The number of exhibition watched during the 10 day tour exceeded even the number of exhibitions visited in Fukuoka during the three month of staying which helped a lot to have a first hand experience to know the contemporary art of Japan rather than to read about them only in books or catalogues.
THE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS
Besides the research work a public lecture on the art of Bangladesh titled 'Contemporary Art of Bangladesh: A Differentiation in Styles and Trends' was delivered on 11 November, featuring the schooling of Bangladeshi art has and also focusing on the specialty of trends and style the Chittagong art scene posses. The interactive discussion with FAAM curator Igarashi Rina revealed the School of Chittagong to the audience as a unique art movement.
On 17, 18 and 19 November, 2006 a cultural demonstration on the wedding of Bangladesh also conducted which had ended up being a successful event of wedding in the museum with real couples, participation of the curatorial body of FAAM as relative to the bride, feeding of Bangladeshi foods, music, performance and above all representation of the colorful traditional wedding ritual. It was not only exotic but also holds deep meanings of human life, which is a characteristic of Asian culture and philosophy.
SUM UP OF THE RESEARCH
After examining the history, visiting the galleries and seeing the local art scene, some interesting works as well as artists were found. Though three month is not enough to explore the subject in depth quality and elaborate knowledge of the whole scenario and the judgment has the risk of being superficial, but it is a fact that in-spite of the absence of indigenous culture, limited reviews, lack of opportunity and feed back from the people and society, the artists and the people related to art are sufficiently stimulating and energetic and enthusiastic to build another center in Fukuoka. Though this awareness was not visible among the lot. A deep-rooted localism prevails in almost every sector but it could be a vital power if guided properly and wistfully to make it an interesting and special characteristics which could race the standards of national and international level.
The general characteristics revealed in examining the works that the art scene was very much concern to depict the every day life. Absence of moral and social concern was found threateningly in the young generation. Predominance of non-human figurative representation had been seen. Due to not having proper institutional education in contemporary art, lack of totality, completeness was obvious. A tendency to use over-whelming effects and to surprise the viewers with massive grotesque forms was common in general comparing to other cities. Most of the veteran artists gave the opinion that lack of clear concept and repetition of idea brought a kind of vacuum in terms of creativity and novelty. Though exceptions are also present to make the situation hopeful.
It is a necessity to establish a University of contemporary art in Fukuoka to achieve professionalism, which is a vital need to make a place a center of stimuli. Ironically it is the only unique quality of Fukuoka that most of the uprising potential artists are self-taught and came from other discipline, not from pure fine arts.
If comparison is made between other center of art in Japan, Fukuoka also needs more large-scale international exhibitions of recent trends to make upheaval. Patronization, criticism, seminar, attention and coverage of media and last but not least- participation of common people are required earnestly.
Finally some lines are given here from the book, Representation of present day Japan by Kuroda Raiji “despite the omnipresence of diverse and cheap, high-speed means of communication, the words of parents, teachers, politicians and religious types are not reaching the junior high school students who kill infants or the high school students who prostitute themselves for their consumerism. People who are engaged in urgent business or those who are satisfied with the entertainment and information they are given, are not hearing the words of old people dying in solitude in public housing, of women, sexually violated in the workplace or at home, of dark-skinned foreigners gathering in parks or of young girls going to school in their ethnic costume. How are these situations and contradictions solved and overcome?”
I want to finish my report by questioning myself as well as the art world of Fukuoka "is art only a mean to represent beauty, purity and self-expression or just enjoyment? Does it have anything to do with the hidden influx of civilization, social issues or any kind of heavy-hearted thoughts?"
I hope the Contemporary art of Fukuoka will have the answer.