From stickerbombs to giant spiders, Tokyo’s public art is out to impress.
Appearances are vitally important for Olympic host cities such as Tokyo, which will host the Games in 2020, and public art is a dynamic way to make a good first impression. Art Radar brings you six unmissable public artworks from Japan’s megalopolis.
With the recent announcement that Tokyo will host the Olympics in 2020, many visitors will soon be travelling to Japan’s capital city. Besides architecture and infrastructure, public art is tried and tested way to enhance a city’s vibrancy.
Here are six key public artworks around Tokyo.
Counter Void by Tatsuo Miyajima
Tatsuo Miyajima (b. in Tokyo, 1957) has exhibited his art in prestigious museums, galleries and historical exhibitions such as “Magicien de la terre” at the Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in 1989.
Miyajima’s Counter Void is a set of digital counters lit with neon and measuring 3 metres tall. The counters, at varying speeds, count down from nine to one. The work looks different in the day and night, as the wall’s background neon light is shut off during the day.
Set in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo’s bustling nightlife area, Counter Void symbolises the concepts of life and death, according to the artist’s website.
Sticker art can be seen all over the city: on walls, light posts, door ways, and fire hydrants. It is most prevalent in areas such as Harajuku Street, Center Gai in Shibuya and the bridges surrounding Miyashita Skatepark, according to Tokyo Art Beat. The article goes on to say that spray-painted graffiti is not popular in Tokyo, but stencils, stickers and adhesive are.
Love by Robert Indiana
Robert Indiana‘s ubiquitous LOVE sculpture began as a commissioned Christmas card by The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965, based on a poem he wrote in 1958. According to Mental Floss, the LOVE sculpture did not make the artist wealthy and compounded his reputation as a sell-out.
Several dozen LOVE sculptures are installed around the world. In 1993, a twelve-foot-high red, blue and green LOVE sculpture was permanently installed in front of the I-Land Tower in Tokyo’s Nishi-Shinjuku, the central business district of Tokyo.
Poly Stella by Carsten Nicolai
Carsten Nicolai’s Poly Stella (2009) is a commissioned public sculpture made from stainless steel and installed at the plaza in front of the Kasumigaseki building in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. The diameter of the sculpture is approximately 350 cm.
According to the artist’s website, the sculpture is “a complex polyhedron structure” illustrating “the principle and variety of life.”
Maman by Louise Bourgeois
The Tate Modern originally commissioned the sculpture in 1999 as part of the inaugural installation in the vast Turbine Hall. Six bronze casts were made and are permanently exhibited near museums such as the State Hermitage Museum, Russia; the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; and the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, South Korea.
Phone booth fish tanks
Phone booths are being transformed into living fish tanks according to the Culture Trip blog. The Kingyobu collective (translated as the Goldfish club) began renovating old phone booths in Osaka in 2011. These public works of art can only be seen in Osaka.
- MoMA’s “Tokyo 1955 – 1970″: Global curatorial perspective praised – review round-up – February 2013 – what the papers said about MoMA’s exhibition of Tokyo avant-gardists
- Seattle-based Japanese artist Yuri Kinoshita commemorates Tohuko disaster with Woven Tea House – January 2013 – Kinoshita brings Japan’s artisanal traditions to US contemporary art scene
- Fire, soot and Sanskrit: Interview with Japanese artist Etsuko Ichikawa – November 2012 – emerging Japanese artist talks about exploring new media and her affinity for Sanskrit
- Japanese painter Mitsuhiro Ikeda examines place “where exterior and interior coexist” – picture feast – September 2012 – Ikeda returns to ShugoArts after a three year absence
- Art districts in Asia: five top posts from 2008 to 2011 – June 2011 – Art Radar’s top five hints on where to see good art in Asia
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