In an unusual move, the Yokohama Triennial has appointed a practising artist to direct its international exhibition.

Japanese contemporary artist Yasumasa Morimura will direct the fifth edition of the Yokohama Triennale in 2014. Morimura hopes that he can use his unique perspective as a practising artist to distinguish Yokohama from other international biennales, in which he finds fault.

Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura.

In a statement on the Yokohama Triennale website, Morimura expressed gratitude for the selection committee’s boldness in choosing an inexperienced artist instead of a curator to lead the triennial. He notes a problem common to international biennales,

Since 2000, international exhibitions have sprung up everywhere, both in Japan and abroad, and there is no longer anything special or different about them. The scale is merely large. And the festive air is merely an amusement. Many are reduced to a symbol of populism, globalism, and localism. Market principles have exerted a consciously strong influence on the art world, prompting questions not only from those concerned but also from viewers. And though these people may still be in the minority, they are bound to increase as time goes by.

Morimura sees the “total absence of rules” in most contemporary art biennales as a detriment. “Though I want to maintain a forum for free expression,” he says, “I want to get rid of the idea that freedom should be the sole conviction.” He goes on to make a declaration of purpose for the 2014 Yokohama Triennale, saying,

So, what exactly are my convictions? I believe in the ‘conscience of art’. If there is a god of art, I would ask that the works that we present to him or her be offerings that can be presented without shame.


Thus, a professional curator, who knows that the key to success lies in one’s ability to deal with that head wind called ‘reality’, might see my views as little more than the dreams of an idealist and admonish me for being so naive in light of the fact that I have never assumed the weighty mantle of artistic director. And it’s true – having a childish artist whose only standards of value are dreams and ideals at the helm is extremely perilous. Yet with the outlook of an insecure novice trying to recapture the fading spirit of adventure, I am setting out on this voyage with a fresh preparedness as I head into the unknown of the art world. And this in itself is sure to lead to some worthwhile proposals.

The organising committee’s decision was inspired by the 2011 Japanese earthquake and its aftermath; they hope Morimura will explore the role of the artist in the constantly shifting global community. According to the e-flux press release,

The Organising Committee for the Yokohama Triennale, having witnessed the dramatic change in the Japanese consciousness since experiencing the consequences of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, states the reason for appointing Morimura as follows: ‘…an effort has been made to access the flexible concepts and views of the artists, whose attitudes and ideas have the potential to help us re-examine our way of living and thinking.’ Yokohama Triennale 2014 will be held ‘to pursue new values that are essential to the current era through the medium of art’ with the world view of an artist.

About the artist

Yasumasa Morimura is a Japanese appropriation artist, a medium defined by using pre-existing objects with little to no transformation. He has held solo exhibitions in various Japanese art museums, including the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo and the Yokohama Museum of Art. He was a nominee for the Hugo Boss Prize in 1996.


Related Topics: triennalesJapanese art venues, curators

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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