Mori Art Museum’s Director receives prestigious French title shortly before the opening of his latest grand curatorial endeavour in Tokyo.

As the Mori Art Museum prepares the launch of “The Universe and Art”, an ambitious exhibition connecting past and present through the exploration of the cosmos, its director Fumio Nanjo is awarded Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic for his commitment and contribution to art.

teamLab, 'Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Blossoming on Collision - Light in Space', 2016, interactive digital installation, 4 min. 20 sec. Sound: Takahashi Hideaki. Image courtesy the artists.

teamLab, ‘Crows are Chased and the Chasing Crows are Destined to be Chased as well, Blossoming on Collision – Light in Space’, 2016, interactive digital installation, 4:20 min. Sound: Takahashi Hideaki. Image courtesy the artists.

On 27 June 2016, the French Republic awarded Mori Art Museum’s Director Fumio Nanjo with the prestigious title of Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (PDF download), an award established in 1957 to recognise eminent artists and writers as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.

There are three grades under this order, including Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer) and Commandeur (Commander). Prior to Fumio Nanjo’s appointment, Japan had other appointees, including artists Yayoi Kusama (2003, Officier) and Hiroshi Sugimoto (2013, Officier) among others.

Fumio Nanjo's Officier Award. Photo: Mikuriya Shinichiro. Image courtesy Mori Art Museum.

Fumio Nanjo’s Officier Award. Photo: Mikuriya Shinichiro. Image courtesy Mori Art Museum.

Mr. Paul-Bertrand Barets, Chargé d’ Affaires ad interim of the Embassy of France in Japan, commented on Nanjo’s award, as quoted in the press release:

Through curating creative and ingenious exhibitions such as the ‘Simple Forms: Contemplating Beauty’ exhibition at the Mori Art Museum and planning public art projects, Mr. Nanjo has worked over many years to introduce French contemporary art to Japan, an effort which is highly evaluated. Moreover, he has constantly worked to internationalize Japan’ s art scene and made a substantial contribution to international exchange in the field of arts and culture. It is no exaggeration to say that it was Mr. Nanjo’ s endeavors that enabled the contemporary art world of Europe and North America to discover non-Western perspectives.

Fumio Nanjo. Photo: Nawa Makiko. Image courtesy Mori Art Museum.

Fumio Nanjo. Photo: Nawa Makiko. Image courtesy Mori Art Museum.

Fumio Nanjo (b. 1949) has been Director of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum since 2006. Prior to his directorship, he was Deputy Director of the Museum between 2002 and 2006, after having worked for other organisations such as the Japan Foundation (1978-1986). His most recent international curatorial appointment was to Artistic Director of the new Honolulu Biennial to be launched in 2017.

Among his major achievements are Commissioner of the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1997), Commissioner at the Taipei Biennale and Jury for the Turner Prize (1998), Member of the Selection Committee of the Biennale of Sydney (2000), Artistic Co-Director of the Yokohama Triennale 2001, Tokyo-Section Co-Curator of the São Paulo Biennale (2002), Jury Member of the Golden Lion Prize of the Venice Biennale (2005) and Artistic Director of the Singapore Biennale (2006 and 2008).

Mandala of the Two Realms, Kamakura period (14th century). Pair of hanging scrolls, colour on silk, 235.5 x 197.2 cm (each). Collection: Mimuroto-ji Temple, Kyoto.

Mandala of the Two Realms, Kamakura period (14th century). Pair of hanging scrolls, colour on silk, 235.5 x 197.2 cm (each). Collection: Mimuroto-ji Temple, Kyoto.

The Universe and Art

Nanjo’s latest curatorial project at the Mori Art Museum will open on 30 July 2016 as “The Universe and Art: Princess Kaguya, Leonardo Da Vinci and teamLab”. Running until 9 January 2017, the exhibition will feature historical artefacts from ancient times as well as contemporary art, in a seamless presentation that focuses on the universe and our relationship to it, offering “novel, future-oriented views of the cosmos and mankind”, as the press release writes.

On display will be a diverse selection of around 200 items from across the globe, spanning centuries of history and multiple genres, from meteorites and fossils to historic astronomical material by Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei, Buddhist mandalas, the Taketori Monogatari (‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’), Japan’s oldest sci-fi novel, installations by contemporary artists, and the latest advances from space development.

Okayoshi Kunimune, Meteorite Sword, 1898, meteoric iron, 68.6 cm (length), 1.5 cm (curvature). Collection: Tokyo University of Agriculture Library Photo: Kioku Keizo.

Okayoshi Kunimune, Meteorite Sword, 1898, meteoric iron, 68.6 cm (length), 1.5 cm (curvature). Collection: Tokyo University of Agriculture Library Photo: Kioku Keizo.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first section entitled “How Have Humans through the Ages Viewed the Universe?” focuses on human views of the universe spanning millennia, looking at myths and religious art objects from East and West, as well as priceless astronomy material.

Included are Leondardo Da Vinci’s sheets from Codex Atlanticus and astronomy books by Galileo de Galilei and Ptolemy, as well as two precious mandalas (the Star Mandala and the Mandala of the Two Realms), the Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter) handscroll, and Renaissance and Edo period astronomy materials, such as an Edo era telescope. On show will also be the legendary meteorite sword forged in the Meiji period with metal from a meteorite that fell on Toyama prefecture at the time.

Wolfgang Tillmans, 'Transit of Venus', 2012, inkjet print on paper, 44 x 33 cm (approx.). Collection: Wako Works of Art.

Wolfgang Tillmans, ‘Transit of Venus’, 2012, inkjet print on paper, 44 x 33 cm (approx.). Collection: Wako Works of Art.

In “The Universe as Space-Time”, works of contemporary art will engage with “the wonders of space […] and astounding advances in astral observation that have revolutionized our perceptions of space and time”. Among the artists in this section are Andreas Gursky and Mori Mariko. Wolfgang Tillmans’ photographic works of deep space stars captured by ultrasensitive telescope are juxtaposed with images of computer pixels, and large-scale paintings produced for the exhibition by Jia Aili.

Semiconductor’s three-channel video installation Brilliant Noise shows thousands of overlapping documentary images of solar activity. The work expresses the sun’ s intensity in sound, offering an experience akin to sensing the very pulse of the sun.

Semiconductor, 'Brilliant Noise', 2006, multi-channel video installation, 10 min. (loop). Image courtesy the artists and Mori Art Museum.

Semiconductor, ‘Brilliant Noise’, 2006, multi-channel video installation, 10 min. (loop). Image courtesy the artists and Mori Art Museum.

The third section entitled “A New View of Life – Do Aliens Exist?” includes works by artists such as Vincent Fournier, Pierre Huyghe and Hiroshi Sugimoto, among others. The artworks on show here reference images of aliens as imagined by people throughout history, as well as the latest genetic engineering and A.I. technologies.

Manjudō, 'The Strange Boat Drifted Ashore on Fief of Lord Ogasawara', from "Hyoryu-ki-shu" ("Archives of Castaways"), Late Edo period (19th century), Book, 26 x 77 cm (approx.). Collection: Iwase Bunko Library, Nishio, Aichi.

Manjudō, ‘The Strange Boat Drifted Ashore on Fief of Lord Ogasawara’, from “Hyoryu-ki-shu” (“Archives of Castaways”), Late Edo period (19th century), Book, 26 x 77 cm (approx.). Collection: Iwase Bunko Library, Nishio, Aichi.

There are archival materials from Utsurobune no Banjo (A Woman on the Hollow Boat), an Edo period UFO story, Patricia Piccinini’s strange, hybrid creatures, and a three-dimensional piece by Sorayama Hajime – a life-size female robot.

Sorayama Hajime, 'Sexy Robot', 2016, FRP, iron, silver, gold plating air brush paint, LED neon light, 182 x 60 x 60 cm. Courtesy NANZUKA. Photo: Tanaka Shigeru.

Sorayama Hajime, ‘Sexy Robot’, 2016, FRP, iron, silver, gold plating air brush paint, LED neon light, 182 x 60 x 60 cm. Courtesy NANZUKA. Photo: Tanaka Shigeru.

The final section, “Space Travel and the Future of Humanity”, includes Jules de Balincourt, Nomura Hitoshi, Osaka Takuro, Tom Sachs and teamLab among others.

Artists speculate on the future relationship between mankind and the universe, and how our lives will change. The show will present the history of the US and Soviet space programmes, as well as the latest from the frontline of modern space development, including JAXA’ s International Space Station (ISS)/Kibo Educational Payload Observation Pilot Mission, Mars Ice House, and Project by Team Hakuto.

Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office, 'MARS ICE HOUSE', 2015, 3D printed resin model with wood base, internal light, slideshow. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy Clouds AO/SEArch.

Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office, ‘MARS ICE HOUSE’, 2015, 3D printed resin model with wood base, internal light, slideshow. Collection of the artist. Image courtesy Clouds AO/SEArch.

Among the items on show is a maquette of a New York architectural group’s potential habitat on Mars that won first prize in a NASA contest, ahead of its plan to have four astronauts live on and explore the planet for a year in the 2030s.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of talks on cosmology and art, as well as a programme of screenings of single-channel video works from around the globe on the themes explored by the exhibition.

Sputniko!, 'The Moonwalk Machine - Selena's Step', 2013, video, 5 min. 4 sec. Photo: Rai Royal. Image courtesy SCAI THE BATHHOUSE.

Sputniko!, ‘The Moonwalk Machine – Selena’s Step’, 2013, video, 5 min. 4 sec. Photo: Rai Royal. Image courtesy SCAI THE BATHHOUSE.

Curated by Tsubaki Reiko (Associate Curator, Mori Art Museum) “MAM Screen 004” will include works such as Semiconductor’s Black Rain (2009), Shezad Dawood’s Towards the Possible Film (2014), Sputniko!’s The Moonwalk Machine – Selena’s Step (2013), Ho Tzu Nyen’s NEWTON (2009) and Zhan Wang’s Lunar Economic Zone (2014).

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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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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