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Picks :
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Picks is a monthly sampling of Japan's art scene, offering commentary by a variety of reviewers about exhibitions at museums and galleries in recent weeks, with an emphasis on contemporary art by young artists.

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image image 2 October 2017
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Port City Kobe Art Festival
16 September - 15 October 2017
Port of Kobe and Kobe Airport Island
(Hyogo)
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Kobe celebrates the 150th anniversary of the opening of its port with diverse events, including this art festival. Sixteen Japanese artists, among them Susumu Koshimizu, Susumu Shingu, Yuki Hayashi, Yukio Fujimoto, and Miwa Yanagi, are joined by participants from South Korea and China. Of special interest is a harbor-cruising "art tour boat" from which over half the exhibits can be viewed.

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Yokohama Triennale 2017: Islands, Constellations & Galapagos
4 August - 5 November 2017

Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse No.1, Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall
(Kanagawa)

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The subtitle of this year's Triennale reflects a concern with the fragmentation of the world into "island universes" -- small communities, rejecting the logic of superpowers and centralization, that have emerged with the spread of social networks and the destabilization of the international framework. What new possibilities await, the organizers ask, if these isolated communities link up with one another?

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Play with Taro

15 July - 15 October 2017

The Taro Okamoto Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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This exhibition not only treats the late artist-provocateur's oeuvre as a form of what he termed asobi (play), but invites contemporary artists to "play" with Okamoto's work. Included are interactive exhibits in which visitors can compare drawings with finished works, view art while sitting on tatami mats, touch sculptures, and associate Okamoto's creations with smells. It's the perfect sort of show for summer vacation, and parents will enjoy it as much as their kids do.

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The 10th Hiroshima Art Prize: Mona Hatoum

29 July - 15 October 2017

Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
(Hiroshima)

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The expatriate Palestinian artist's first exhibition in Japan. Held on the occasion of her receipt of the Hiroshima Art Prize, this is a compact digest of her best-known works, ranging from images of early performances expressing resistance to political oppression and gender stereotypes to her menacing sculptures of graters and other cooking utensils enlarged to furniture size. Though easy to get around, the show seems a bit short on content.
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The 100th Anniversary of Duchamp's Fountain, Case 3: Flying Fountain(s)
9 August - 22 October 2017
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
(Kyoto)
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Commemorating the centenary of Marcel Duchamp's notorious "readymade" Fountain (1917), MOMAK has invited five guest curators to take turns building exhibitions around a 1964 replica of the original urinal, on display for a year. Devised by the museum's former chief curator, Shinji Kohmoto, "Case 3" analyzes and measures differences between several iterations of the work.
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Kyoto Experiment 2017: Kyoto International Performing Arts Festival

14 October - 5 November 2017

ROHM Theatre Kyoto, Kyoto Art Center, Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts & Culture, etc.
(Kyoto)
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The eighth installment of the festival features 12 artists or art units performing or exhibiting in 12 separate events. This year is noteworthy for inviting artists from China and South Korea for the first time, and for a pronounced musical element. The addition of new participants and concepts to the festival's established base promises to bring new depth and breadth to the experience.
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Ryo Matsuoka Exhibition: Knowing Nothing, Drawing in a Void
24 July - 5 August 2017
Gallery Fukuzumi
(Osaka)
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Matsuoka creates embroidery drawings with a sewing machine, improvising without any base sketch, manipulating the thread as freely as if he were drawing by hand. Thus he demolishes common preconceptions about his tools of choice as he applies them to new modes of creative expression. You might call him the Jimi Hendrix of the sewing machine.
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Masaomi Yasunaga: Art Needs Genuine Criticism
29 July - 20 August 2017
Gallery Utsuwa-kan
(Kyoto)
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Pottery is usually made by firing clay in a kiln, but Yasunaga's ceramics use no clay at all. Instead he shapes his vessels from high-viscosity glaze, which he embeds and fires in sand or chamotte (fire clay that has been baked and pulverized). The results run the gamut from objects with a glasslike luster, to those that resemble volcanic rocks, to those with the weathered look of excavated artifacts.
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Natsumi Tomita: Wonder Orchestra
3 - 13 August 2017
Bunkamura Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Tomita creates unique animal figures from scrap materials. For this show, her first in three years at Bunkamura Gallery, she took a cue from Orchard Hall, a large concert venue in the Bunkamura complex, and put together an animal orchestra, constructing her menagerie from materials discarded during renewal of the cafテゥ across from the gallery. Her approach to the selection and reuse of materials is so beguiling that no one viewing her work is likely to tire of it.
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Atsushi Watanabe: My wounds / Your wounds
4 - 27 August 2017

Roppongi Hills A/D Gallery
(Tokyo)

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Watanabe continues to produce art themed on the wounds of the heart, tapping into his own past experience as a recluse or hikikomori. Following up on his project Tell me your emotional scars for Koganecho Bazaar 2016, here he presented a mortar miniature of his family home, smashed and then repaired by the traditional kintsugi (lacquer mixed with gold) method, as well as a documentary of his reenactment of a performance three years ago in which he shut himself in a one-tatami-mat concrete room for a week.
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