Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on December 2013
Add some aesthetic eccentricity to your holiday escapades with adventures in Tokyo’s underground art scene. There is a treasure trove of creative events to explore around the city—from an installation in an Edo warehouse to live theater with “subculture chairs.”
1. Space sculpture handbag
It is not widely known that many of Tokyo’s flagship designer stores include art spaces, with exhibitions just as prestigious as those in the museums. Louis Vuitton in Jingumae has perhaps the best of all this season with a visual feast of spiraling ivory sculptures, light and video projections by internationally acclaimed artist Mariko Mori. Entitled “Infinite Renew,” her show floods the seventh floor space with arcing fiberglass Möbius forms looking out over the rooftops beyond Omotesando Hills. At night, they are illuminated by vivid neon blue LEDs. Not one for unambitious projects, Mori has said of this show: “I really wanted to create a work that was connected to supernovae.”
Mariko Mori, “Infinite Renew,” Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo until Jan 5. http://espacelouisvuittontokyo.com
2. Portraits of Ladies
From the heights of Omotesando to, literally, the Rat Hole of Aoyama—a gallery that manages to be centrally located with an international array of artists, yet virtually unheard of beyond Tokyo’s coterie of aesthetes. In the basement of a seemingly anonymous shop, you find yourself in a dazzlingly bright space surrounded by 700 photographs of Japanese women covering the walls. This is one of the more controversial series produced by Nobuyoshi Araki, a Japanese photographer unafraid to shock. Originally serialized for 15 years in magazine form, Araki’s project invited ordinary women from around Japan to meet and be photographed by him. They were almost always photograhed nude and in poses they would never adopt in daily life for fear of seeming unfeminine or too bold. Araki strips them of these societal veneers and reveals the hypocrisy of their situation with the chillingly anonymous series title: “Someone’s Wife.”
Nobuyoshi Araki, “Someone’s Wife.” Rat Hole Gallery until Jan 19. www.ratholegallery.com
3. Yuletide of the absurd
There is nothing quite like Tokyo’s only underground art space run entirely by art students. In a centuries-old converted house in Yanaka known as Hagiso, young creators live and work on-site producing visual art, theater and music events. For December 25, they’ve planned a multi-collaborative all-nighter under the sobriquet Hagistmas. This is a chance to immerse yourself in the most avant-garde that Tokyo has to offer. While everyone else is regretfully pondering a tinseled tree, lose yourself in a whirl of dye-stained electronica—or is it mime? Or video collage? Book in advance to make sure you get the all-night arty cuisine as well.
Hagistmas. Hagiso, Dec 25 at 7pm. www.hagiso.jp
4. Unique antique LIVE
One of Tokyo’s most precious exhibition spaces, the tiny jewel that is Gallery Éf in Asakusa, was a warehouse for storing lumber during the Edo period. Built in 1868, it has survived earthquakes, world wars and two large neighboring fires to retain all its original features as an art space and cafe. This December, the “Forest Under the Moonlight” series of live performances promises to introduce upcoming Tokyo musicians to some unique acoustic surrounds, as they perform in Éf’s structure of Japanese cypress, pine and clay.
“Forest Under the Moonlight.” Gallery Éf all December. www.gallery-ef.com
5. art salon Time Capsule
Hidden inside a deceptively normal office building is this city’s first contemporary art space: the Tokyo Gallery, founded in 1950. Now renamed Tokyo Gallery+BTAP, it features cutting-edge art and has reinstigated its ‘micro salons’—group shows with numerous upcoming artists contributing one small work for the perusal of Tokyo’s top collectors. It was at these very first salons in the 1960s that the gallery introduced now internationally renowned Japanese artists like Taro Okamoto and Jiro Takamatsu to fame. As you peruse the new works, have fun guessing which artists will be future household names.
Micro Salon 2013. Tokyo Gallery+BTAP until Dec 28. www.tokyo-gallery.com.