Tokyo Art Exhibitions: 9 Inspired Events for Culture Lovers
The kaleidoscopic cultural canvas of Tokyo is home to a range of multi-disciplinary art festivals. For visitors, this means the opportunity to see works from emerging and established artists across a range of mediums and subject areas. From innovative ideas about home and lifestyle to modern interpretations of Shakespearean plays, sculptures, dance, painting, craft and robotics - the rich spectra of Tokyo art exhibitions will intrigue, surprise, inspire and delight. If you are a lover of culture and art, then these 9 top Tokyo events deserve to be on your calendar.
Tokyo Art Exhibitions to Stir your Muse
Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions 2016
Affectionately known as “Yebizo,” the focus of this 10-day Tokyo art festival is moving image, which sees a genre-crossing program of screenings of contemporary, experimental and highly artistic visual and video art and media, documentaries and independent films. The festival, which also features dance, theater, exhibitions, music, lectures and discussions, is curated annually around a theme of challenging human perspectives of, and interaction with, nature. ‘See you on other planets,’ and ‘Garden in movement’ are just two thematic examples. Works featured previously include Japanese photographer Takashi Homma, fog installation artist Fujiko Nakaya, and Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
Dates: 10 days in February
Location: Various locations around Ebisu
Price: Free, although some screening programs and events subject to fees
Art Fair Tokyo
Art Fair Tokyo is a 3-day event where around 130 galleries showcase their works in the massive space of the Tokyo International Forum. It’s an opportunity not just for collectors, but for anyone wanting to gain insight into the contemporary Japanese art scene. The largest event of its kind when compared to similar art exhibitions in Tokyo, the Fair features high-quality domestic and international galleries that showcase a largely object-based range of goods from various genres and periods - from antiques, arts and crafts, modern art, and more recently, fashion.
Dates: 12-14 May 2016
Location: Tokyo International Forum, Chiyoda
Price: 1-day ticket ¥2,500, 3-day ticket ¥4,500
Tokyo International Art Fair
This 2-day art fair provides a place for art collectors, aspiring collectors and art enthusiasts to buy art directly from award-winning and top emerging artists, making it a unique experience for both visitors and exhibitors. The works on show are a diverse and affordable range of modern and contemporary art featuring over 150 exhibitors from over 40 countries - paintings, sculptures, photography, illustration, bespoke art and multimedia artworks. Events around the fair include awards ceremony, networking parties, private viewings, and champagne receptions.
Dates: 13-14 May
Location: Omotesando Hills (Quest Hall, Harajuku?)
Price: General entrance is free, VIP tickets ¥1,500
This is the Tokyo outpost of the world’s premier DIY festival, where ‘makers’ of all fields and levels – including tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, hobbyists, engineers, scientists, garage tinkerers, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors – can unite in celebration of their endeavors. Billed as “the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth,” this event is unique among Tokyo art exhibitions because it allows a kind of dialogue between creators and visitors; the makers show what they are creating, and share what they are learning, resulting in an event that is at once entertaining, informative and family-friendly. Come see creativity and resourcefulness on parade.
Dates: 4-5 August 2018
Location: Tokyo Big Sight
Price: Adults ¥1,500, discounts for students, children free
Tokyo Art Book Fair
With over 300 exhibitors, the Tokyo Art Book Fair - Asia’s largest art book fair - is a gathering of some of the most creative emerging and established publishers from around the world. Exhibitors include independent publishers, gallery presses, bookshops, individual artists and groups, across a diverse range of artistic genres and styles, from zines to scholarly works. The Fair also offers events such as exhibitions, screenings, lectures about the publishing industry, workshops on bookbinding, and attracts more than 10,000 visitors every year.
Dates: TBD 2019
Location: Kyoto University of Art and Design, Gaien Campus, Minato-ku
Tokyo Design Week
Japan’s largest trade show and premier design event is a 12-day extravaganza presenting the latest trends in product and industrial design, art, music and fashion, allowing creators the opportunity to launch and test new ideas. Exhibitors vary from design colleges, corporations, debut artists, top creators, young designers and students. Design genres just as diverse - robotics, virtual reality, product design, toys, cosmetics, interior design, lighting, consumer electronics, household goods, automobiles, fashion and food. Exhibits and events are spread out between a custom-built main pavilion, walk-in cargo containers, an outdoor showcase, various smaller spaces, and a food court. The enormous diversity of this event makes it an enriching experience for adults and children of all ages, and visitors each year number over 100,000 people.
Dates: 26 Oct - 6 November 2016
Location: Meiji-Jingu Gaien Park
Price: Adults ¥3,000, discounts for families and students
Elaborately-designed and highly stylized renditions of Shakespearian plays, zombie orchestras, and playhouse tales of synesthesia are typical of the cutting-edge programming of this 5-week long, indoors-outdoors arts bonanza whose epic length alone sets it apart from other art exhibitions in Tokyo. This is the festival renowned for its lineup of accomplished domestic and overseas artists and its program of interactive and participatory events spanning dance, theater, music, art performances, with many world premieres. Language is no barrier, with English subtitles or summaries provided when required. The program features around 12 main productions, plus 18 or so more for the affiliated program from the concurring Asian Performing Arts Festival.
Dates: October 13th - November 18th 2018
Location: Various locations around Ikebukuro area
Price: ¥500-6000, students receive discounts
Design Festa is the bi-annual event associated with Harajuku’s Design Festa Gallery, held each Spring and Autumn. The event welcomes artists of all ages, nationalities, career levels, languages, and disciplines to exhibit their works, thus attracting many individual artists and small retailers. For visitors, it’s an opportunity to experience a rich variety of painting, fashion, crafts and performance art with of over 12,000 exhibitors. There are also some live music stages, live painting, a food section with international cuisine, drama, dance, and movies in the 'Theater Space.'
Dates: August 4th & 5th 2018 (multiple events throughout the year)
Location: Tokyo Big Sight, Odaiba
Price: Adults ¥800
Japan Media Arts Festival
This Tokyo art festival is the go-to for media arts, established by the Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs with the aim of developing and promoting a new generation of artists covering a diverse range of media, from animation and comics to media art and games. To these ends, the festival awards the work of outstanding artists, and presents it during an annual exhibition. Each year since its inception, artist participation from all around the world has only increased - last year had entries from over 70 countries, fostering the event’s evolution into an established international festival. For visitors, the event is an opportunity to encounter the most contemporary trends in media arts, through exhibits, symposia, discussions, workshops and other related events.
Dates: August 1 - October 10 2018
Location: The National Art Centre, Minato-ku, plus various other locations around Tokyo
Art Exhibitions in Tokyo are Just the Beginning
In the exciting landscape of Tokyo art exhibitions, each showcasing an immensely diverse range of art and design, there’s something for everyone from novice to collector. For those interested in checking out the flourishing art scene always happening between these scheduled events, be sure to explore Tokyo’s rich array of premiere art galleries and museums no matter the time of year.