Inside Scoop

Okayama, Land of Contemporary Arts - South Side

The Prefecture of Okayama as we know it now is the result of the unification in 1871 of the three provinces of Bicchū, Bizen and Mimasaka, all of them still maintaining their traditional arts and crafts. Nevertheless, the artistic spirit of Japan never stopped evolving and, side by side with katana swordsmiths and earthware artisans, contemporary artists are leaving their traces in various places of the prefecture. Let's explore contemporary art in Okayama starting with the south area!
2022-12

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Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art
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Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art

The main house of contemporary art in Okayama Prefecture is in Okayama City, which is in the south area of the prefecture, and more specifically in the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art. Opened in 1988 in a building (designed by Shin'ichi Okada) which is a work of art itself, the museum houses a permanent collection composed of a number of works by artists born or bred or somehow connected with Okayama, as well as a temporary exhibitions area where contemporary art is not rare at all. For instance, the museum holds recurring exhibitions like Our Ground and Contemporary Metalworks devoted to fine arts and applied arts produced by local artists. Last but not least: workshops and learning activities for kids and adults. The photographs show in particular the works of visual artists Ai Ōshima and Kanae Shimura and metal artists Naoki Sakai and Satoshi Mizushiro.

【 Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art 】
〒700-0814
8-48 Tenjin-chō, Kita, Okayama
Tel.: (+81) 086-225-4800

More information (English)

Okayama Prefecture Tenjin'yama Cultural Plaza
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Okayama Prefecture Tenjin'yama Cultural Plaza

Immediately adjacent to the Museum of Art, Tenjin'yama Cultural Plaza is a multipuropose facility designed in 1961 by Kunio Maekawa, one of the most important Japanese architects of the 20th century. The building is divided into three stories housing many cultural services, including recording studios, exhibition halls, a theater (used for the Okayama Film Festival too) and much more. The foyer to the first floor houses a giant sculpture merging with the surrounding garden realized in 2017 by Gen Okabe: it is called The Tenjin Catfish and children use to play inside this monstro. Moreover, the inner halls are involved in the Okayama Art Summit, a triennale festival gathering contemporary artists from all over the world.


【 Okayama Prefecture Tenjin'yama Cultural Plaza 】
〒700-0814
8-54 Tenjin-chō, Kita, Okayama

More information (Japanese)

Okayama Art Summit
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Okayama Art Summit

Started in 2016, this contemporary art festival (Okayama Art Summit)is held every three years in various venues in Okayama City, mostly inside the area called Okayama Culture Zone which encompasses Okayama Castle and its surrounding citadel: since the castle area experienced an air raid in 1945, its remains have been remodeled after the second world war as culture halls, libraries, museums, schools and so on, perfect to house contemporary art exhibitions. During its three editions in 2016, 2019 and 2022, Okayama Art Summit had three different curators and missions, but all of them left in the city some large-scale permanent works of art, mostly mural arts or site-specific installations, included in the side-project Art & City. The photographs show works by Lawrence Weiner, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, and Dan Graham.

More information (English)

Okayama Art Summit 2022
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Okayama Art Summit 2022

The 2022 edition of the Okayama Art Summit took place in ten venues in Okayama, including historical places like Okayama Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle which are usually not devoted to this kind of exhibition. In the garden, in daytime, two works of Filipino artist David Medalla were set up inside Kanki-tei Rest House, a paper collage and a moving sculpture titled "Sand Machine" and drawing circles in the sand until the end of time; at the castle, at nighttime, Japanese digital artist Ryōji Ikeda staged a 24-meter long LED display broadcasting a video titled "data.flux" looking sometimes similar to TV interferences and sometimes to a scientific experiment involving digital data of a star map or molecular chains. Really an interesting, daring and wide-ranging art festival.

More information (English)

Okayama City Museum
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Okayama City Museum

Another place for culture often involved in contemporary art is Okayama City Museum. This space is inside a high-rise building and is divided into two stories: the upper one is devoted to the history of Okayama, from its foundation to the air raid of 1945 and over, and holds every autumn an annual thematic selection of materials from the Ikeda Archive (which treasures materials from the feudal dynasty who ruled Okayama Domain for centuries); the lower floor is composed of a large open space and usually houses temporary exhibitions about pop culture-oriented contemporary art, design, illustration, comics and animation. For example, in recent years Okayama City Museum held exhibitions about cartoonist Shigeru Mizuki, photographer Mika Ninagawa, illustrator Yūko Higuchi, "Moomin" creators Tove & Lars Jansson, designer Osamu Harada (who is considered the father of current kawaii culture, in the photographs) and many more.

More information (Japanese)

Setouchi Triennale - Uno Port
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Setouchi Triennale - Uno Port

Riding on a train and leading south from Okayama City through the Japanese countryside landscape, in less than an hour it is possible to reach Uno Port in Tamano City. This lovely seaside place is one of the venues of the Setouchi Triennale, held every three years simultaneously (but not together) with the Okayama Art Summit. The event originated from the Benesse Art Site, a unique "art park" that opened in the early 90s on Naoshima Island, just in front of Uno Port, and slowly grown not only on Naoshima but on many other islands of the Seto Inland Sea archipelago and on the mainland too (including Uno), becoming an internationally famous sanctuary for contemporary art and architecture... but we're going to talk about this another time. Uno houses some works on display 365 days a year, like the station building painted by Esther Stocker and the famous fish made of colorful garbage designed by art group Yodogawa-Technique, as well as special installations made for the Triennale like the solemn, quasi-religious space Time Shop created by artist Jin Hasegawa and composed of an endless fall of salt.

Setouchi Triennale - The Islands
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Setouchi Triennale - The Islands

Except for Inujima, which is part of Okayama Prefecture, the other islands of the Seto Inland Sea archipelago are actually part of Kagawa Prefecture, on the opposite bank of the sea, so I shouldn't write about them on this space devoted to Okayama Prefecture. Moreover, British singer Dua Lipa visited Naoshima this year and she promoted the islands and Setouchi Triennale more and better than I will ever do. Anyway, it is interesting to have a very brief view of these islands since they are very close to Okayama and Okayama City itself serves as a hub for visitors leading to the Triennale. In short: about 30 years ago Okayama-based publishing house Benesse started a patronage-of-the-art project turning these beautiful islands into an exceptionally interesting art festival and, more important, involving the inhabitants of the islands in the process. Some of Japan's and the world's best artists and architects came here to leave a sign in harmony with the surrounding nature, notably on Naoshima and Teshima islands: in particular, the latter is now home to Usaginingen, a couple of artists producing cinematic experiences working with projections and sound effects. Really a wonderful and recommended experience.


Reporter:Mario Pasqualini

More information (English)

Copyright Okayama Prefectural Tourism Federation. All Right Reserved.
Copyright Okayama Prefectural Tourism Federation. All Right Reserved.

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