Art & Culture

Is Japan’s Art Market Booming? Here Are The Results

The second edition of Tokyo Gendai, organised by The Art Assembly with SMBC Group as the Principal Partner, has successfully concluded. The event showcased an impressive array of international contemporary art. It featured 69 galleries from around the globe and attracted visitors from 40 countries and territories, solidifying its status as a premier art fair.

Galleries reported robust sales across all sectors and price points, ranging from a few thousand US dollars to an impressive $750,000. This diverse sales activity underscores Tokyo Gendai’s mission to expand the market for contemporary art in Japan, promote Japanese art internationally, and bring top-tier global artists and galleries to the Japanese audience.

The fair’s program included “Tsubomi’ Flower Bud’,” an exhibition highlighting four talented women artists, and “Art Talks,” a series of discussions featuring thought leaders from the art world. Renowned local artists also had the opportunity to showcase their work, adding a rich, local flavour to the event.

Overall, Tokyo Gendai 2024 has reinforced its commitment to fostering a dynamic and inclusive art market, bridging cultures, and enhancing the appreciation of contemporary art on an international scale.

Tokyo Genda 2024 Photo Courtesy Tokyo Gendai

SALES HIGHLIGHTS

Tokyo Gendai demonstrated that confidence in the contemporary art market is still high, with galleries reporting solid sales across various media, including painting, drawings, photography and sculpture. Examples of these sales reported include A Lighthouse called Kanata (Tokyo), which sold six seminal works (two paintings and four sculptures) to important collectors in Japan, Taiwan and the US in just the first two days of the fair, including Satoru Ozaki’s stainless steel work The Prince, 2024 (USD 150,000 ~ 200,000), which sold to a Taiwanese collector; Sundaram Tagore Gallery (New York) sold three works by Hiroshi Senju including two works titled Waterfall on Colors, 2024, which sold for USD 570,000 and USD 385,000 respectively, and Waterfall, 2024 selling for USD 385,000. Miya Ando’s Aotsuki (Blue Moon)

Triptych 2 May 2024, 7:47 PM NYC, 2024 also sold for USD 84,000; BLUM (Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo) sold a 2024 work on canvas by Kenjiro Okazaki for USD 160,000; MISAKO & ROSEN (Tokyo) sold a piece by painter Trevor Shimizu titled Water and Branches (2), 2024 for USD 85,000; and one of the sales highlights at Almine Rech (Paris, Brussels, London, New York, Shanghai, Monaco) was a piece by Roby Dwi Antono titled Emerald for USD 30,000 – 50,000.

Some participating galleries boasted sell-out shows, including Pace Gallery (USA, UK, Switzerland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan), which sold out of its solo booth of new drawings by Robert Longo, with almost every piece of work placed with a collector in Japan, and prices ranging from USD 90,000 – 750,000. Tomio Koyama Gallery (Tokyo), which took part in the Hana ‘Flower’ sector, also had a sell-out show featuring works by Beijing artist Xu Ning.

Healthy sales of contemporary artists working with textiles and sculptures were also reported by Gallery Nosco (Brussels), which sold four of Isabelle. D’s textile pieces, with prices ranging from USD 8,600 – 22,500, and Retro Africa (Abuja) sold five works, including two sculptural tapestry artworks by multi-award-winning Nigerian artist Samuel Nnorom for USD 10,000 and USD 17,000 to Japanese collectors.HARUKAITO by ISLAND (Tokyo, Atami) sold 25 pieces ranging from USD 3,110 – 9,331 to new collectors, by two artists – painter BIEN and Midori Kawano, who creates pieces made from lenticular, stainless steel and wood.

Keteleer Gallery (Belgium) sold the final available edition of an iconic work by Lois Weinberger titled What Is Beyond Plants Is At One With Them, Documenta X, 1997, to a French-Japanese collection, priced around EUR 30,000; KOTARO NUKAGA (Tokyo) sold 12 works during the fair, including a large-scale work by Japanese visual artist Tomokazu Matsuyama titled Stain Gentle Words, 2024 to a collector, and Each Modern (Taiwan) sold works by five artists to collectors from China, Japan and Europe, with sale prices ranging from USD 3,200 – 43,000.

Tokyo Genda
Tokyo Genda 2024 Photo Courtesy Tokyo Gendai

Galleries showcasing more traditional mediums, including ceramics, also did very well with collectors, with Kyoto-based gallery Imura Art Gallery selling half of Shiro Tsujimura’s ceramics on the fair’s opening day, with prices ranging from USD 6,221 – 7,465. Takuro Someya Contemporary Art introduced large-scale artworks featuring tile works by Kenjiro Okazaki and lenticular works by Rafaël Rozendaal, sold to individual collectors and museums.

Institutions as part of Ne ‘Root’; five large-scale installations as part of Sato ‘Meadow’; and a new series of workshops for children IntoArt. The fair featured an extensive VIP programme of special events, exhibitions, and gallery openings celebrating the very best art and culture Japan has to offer, including Brancusi: Carving the Essence at Artizon Museum, Theaster Gates: Afro-Mingei at Mori Art Museum, and Rei Nato: Come and Live—Go and Live at Tokyo National Museum.

Tokyo Gendai’s opening party was held on 4 July at the Yokohama Museum of Art. It featured a Kabuki dance performance by Ranshou Fujima and an exclusive preview of the museum’s new acquisition by Yusuke Asai, To the Forest of All Living Things, 2023.

A specially commissioned performance by ALVA NOTO (Carsten Nicolai) occurred at TOKYO NODE HALL on Friday, 5 July. This was his first performance in Japan since before the pandemic. The artist has strong associations with Japan, with his first performance in the country in 1998, having collaborated with leading contemporary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (who passed away in 2022) on nine albums, which resulted in a joint nomination for them both in 2017 for a Golden Globe and an Emmy for best soundtrack for The Revenant.

A significant commission of an immersive installation titled ‘Touch on an Absence’ by the internationally acclaimed contemporary Japanese artist Tabaimo was on view at Warehouse TERRADA, and an exclusive gallery Night at TERRADA ART COMPLEX, one of Japan’s most significant art complexes and home to numerous leading art galleries took place on 6 July.

Tokyo Gendai also offered international attendees the opportunity to explore the cultural scene outside of Tokyo, with visits to Kiyoharu Art Colony, Pola Art Museum, Enoura Observatory, and Kazunori Hamana’s studio.

Reiri Kojima, General Manager, Tokyo Gendai, says: “It was incredible to feel the energy and enthusiasm from both returning and new visitors alike. While the art market in Japan is still growing, we were very encouraged to hear that visitors were delighted by the galleries’ presentations and the public and VIP programmes that connected Japan’s many cultural institutions to the global art world. We are very grateful to the Japan Tourism Agency for providing us with financial support, which was invaluable in arranging our VIP programmes. We would also like to thank the Agency for Cultural Affairs for additional financial support and the City of Yokohama for support in acquiring bonded status and promotional activities around the city. With our new dates confirmed, we will continue working with the government to welcome more galleries, collectors and the international art community and to play our part in furthering Japan’s growth as an international hub and destination for art and culture.”

Magnus Renfrew, Co-Founder of Tokyo Gendai, says: “The second edition of Tokyo Gendai built on the solid foundations laid last year. We were thrilled by the response to the fair by the Japanese art community and international collectors. Consensus is emerging that Japan has the potential to play a much bigger role in the global art market, and we are honoured to be playing an important role in both putting the spotlight on the incredible art scene in Tokyo and connecting Japan to the global art world. We are excited to have secured new Autumn dates that will allow the potential for greater participation from galleries, collectors and international visitors.”

COLLECTORS AND VIP ATTENDEES

Leading private collectors, museum directors, curators and patrons from 40 countries and territories visited Tokyo Gendai and participated in the exciting array of cultural offerings around the fair. VIPs in attendance included Takeo Obayashi, collector and Chairperson of The Obayashi Foundation; Miwa Taguchi, collector and Co-Founder of the Taguchi Art Collection; Shane Akeroyd, collector and Founder of the Akeroyd Collection; and Ryutaro Takahashi, collector and Founder of the Takahashi Ryutaro Collection. Notable collectors included Jack Huang, Kankuro Ueshima, Joseph Chen, Albert Lim, Linda Neo, Shunji and Asako Oketa, James and Grace Hsu, Lingnan Xu, Thomas Shao and Takafumi Takahashi. The fair also welcomed visitors from leading institutions, including Yoshiko Mori, Chairperson of the Mori Art Museum; Eriko Osaka, Director General of the National Art Centre, Tokyo; Mami Kataoka, Director of the Mori Art Museum; Yuko Hasegawa, Director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa; Mika Kuraya, Director of Yokohama Museum of Art, Executive Director of Organizing Committee of Yokohama Triennale; Eriko Kimura, Director of Hirosaki Museum of Contemporary Art; Jenny Wang, Chairperson of the Fosun Foundation; Chihiro Watanabe, Director of the Contemporary Art Foundation; Zhang Rui, Founder of the Nanjo Art Museum in Okinawa; and Jam Acuzar, Founder of non-profit organisation Bellas Artes Projects. Tokyo Gendai warmly welcomed Shunichi Tokura, Commissioner for Cultural Affairs, his wife Haruko Tokura, Rahm Emanuel, US Ambassador to Japan, and his wife Amy Rule. Visiting artists included Carsten Nicolai, Bea Camacho, Shiro Tsujimura, Yuichiro Tamura, Kohei Nawa, Hiroshi Senju, James Jean, Daisuke Ohba, Kengo Kito and Yan Lei. Other notable visitors included Hong Kong actor Tony Leung and Hong Kong actress and singer Carina Lau.

GALLERY RESPONSE

The 2024 edition of Tokyo Gendai welcomed 69 international galleries to the fair, several of whom were showing work in Japan for the first time. The fair showcased presentations from internationally recognised galleries, grouped into three sectors: a Galleries sector presenting leading galleries from Japan and around the world; Hana ‘Flower’, featuring a solo or a dual presentation of artists at an early or mid-stage in their career; and Eda’ Branch’, dedicated to solo or multiple artist presentations by established or historically significant figures in Asia.

Galleries exhibiting across all sectors of the fair applauded Tokyo Gendai’s second edition:

Marc Glimcher, CEO of Pace Gallery (USA, UK, Switzerland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan), says: “Tokyo Gendai was a super effective catalyst for bringing together Japan’s most important collectors and curators—allowing us to convene and celebrate. We were thrilled to finish the week with a sold-out booth in local collections.”

Wahei Aoyama, Founder and Director of a Lighthouse called Kanata (Tokyo), says: “The second edition of Tokyo Gendai far surpassed our expectations. In the fair’s first two days, we sold six seminal works to important collectors in Japan, Taiwan, and the US. In particular, we were surprised by the growing strength of the domestic collector base. Serious Japanese collectors came out in droves, and it was a wonderful chance to meet new collectors and introduce them to our programme.”

Sundaram Tagore, President and Curator of Sundaram Tagore Gallery (New York, Singapore, London),

says: “After a successful debut last year, we are thrilled to return to Tokyo Gendai. We presented significant work by the internationally renowned Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju, which resonated deeply with collectors, creating a vibrant atmosphere and driving significant sales. We are delighted with our performance this year and look forward to continuing our fruitful collaboration with Tokyo Gendai.”

Josephine May Bailey, Director of Sales, Gallery Rosenfeld (London), says: “We are thrilled to announce the successful placement of all available works by the renowned Italian artist Nicola Samorì in prestigious Japanese collections. This marked the first time Samorì exhibited in Japan, and we were keen to expand his market into the Asian art scene. This significant achievement was made possible with the invaluable support of the fair’s VIP team, and we are delighted to see Samorì’s exceptional works find homes in such esteemed collections.”

Thibault Geffrin, Senior Director at Almine Rech (Paris, Brussels, London, New York, Shanghai, Monaco), says: “We are pleased to return to Japan for the second edition of Tokyo Gendai. It is a great opportunity to interact with so many local collectors and curators we met last year. The market is growing, and we are dedicated to being part of this exciting growth.”

Huang Yaji, Founder of Each Modern (Taiwan), says: “Tokyo has proven to be a fantastic hub for bringing together collectors from Japan, China, and Taiwan. It’s like a melting pot of art and culture, blending different perspectives and styles. The city’s vibrant energy seems to inspire creativity and collaboration among collectors, making it a dynamic meeting ground for art enthusiasts from various backgrounds. It truly represents Tokyo Gendai’s magnetic pull in the art world.”

Marie Imai Kobayashi, Director of BLUM (Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo) in Tokyo, says, “The fair provided a great opportunity to meet new, local collectors.”

Cyril Moumen, Founder of Gallery Nosco (Brussels), says: “This is the first time both Gallery Nosco and exhibiting artist Isabelle .D have shown works in Asia, and we have been happy with the response from the local people and collectors, placing two works in Japanese collections on the fair’s opening day and another work to an American collector based in Tokyo. Furthermore, we have also had the chance to meet with curators to discuss forthcoming projects and collaborations in Tokyo.”

Dolly Kola-Balogun, Founder and Creative Director of Retro Africa (Abuja), says: “We are pleased to see how receptive and curious visitors have been to our gallery, and we’ve been made to feel very welcome at Tokyo Gendai. We are hopeful for longer-term relationships and future sales and are grateful to gain a foothold in the Japanese art market. The show’s title, “Heart to Heart: A Sonata of Love and Being”, derived from the Japanese Idiom “Ishin-denshin”, which denotes interpersonal communication, unspoken dialogue and understanding, was deeply felt at the fair. Given the large gap between Asia and Africa, we focused on ways to bridge cultural, linguistic and geographical barriers. It’s been a privilege to represent our continent at the fair and to translate Nigerian art and culture in a nuanced way.”

NEW DATES ANNOUNCED

In response to feedback from galleries that the timing of the fair in July was challenging for European and American galleries and collectors and that, in terms of climate, it is the hottest time of the year in Japan, The Art Assembly is delighted to announce new Autumn dates for the upcoming edition of Tokyo Gendai. The new dates will not only mean a more comfortable climate but also represent the Autumn season launch, which has been traditionally associated in Japanese culture as a time of year to focus on cultural pursuits. The next edition of Tokyo Gendai will take place from 12-14 September 2025, with a VIP Preview and Vernissage on 11 September 2025.

Top Photo: Photo Courtesy Tokyo Gendai

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