Re: Quest―Japanese Contemporary Art since the 1970s

Image of "Re: Quest-Japanese Contemporary Art since the 1970s"

The Japan Foundation, in collaboration with the Museum of Art, Seoul National University, presents Re: Quest -Japanese Contemporary Art since the 1970s, an exhibition that surveys the art of the last 40 years, from the 1970s to the present.

In the past, Japanese art has been widely shown in the Asia region with an  emphasis on cutting-edge, contemporary works. However, for this time, the exhibition will focus on the history of Japan’s postwar art, which provided an important foundation for later work, and will present the survey of the last 40 years of Japanese contemporary art from various perspectives. It will encompass works dating after 1970 that have never been introduced in a comprehensive manner in Korea, and will include works of important artists, who remain highly influential in the field, and those of younger artists. It is expected to offer the opportunities to reexamine Japanese contemporary art and consider the diversity, relationship, and interaction between artistic expression and art history in the wider Asia region since the end of World War II.

Re: Quest-Japanese Contemporary Art since the 1970s

Read an essay on the exhibition written by curator Oh Jin-yee and exhibiting artist Makoto Aida in Wochi Kochi Magazine.

Dates: Tuesday, March 5 - Sunday, April 14, 2013
10:00 a.m.~6:00 p.m. closed on every Monday 
Venue: Museum of Art,  Seoul National University Museum of Art, Seoul National University
Curators: Matsumoto Tohru(Deputy Director, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo)
Haito Masahiko(Curator, Aichi Triennale 2013)
Kamiya Yukie(Chief Curator, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art)
Oh Jin-yee(Senior Curator, Museum of Art, Seoul National University)
Artists: Approximately 120 artworks by 53 artists from the 1970s to the present
Aida Makoto,  Aoki Ryoko + Ito Zon,  Arakawa Shusaku, 
Araki Nobuyoshi,  Chiba Masaya,  Dumb Type, 
Endo Toshikatsu,  Enokura Koji,  Fujimoto Yukio, 
Funakoshi Katsura,  Haraguchi Noriyuki, Ishiuchi Miyako, 
Ito Ryusuke,  Kaneuji Teppei,  Kato Izumi, 
Kawaguchi Tatsuo,  Kawamata Tadashi,  Kobayashi Masato,  Kobayashi Takanobu,  Koshimizu Susumu, 
Kusama Yayoi,  Lee Ufan, Maruyama Naofumi, 
Miyajima Tatsuo, Morimura Yasumasa,  Moriyama Daido, 
Murakami Takashi,  Muraoka Saburo,  Nakahara Kodai, 
Nakamura Kazumi,  Nara Yoshitomo,  Noguchi Rika, 
Nomura Hitoshi,  Odani Motohiko,  Ozawa Tsuyoshi, 
Sawa Hiraki,  Sone Yutaka,  Suda Yoshihiro, 
Suga Kishio,  Sugimoto Hiroshi,  Sugito Hiroshi,
Takamatsu Jiro,  Takamine Tadasu,  Tanaka Koki, 
Tatsuno Toeko,  Teruya Yuken,  Toya Shigeo, 
Tsubaki Noboru,  Wakabayashi Isamu,  Yanagi Miwa, 
Yanagi Yukinori,  Yanobe Kenji,  Yoneda Tomoko
(listed in English alphabetical order of the artist’s family name)
Organizers: The Japan Foundation
Museum of Art, Seoul National University
Cooperation: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
Public Information and Cultural Center, Embassy of Japan in Korea
Special lecture by Matsumoto Tohru
"On the Historicity of Post-1970s Japanese Contemporary Art"
Dates: Wednesday, March 6, 2:00 p.m.~
Venue: Museum of Art, Seoul National University
Contents: The brief of the exhibition and an examination of Japanese contemporary art since the 1970s by Matsumoto Tohru (Deputy Director of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo).
Artist talk

The artists will talk about their works and past projects.
Venue: Museum of Art, Seoul National University

Takamine Tadasu
Saturday, March 16, 2:00 p.m.~

Yanobe Kenji
Saturday, April 6, 2:00 p.m.~

Aida Makoto
Saturday, April 13, 2:00 p.m.~


The late 1960s to the early '70s saw a sea change in contemporary art in various parts of the world. The transformation from object-based to concept-based art gave rise to Minimalism, which in turn inspired a range of schools and groups such as Conceptual Art, Land Art and Body Art. The era saw new movements that had sprung up simultaneously in widely disparate areas. One in Italy was called Arte Povera (poor art); another in Japan was called Mono-ha.

Over four decades later, the term “contemporary art” in the broad sense still refers, all too often, to art of the 1970s and beyond, as if time has not elapsed since.

There are good reasons for this. No art style meriting recognition as a distinct movement -- one might say an avant-garde movement -- has emerged since the advent of Minimalism and Conceptualism in the late '60s. Since the late '70s, mainstream art has been characterized by the resurrection, revival and appropriation of past styles and approaches, with New Expressionism leading the way. 

Then, with the arrival of the 1990s, we came to learn that each region of the world has its own chronology and principles, techniques and terminologies of art. This discovery dramatically changed the map of contemporary art from a regional paradigm that put the West front and center to one that provides global coverage.

Add to this situation the emergence and the dominance of new media. Oil painting, ink-wash painting and all other traditional techniques were developed in particular geographical, social and environmental contexts over long periods of time. In contrast, science, technology, industry and information flow are borderless. Their levels of progress may vary from one region to another, but no one country can claim historical ownership of them. The new information technologies designed to compress time and space undoubtedly have a huge impact on how we perceive history. 

The 1970s deeply reflected the modernist ideals of Universalism. Its vocabulary and methods were applied to explore psychological and social domains in the 1980s. The following decade saw young artists to begin adopting a completely new perspective: they started viewing Japanese culture as if they were foreigners. Then from the 2000s it came to a new generation of artists who sought to present the daily life of a highly diverse and complex society in films and installations. Looking back, we realize just how far we've come.

Despite all these developments, only a few art exhibitions that aim to trace and survey historically the art works of the 1970s and '80s have been organized -- in Japan, at any rate -- in the last few decades. This may be another sign of globalism. Meanwhile, interest in contemporary art of Japan and other Asian countries -- that is to say the modern, or contemporary, art that developed in parallel to Western art -- is in fact growing ever stronger worldwide, partly due to the international success of artists such as Kusama Yayoi, Lee Ufan, and so on.

Is there such thing as Japanese contemporary art history--history in the sense of a sequence of events and transitions? If so, to what extent, if at all, is this local history connected to the world art map or the radical changes that have shaped art history in the rest of world? These are questions that have guided the development of this exhibition aimed at taking a fresh look at Japanese contemporary art from a historical perspective.

Matsumoto Tohru (Deputy Director, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo)

Photo of  Ceremony for Suicide
Ceremony for Suicide
Kusama Yayoi
1975-78 , mixed media
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art

Photo of Dialogue
Lee Ufan
2010 , oil on canvas
Private collection

Photo of "I Saw the Bird Spreading its Wings"
I Saw the Bird Spreading its Wings
Funakoshi Katsura
1985, painted camphor wood,
marble, glass
Private Collection
Courtesy: Nishimura Gallery

Photo of "Everything is Everything"
Everything is Everything
Tanaka Koki
2006, 8 channel HDV, color, sound
Collection of the artist
Installation view at Hiroshima City
Museum of Contemporary Art
Photo: Moto Keiichi (CACTUS)

Photo of "Portrait (Boy 1) Portrait (Boy 2) Portrait (Boy 3)"
Portrait (Boy 1)     Portrait (Boy 2)     Portrait (Boy 3)
Morimura Yasumasa
1988, transparent medium on color photograph,
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

Photo of "Revolving Chair (electromotive)"
Revolving Chair (electromotive)
-What Ko-dai Nakahara can do for Ko-dai's Youth

Nakahara Kodai
1991, mixed media, Toyota Municipal Museum of Art

Photo of "Sleepless Night (with paintbrush)"
Sleepless Night (with paintbrush)
Nara Yoshitomo
1997, acrylic on canvas
The Japan Foundation

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