Fairs Japan

Fewer western exhibitors at Art Fair Tokyo

A change of dates, necessitated by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, led to gallery cancellations, but visitors still turned out

Toyko Art Fair

tokyo. The changed dates of Art Fair Tokyo (29-31 July) meant that several western galleries cancelled their participation. The fair had originally been planned for March, but due to Japan's earthquake and tsunami (when the fair's venue, the Tokyo International Forum, had instead been used as an evacuation centre) it was postponed. In the end, only three of the 133 exhibitors came from outside Asia and the Middle East. Visitor numbers were still solid, with organizers reporting only a slight decrease on the previous year: 43,000 visitors over the four day fair, compared to 50,000 in 2010.

The fair, now in its seventh year, is unusual in that it sells works ranging from ancient Chinese antiques to experimental contemporary works. In most categories, it seemed to be business as usual. Visitors from Taiwan and mainland China were in evidence, purchasing mostly antiques, and undaunted by the radiation fears that had gripped the nation in the earthquake's aftermath. One Chinese collector and government official, who asked to remain anonymous, said Chinese buyers were buying the antiques and then reselling at auction for multiple profits back on the mainland. Among the brisk sales of antiques, Tokyo's Eiji Nishikawa gallery sold a Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) piece of white porcelain, with a lotus design, Ding ware (produced in kilns in northern China), for ¥15m ($193,000).

Newly appointed Fair Director Takahiro Kaneshima said: “In Japan we are very wary of [market] bubbles after the 1980s [when the inflated property and stock markets began to collapse], but it seems the Chinese are very interested in the antiques. This is one of the important positions for our fair, because the antiques are verified, I see Maastricht as a model.”

More modern work also sold well, at top price points. Yanagase Gallery said it sold four small oil paintings and a pastel by Morikazu Kumagai for a total ¥145m ($1.9m), an average price somewhat higher than Kumagai's record at auction. Art Statements, from Tokyo and Hong Kong, sold The Arrival of Golden Boat, by AES+F, for ¥9m ($116,000) and Gallery Gyokuei sold five works by Tetsuya Noguchi for a total ¥5.3m ($68,000).

But the evident lack of overseas contemporary art and galleries, Kaneshima said: “I think the Japanese market is kind of complicated. I want to increase the international presence [at the fair], but we need to think of the local market, so we need a balance.”

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