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11 things to see and do around Art Fair Tokyo

After Art Basel in Hong Kong and Art Stage Singapore, the next stop on the Asian art fair circuit is Japan. As the biggest ever edition of Art Fair Tokyo opens its doors, Maria Howard scours the city for the most exciting events

Showcasing over 150 galleries — largely from Japan, Hong Kong and China, and with a few European names for good measure  — Art Fair Tokyo brings together prized antiques and cutting-edge contemporary works, as well as offering a programme of talks and collaborations with younger artists. This is your guide to what to see at the fair as well as major exhibitions and events across the city. 

Mariko Mori, Cycloid III, 2015. 174.3 × 200 × 196 cm. Courtesy the artist, SCAI The Bathhouse

Mariko Mori, Cycloid III, 2015. 174.3 × 200 × 196 cm. Courtesy the artist, SCAI The Bathhouse

Located in a 200-year-old public bathhouse building in Tokyo’s Yanaka district, this gallery is worth a visit for the architecture alone. With an impressive roster of Asian and international contemporary artists, including Lee Ufan, Mariko Mori and Jenny Holzer, its stand at Art Fair Tokyo is not to be missed. 

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  • 100KIN

Following the relaxation of Japanese tax laws in 2015, Art Fair Tokyo introduced 100Kin, a section devoted to pieces under ¥1,000,000 (about $9,000) which will now be eligible for tax deductions. Although such an open approach to pricing may seem odd in a country known for its discretion and strict etiquette, the feature, which allows galleries to take risks with lesser-known names on the contemporary art scene, proved popular at last year’s fair. 

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  • AFT Projects

Ren Hang, Untitled, 2015. 67×100 cm. © Ren Hang, courtesy matchbaco

Ren Hang, Untitled, 2015. 67×100 cm. © Ren Hang, courtesy matchbaco

Solo exhibition in homage to Guy Debord. Courtesy the artist

Solo exhibition in homage to Guy Debord. Courtesy the artist

No doubt influenced by the Frieze venture of the same name, Art Fair Tokyo presents a section devoted to exhibiting new work by emerging artists. This year's edition features painting, sculpture and installations on the theme of ‘Don't feel, think!’

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  • Tokyo Art Summit

Any art fair worth its salt knows the value of public programmes, and AFT doesn't disappoint. There are a number of conferences planned for the week, led by some of the most important names in the Asian art market. As well as discussions on the state of the market, these major players will also consider the impact of an art fair on a city’s cultural environment and the influence of the media on the art world. 

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  • Face up!

Koji Tanada, Spiders Web Boy, 2008. 39 × 49 × 45cm. Photo Kumagai Jun. © Tanada Koji. Courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery

Koji Tanada, Spider's Web Boy, 2008. 39 × 49 × 45cm. Photo: Kumagai Jun. © Tanada Koji. Courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery

This section of the fair focuses on contemporary artistic experimentation, with an exhibition of works based on the human figure. Taking materials as his starting point, curator Keisuke Ozawa, of Tokyo Art Association, wants visitors to confront their reliance on technology and ‘take a closer look at what is in front of them’ by carefully examining the ‘grain and texture’ of the artist's work.

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  • Shinseido Gallery

Yuki Matsueda, Information ≠ Knowledge, 2016. 15 × 15 × 13 cm. Courtesy Shinseido Gallery

Yuki Matsueda, Information ≠ Knowledge, 2016. 15 × 15 × 13 cm. Courtesy Shinseido Gallery

Based in Tokyo and Berlin, Shinseido Gallery will be showcasing the work of Yuki Matsueda, whose sculptural canvases offer a tongue-in-cheek approach to traditional ideas of two-dimensional art.

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  • Art on the move

An 11-metre installation titled reflectwo by Haruka Kojin, which uses imitation flowers. Photo by Anson Smartto

An 11-metre installation titled reflectwo by Haruka Kojin, which uses imitation flowers. Photo by Anson Smartto

No visit to Japan would be complete without a trip on the bullet train or Shinkansen. This spring you can experience a ‘travelling art gallery’ on Japan Rail’s Joetsu route, with carriages decked out in prints by Nao Matsumoto, as well as immersive installations by Yusuke Komuta and art collective Paramodel (until 26 June).

Issey Miyake, Flying Saucer, SpringSummer 1994, 1993 and No.10 Skirt, 2010. Photos Koji Udo
Issey Miyake, Flying Saucer, Spring/Summer 1994, 1993 and No.10 Skirt, 2010. Photos: Koji Udo
Issey Miyake, Blade of Grass Pleats, Spring Summer 1990, 1989.  Photo Hiroshi Iwasaki

Issey Miyake, Blade of Grass Pleats, Spring/ Summer 1990, 1989.  Photo: Hiroshi Iwasaki

Don’t miss your chance to see this exhibition of more than four decades of work by the master of pleats at Tokyo’s National Art Center (until 13 June). Bordering on sculpture, Miyake’s pieces, which explore the boundaries of fabric and occupy a space between art and fashion, have inspired legions of young designers. Keep an eye out at the exhibition for iconic posters by Japanese graphic designer Ikko Tanaka, who is also the subject of a stunning show at the National Museum of Art in Osaka

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  • 3331 Arts Chiyoda

Housed in a renovated junior high school, 3331 is a space for artists and creatives, with innovative exhibitions, pop-up shops and a food lab. Don't miss the 3331 art fair, featuring work chosen by leading curators, and the final week of a showcase of work from the architecture and design graduates of the Kyoto Institute of Technology. 

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  • Ryan McGinley

Ryan McGinley, Jacob (Red Blueberry), 2015. C-print. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York

Ryan McGinley, Jacob (Red Blueberry), 2015. C-print. Courtesy the artist and Team Gallery, New York

Saturated with colour, Ryan McGinley’s photographs are a joyous celebration of the nude, and coveted by collectors around the world. Catch his work at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery (until 10 July) in one of Shinjuku’s most imposing skyscrapers.

Situated at the top of a 54-storey tower in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, the Mori Art Museum is a must-see for its views over the city as well as its intriguing exhibitions. The latest show in the ‘Roppongi Crossing’ series held triennially since 2004 is My Body, Your Voice (until 10 July), an exploration of body and gender through the lens of social media and Japan’s history.

Art Fair Tokyo, 12-14 May, Tokyo International Forum, 3 Chome-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku,Tokyo-to 100-0005