Experience Contemporary Art in an Ancient East Asian City

'Fruit Tree' by Choi Jeonghwa | © Judith LaFaver
'Fruit Tree' by Choi Jeonghwa | © Judith LaFaver
Photo of Judith LaFaver
31 August 2017

Present and past collide in the latest Culture City of East Asia project held in Kyoto. A creative collaboration between Japan, China, and South Korea’s artistic community, Asia Corridor Contemporary Art Exhibition hopes to raise awareness of the richness of East Asian art while promoting harmony through artistic expression.

The art exhibition is being held at two different venues in Kyoto’s Nakagyo ward: Nijo Castle and Kyoto Art Center. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nijo Castle was built over 400 years ago and is considered by many to be the starting place of the modernization of Japan. It’s no accident that a place with such important ties to present-day Japan would be the main site of an art show pushing the limits of modern art and challenging conventional ideas of creative thought.

Void by Tanizawa Sawako | © Judith LaFaver

Walking the grounds of Nijo Castle would be impressive on a regular day, but with 18 large art pieces scattered throughout the grounds, it goes on to be an abstract playground. A few of the standout sculptures are Yayoi Kusama’s Statue of Venus Obliterated by Infinity Nets (Y) and Choi Jeonghwa’s Breathing Flower (808 characters) showcasing the 808 Chinese characters shared by the three countries and representing a shared heritage.

Statue of Venus Obliterated by infinity Nets (Y) by Yayoi Kusama | © Judith LaFaver
Breathing Flower (808 characters by Choi Jeonghwa | © Judith LaFaver

Just a 15-minute walk from Nijo Castle is the site of the second location, the Registered Tangible Cultural Property Kyoto Art Center. A former elementary school, the Kyoto Art Center is filled with playful exhibits that challenge the senses and showcase childlike innocence. Be sure to check out the manga exhibit by Nakamura Yuta and Tanimoto Ken documenting their travels to different parts of Japan and Korea, and the up-and-coming director Yang Fudong’s film. To continue the childhood theme, artist Nakahara Kodai displays rooms of his artwork including interesting recreations of his elementary school artwork done by his high school self. Hyogo artist Horio Sadaharu fills a room with childlike art projects created with what he describes as “junk.”

Atarimae-no-koto- Paint Placement and so on by Horio Sadaharu | © Judith LaFaver

For first-time visitors planning their trip to Nijo Castle and the Art Corridor Exhibit, expect to spend most of the day exploring the grounds as well as the art sites. Many of the rooms require shoes to be removed, so it would be advised to wear shoes that easily slip on and off. Those wanting to buy a special souvenir to bring home can buy customized Asia Corridor drip-style coffee packets and furoshiki cloths at Nijo Castle. Budget travelers will be happy to know that the Kyoto Art Center portion of the show has no admission fee. Nijo Castle tickets are currently available for purchase at the Kyoto Art Center for those interested in skipping the long lines at the castle entrance.

The Asia Corridor Contemporary Art Exhibition is open until October 15, 2017. Tickets are JPY ¥1,200 (US$11).

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