Japan’s contemporary arts scene used to be dominated by Tokyo, but since the 1990s Kyoto’s burgeoning art community has been growing from strength to strength. With organisations like Kyoto Art Box forming to promote Kyoto-based creatives, and longstanding establishments like the National Museum of Modern Art existing alongside independent art spaces, the city is becoming a must-visit place for art lovers. These are ten of our favourite contemporary art galleries in Kyoto.
Based in a leafy residential area in the east of the Higashiyama ward, Kaho Gallery was founded in 1996 and has presented exhibitions by some of Japan’s finest modern artists including abstract figurative painter Kokuta Suda; Ono Chikkyo, a nihonga painter who helped co-found the Kokuten Society, an artists’ collective based on the principle that all artists should have total freedom of expression; and Toshio Arimoto, whose paintings were influenced by a mix of European frescoes, traditional Japanese techniques and Buddhist sculpture. Kaho Gallery has also exhibited works by more contemporary artists such as German sculptor Reinhard Voss’ Bitter Lennon, a series of cubist-like faces sculpted from wood, and Japanese painter Shiro Ishibashi.
Kaho Gallery, Honmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan, +81 75 708 2670
Kodama Gallery originally opened its doors in 1998 in the neighbouring city of Osaka with the aim of providing an antidote to Japan’s Tokyo-dominated arts scene by focusing its efforts on promoting home grown talent from Osaka and Kyoto. In an effort to introduce more local artists to the Tokyo art world, Kodama opened a Tokyo branch in 2004 and in 2008 the original gallery relocated to its current premises in Kyoto, an ample space featuring two exhibition areas with a total area of 800 square metres. Kodama Gallery has exhibited such young talents as Mayuko Wada, a painter and sculptor who incorporates both traditional craft elements like origami and modern design styles like post-minimalism, and recently presented a retrospective of the works of Mamoru Sakagawa.
Located within the picturesque Maruyama Park, a prime location for viewing beautiful cherry blossoms and named a designated Place of Scenic Beauty by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, En Arts is a visual contemporary arts gallery with a focus on celebrating Japanese and international talent and bringing the best in contemporary Kyoto art to wider national and international audiences. Founded and run by Naomi Rowe, En Arts’ recent offerings included the group exhibition Eeny meeny miny moe|red – works by six artists themed around the colour red that included contributions by Kyoto-based painter Tamotsu Ikeya and abstract oil painter Keisuke Matsuda. En Arts represents the promising young artist Kim Kwang Nam, who creates brooding black and white pieces from photographic silkscreen prints and won the Kazue Kobata Prize at the 2012 Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi.
Gallery Morning Kyoto, a space for contemporary arts, craft and design, began operations in 2009 and concentrates on paintings, prints, objects and drawings. Situated in the heart of the city’s Okazaki cultural zone, Gallery Morning Kyoto is a small and intimate space that has its finger placed firmly on the pulse of the Japanese contemporary arts scene and offers art lovers the chance to buy works by some of the country’s most cutting-edge artists. Among the artists recently exhibited by Gallery Morning Kyoto are painter and illustrator Gassho Kaede, who at only 22 years of age is already gaining acclaim, and Kubo Ayane’s dreamlike and surreal paintings of people and landscapes.