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Why Tokyo Gendai 2024 was Spectacular

Tokyo Gendai Art Fair 2024 featured diverse contemporary artworks from 70 galleries and made a decisive mark on the global art market.
Last updated Jul 6, 2024

Tokyo Gendai 2024, held from July 4 to July 7, was a resounding success, attracting art enthusiasts, collectors, and industry professionals from around the globe. This year’s fair, which took place at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center, built on the momentum of its inaugural edition in 2023, offering an even more dynamic and diverse array of contemporary artworks.

The Founding Visionaries

Co-founder Magnus Renfrew and fair director Eri Takane of Tokyo Gendai 2024

The Tokyo Gendai Art Fair was co-founded by Magnus Renfrew, a prominent figure in the art world with a rich history of organizing successful art fairs. Renfrew has over two decades of experience in the international art world, with a significant portion of his career spent in Asia. He previously served as the founding fair director for ART HK and Art Basel in Hong Kong. Renfrew’s vision for Tokyo Gendai was to create a pivotal event in Asia’s art calendar, promoting cross-cultural discovery and artistic exchange.

Left: Magnus Renfrew and Fair Director Eri Takane.

The Leadership Team

Reiri Kojima, the fair’s general manager, played a crucial role in the seamless execution and direction of Tokyo Gendai 2024. Kojima’s extensive background in the art world includes a decade of experience working with leading art institutions and fairs. Her expertise in art curation and fair management has been instrumental in shaping Tokyo Gendai into a premier art event.

Eri Takane, the fair director, has an impressive background in the art sector, including work as an independent art consultant and art director at Sezon Art Gallery in Tokyo. Her international experience, including a stint at The Japan Foundation in New York, has enriched her perspective, making her a valuable asset to the fair’s leadership team.

The Art Assembly Connection

Tokyo Gendai is part of The Art Assembly, an affiliation that includes ART SG in Singapore and Taipei Dangdai in Taiwan. This collective represents a joint initiative between three of the world’s leading art fair organizers: Sandy Angus, Tim Etchells, and Magnus Renfrew. The Art Assembly aims to drive innovation, deepen engagement with contemporary art, and encourage cross-cultural conversations. By pooling together decades of experience and an extensive global network, The Art Assembly enhances each member fair’s ability to deliver exceptional experiences and foster artistic growth.

A Glimpse Into the Fair

Upon entering the fair, visitors were greeted by an atmosphere buzzing with excitement and creativity. The venue, sprawling and meticulously designed, featured booths from over 80 galleries, each showcasing a curated selection of contemporary artworks. The layout facilitated easy navigation, allowing attendees to immerse themselves in the diverse offerings without feeling overwhelmed.

Highlighting Key Exhibits

One of the standout exhibits was the booth by Taka Ishii Gallery, which featured works by leading Japanese artists such as Shinpei Kusanagi and Mario García Torres. Their exhibits spanned diverse mediums and thematic explorations, captivating visitors with their innovative approaches to contemporary art​.

Yoshitomo Nara, Puff Marshie, 2006, Urethane on FRP, courtesy of BLUM
Yoshitomo Nara, Puff Marshie, 2006, Urethane on FRP, courtesy of BLUM

BLUM (formerly Blum & Poe), another heavyweight in the art world, showcased an impressive collection that included works by Yoshitomo Nara. Nara’s evocative art of solitary, wide-eyed children captured the hearts of many visitors, highlighting themes of innocence and introspection. Additionally, the gallery presented a range of other significant works, such as Yuji Ueda’s “Untitled,” a striking piece that demonstrated Ueda’s unique approach to ceramics. Other notable artists at Blum & Poe included Ha Chong-hyun, Kazumi Nakamura, and Alma Allen, each bringing their own distinctive styles and mediums to the fair.

Yusuke Asai - Bird memories 9 2024 - Courtesy of ANOMALY
Yusuke Asai – Bird memories 9 2024 – Courtesy of ANOMALY

At the ANOMALY booth, Yusake Asai presented a fascinating array of works exploring the relationship between life and nature. His pieces, created using earth collected from various locations, highlighted the feasibility of coexistence with other species​.

Kaikai Kiki Gallery showcased the work of TENGAone, whose vibrant and bold graffiti-inspired pieces brought a dynamic energy to the fair. His works were a standout, reflecting the intersection of contemporary art and street culture​.

Tseng ChienYing Out of Sight-2024 - Courtesy of Each-Gallery
Tseng Chien-Ying Out of Sight-2024 – Courtesy of Each-Gallery

Tseng Chien-Ying‘s work at Each Modern gallery was a notable highlight. Using traditional Chinese ink, Tseng explores contemporary perceptions of the human figure. His paintings combine classical techniques with modern themes, focusing on individual and collective identities. In his piece “Airing” (2024), Tseng depicts a profile of a figure with flowing black hair, slight wrinkles, rosy cheeks, and weary eyes. The delicate brushwork captures the exhaustion and depth of the subject, showcasing Tseng’s ability to blend traditional art with contemporary themes to reflect human desires and social conditions.

At the Perrotin booth, notable works included those by Senegalese artist Seyni Awa Camara, whose terracotta figures reflect themes of mythology and humanity. Additionally, Swedish artist Jens Fänge presented multidimensional paintings that blend surrealism and realism, creating immersive, dream-like spaces. The booth also featured works by Jean-Marie Appriou, Genesis Belanger, Mathilde Denize, Laurent Grasso, Zach Harris, Thilo Heinzmann, John Henderson, and Klara Kristalova, each exploring the mysteries of nature and the human experience.

New Galleries and Collectors

The 2024 edition of Tokyo Gendai saw participation from many new galleries, reflecting a growing interest in the region. Newcomers included Pace, Galerie EIGEN + ART, Gallery EXIT, and Kwai Fung Hin Art, alongside returning names such as Almine Rech, BLUM, Perrotin, Sadie Coles HQ, Taka Ishii Gallery, and SCAI THE BATHHOUSE.

The fair also garnered significant attention from major collectors, notably the Mori family, who are prominent figures in Japan’s art scene. The Mori family’s involvement highlights the fair’s importance and influence. Other key collectors included Ryutaro Takahashi, Miwa Taguchi, Yoshiko Mori, Hideaki Fukutake, and Naoko Sasagawa, among others, each contributing to the vibrant atmosphere and high stakes of the fair.

Ai Weiwei Zodiac Tiger - Made from LEGO bricks - Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art
Ai Weiwei – Zodiac Tiger – Made from LEGO bricks – Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art

One of the most unique installations at the fair was by Tang Contemporary Art. They presented iconic zodiac animals made from Lego bricks by renowned Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. This installation captivated visitors, showcasing Ai’s unique blend of modern materials and traditional themes.

Comparing to Tokyo Gendai 2023

The Tokyo Gendai Art Fair 2023 set a high standard, but the 2024 edition managed to surpass it. The number of participating galleries increased, and the range of artworks expanded, encompassing more mediums and styles. The fair also introduced new initiatives, such as curated tours and interactive installations, which enhanced the overall visitor experience.

Sales were robust, with many galleries reporting strong interest from both seasoned collectors and new buyers. This commercial success underscored the growing appetite for contemporary art in Japan and reinforced Tokyo Gendai’s status as a significant market player.

Insights and Additional Observations

One of the key themes at Tokyo Gendai 2024 was the exploration of identity and cultural heritage. Many artists used their works to reflect on their personal histories and societal changes, offering profound insights into the human experience. This thematic focus resonated deeply with attendees, prompting thoughtful discussions and reflections.

The fair also highlighted the increasing importance of technology in the art world. Several exhibits featured digital art and NFT pieces, demonstrating how artists are leveraging new technologies to push creative boundaries. This trend aligns with the global art market, where digital art is becoming an increasingly significant segment.

Tokyo Gendai vs. Art Basel and Frieze Art Fair

When comparing Tokyo Gendai to other major art fairs like Art Basel and Frieze, several distinctions emerge. Art Basel, with its editions in Basel, Miami Beach, and Hong Kong, is renowned for its scale and influence, often showcasing the most prestigious galleries and artists. Frieze, with its fairs in London, New York, and Los Angeles, is known for its cutting-edge contemporary art and intellectually stimulating programs.

Tokyo Gendai, while younger, has carved out a unique niche. Its emphasis on Asian art and its position in Tokyo, a burgeoning art hub, gives it a distinct flavor. The fair’s ability to blend local and international influences creates a vibrant and eclectic atmosphere, setting it apart from its more established counterparts. Additionally, the cultural context of Japan, with its rich artistic heritage and contemporary innovation, adds a unique layer to the fair.

The Future of Tokyo Gendai

Looking ahead, Tokyo Gendai shows immense promise. The fair’s success in 2024 has set the stage for future growth, with plans to expand its reach and influence. The organizers aim to attract even more international galleries and artists, further enhancing the fair’s global appeal. Additionally, there are plans to introduce more educational programs and collaborations, fostering a deeper engagement with contemporary art.

Tokyo Gendai 2024: A Resounding Success

The Tokyo Gendai Art Fair 2024 was a remarkable event that showcased the vibrancy and diversity of contemporary art. With its strong lineup of galleries, thought-provoking exhibits, and innovative initiatives, the fair not only built on the success of its inaugural edition but also positioned itself as a major player in the global art scene. As Tokyo Gendai continues to evolve, it promises to be a key destination for art lovers and a significant contributor to the art market. Its unique blend of local and international influences, coupled with its forward-looking vision, ensures that it will remain a must-visit event for years to come.

For more information, visit the Tokyo Gendai official website.

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Salman A

Salman A

Based in the vibrant city of Dubai, I thrive as a designer and filmmaker with a passion sparked in childhood by the thrilling adventures of UFO Robot Grendizer and Speed Racer. My journey took a deeper dive into the world of art through a profound fascination with Japanese culture, enriched by memorable times spent in Japan. Creativity pulses at the core of who I am. Connect with me for tailor-made design and film projects that bring your visions to life.


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