Art Collaboration Kyoto 2022: Stop the World and Melt
How Yukako Yamashita made good on her promise for a less frenetic, more digestible art fair.
Curator Jam Acuzar with Tromarama's Patgulipat (2022). Mixed media. Courtesy Art Collaboration Kyoto.
Dressed in her grandmother's kimono—the fabric a wave pattern in orange and cream with green accents—Art Collaboration Kyoto's (ACK) Yukako Yamashita said she hoped collectors wouldn't feel 'too full' with art when the fair opened to VIPs a few hours later.
The event was limited to 64 galleries, less than a quarter of the 282 going to Art Basel Miami Beach next month, but it felt even smaller than that. It featured just 35 booths, most of which were shared between a Japanese host gallery and an international collaborator.
Some galleries found their own partners, often through shared representation of an artist.
Kavi Gupta (Chicago) and Kotaro Nukaga (Tokyo), for instance, split their works either side of a dreamy Tomokazu Matsuyama painting, while Denny Dimin (New York) and Koki Arts (Tokyo) divided around an Amanda Valdez.
The booth that best embraced the fair's spirit of collaboration was shared by The Hole (New York) and Nanzuka (Tokyo). Their works—including ugly-cute paintings and stoneware by Joakim Ojanen, and two-metre-tall hot pink cherries made of camphor wood by Ryuichi Ohira—were interspersed but kept coherent thanks to a shared aesthetic that Julien Pomerleau, Director of Operations at The Hole, described as 'pop' and 'joy'.
Also helping to make the fair feel more intimate was the booth design and layout by architect Takashi Suo. Instead of cramming works onto both interior and exterior walls, they were contained within tall wooden walls reminiscent of shipping crates ready to be unpacked. These formed a network of narrow alleyways meant to replicate the streets of Kyoto.
This created a sort of negative space between booths, which was used to great success by sound artist Miyu Hosoi in the fair's Public Programme. The rush of an art fair is inimical to durational works, but Hosoi's ethereal sound, formed by 60 layers of her voice, played on speakers running either side of an alleyway, allowing visitors to take it in as they navigate the fair.
Other highlights of her show included Takashi Hinoda's Stink (2002), a ceramic work sculpted and painted to look more like polyurethane foam, and Tromarama's Patgulipat (2022), an upside down bouncy castle surrounded by hanging construction helmets with a sound element triggered by activity on Twitter.
Patgulipat (pictured top) expresses a frustration with the blurring of professional and private life, work and play, on social media.
The fair's focus on slowing down and cultivating mindfulness was made most explicit in the exhibition Flowers of Time, curated by Yamashita and held at Hongwanji Dendoin, a red brick building topped with a mosque-like dome that was built in the early Taisho-era (1912–1926).
There, Lee Mingwei's 100 Days With Lily (1995) documents the artist's efforts to honour his deceased grandmother by doing absolutely everything (eating, shitting, showering, etc) with her favourite flower.
The most challenging work to witness at Dendoin was Eugene Studio's Image/ Imagine #1 man (2021), a sculpture of a man made in darkness and exhibited at the end of a hallway so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face. Simply reaching the sculpture required concentration that arrested time.
Not everyone who tried to reach the sculpture ever made it.
The exhibition that perhaps best encapsulated the fair's philosophy was an associated programme that took place at Ryosokuin, part of Kennin-ji, Kyoto's oldest Zen temple.
At Centre Empty visitors are asked to touch incense instead of smelling it, to hear artworks instead of seeing them, to embrace 'mu', meaning nothing, emptiness, without. The goal is to melt the distinction between the self and others, the self and nature, the same way ACK removes walls between galleries.
To this end, the timing of the fair is also significant. The main event ran for four days, beginning with a VIP day on 17 November, when the fall leaves are changing—the maples cascading oranges and reds, ginkgos a juggle of lemons and limes.
Art Collaboration Kyoto operates at different time scales—business time, botanical time, generational time—befitting an ancient capital staking its claim in the contemporary art market. —[O]