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Japanese art showcased at Govett-Brewster Gallery

Media Release

21 January 2004

Japanese art showcased at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand’s premier museum of contemporary art, is delighted to announce that it will present the largest exhibition of contemporary Japanese art ever held in New Zealand.

Mediarena: contemporary art from Japan, which opens March 13 at the Gallery in New Plymouth and runs until June 7, features artists working across a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, installation, photography, sound art and video. The exhibition, curated by Govett-Brewster Director Gregory Burke and leading international art curators Roger McDonald and Fumio Nanjo, will have a special focus on the high level of digital animation and interactive work being produced in Japan today.

“Mediarena surveys art from the last 30 years in Japan, but with particular emphasis on art being made now. Leading artists who emerged from the 1960s to 1980s will be compared with younger artists working today,” said Govett-Brewster Director Mr Burke.

Woman artist Yayoi Kusama, well known internationally since the 1960s and the subject of much recent attention having featured in the 1998 Taipei Biennale, the 2000 Sydney Biennale, the 2001 Yokohama Triennale and the 2002 Asia-Pacific Triennial, will feature alongside Tatsuo Miyajima, renowned for his liquid crystal display installations and up-an-coming artists like woman artist Tabaimo.

In 1999, Tabaimo won the Kirin Art Award for an installation combining hand-drawn animation and 3-D images and since then has been included in a range of important exhibitions in Japan, the USA and Europe, including the Yokohama Triennale in 2001.

“Tabaimo has gone from art student to art star in a short time with a series of dynamic installation works exploring cultural aspects of Japanese society,” said Mr Burke.

For Mediarena Tabaimo will present her recent fully interactive installation Japanese interior, while a number of artists will produce major new installations for the exhibition. The show will be accompanied by a video projection series and complemented by performance and speaker programmes in Auckland, New Plymouth and Wellington. A live event featuring guest performances from Japan will be held during the exhibition.

A major 128-page colour catalogue featuring essays by leading curators and artists on developments in contemporary Japanese art will also be published.

Mediarena was conceived in 1999 when the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Museums Aotearoa, with the support of Asia 2000, brought leading Japanese curator Fumio Nanjo to New Plymouth as keynote speaker at an international museums conference.

Mr Nanjo is the Founding Director of Nanjo and Associates and was recently appointed Deputy Director of the Mori Art Museum, a new major arts venue in Roppongi, Tokyo. He was one of four curators of the inaugural Yokohama Triennale in 2001 and served as the Japanese Commissioner for the Venice Biennale in 1997 and the Commissioner for the 1998 Taipei Biennale, Site of Desire. He is also a selector for the current UK-based Artes Mundi world art prize, which features New Zealand artist Jacqueline Fraser as one of the ten finalists.

“Mr Nanjo and I felt there was a need to increase the level of artistic dialogue between New Zealand and Japan, recognising that audiences in both countries had little exposure to the other’s artistic practice. Outcomes have included the participation of Jacqueline Fraser in the 2001 Yokohama Triennial and in Tokyo special presentations of Len Lye’s work as well as a lecture given by myself on New Zealand art.

“A great deal of discussion has taken place over the last four years and we have held numerous meetings with artists, their agents, museums, businesses and foundations. We will be announcing the major sponsors of Mediarena at a special event at the beginning of February,” Mr Burke said.

Mediarena is in keeping with the founding policy focus of the Gallery, which emphasises the art of the Pacific Rim.

“The Gallery has had a relationship with Japan since it opened in 1970, however this is the biggest initiative the Gallery has undertaken in terms of exhibiting contemporary art from the Asia-Pacific Rim,” said Mr Burke.

Emerging Tokyo curator Roger McDonald will co-curate Mediarena alongside Mr Burke and Mr Nanjo. He was curator of the international group exhibition Moving collection, which toured Europe, Asia and New Zealand in 2002/2003 and is the Deputy Director of AIT (Arts Initiative Tokyo), a new non-profit arts organisation in Tokyo. Mr McDonald is an internationally regarded lecturer on Japanese art, having spoken most recently at Tate Modern and Centre Pompidou. He also teaches at Bigakko art school, Tokyo.

Mr Burke is a member of the editorial board of the influential art magazine Art and Australia and was the former Visual Arts Adviser at Creative New Zealand, the Arts Council of New Zealand and curator for New Zealand’s inaugural participation in the 2001 Venice Biennale and the major New Zealand exhibition Cultural safety that toured Germany in 1995.

Mediarena: contemporary art from Japan March 13 - June 7, 2004.


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