The notion of ‘la rentrée’, whose time frame connects with ‘back to school’, bears little weight within Tokyo’s cultural calendar. It is a particular phenomenon associated by major art centers, such as New York, London, Berlin to some extent, and most of all for Paris, which thrives on it. Contemporary culture in Paris moves out of the spotlight during the month of August, though behind the scenes galleries, museums, and publishers prepare for the countdown. It is a ritual which has gone unchallenged even by contemporary artists and writers who feast and gorge, in best case scenarios, on how much press agents will generate. ‘The’ month is September, allowed to stretch well into October, and it was a striking one, with the ‘Trees’ exhibition at the Cartier Foundation, Francis Bacon at Pompidou, more recently Kiki Smith at La Monnaie, and titan gallerist David Zwirner doing something with the former Yvon Lambert space, opening with Raymond Pettibon.
Tokyo does not rest in August, its ‘vacances’ calendar (a local fondness for using the french word) is a considerably shorter one. Which is not to say that the city makes up for it during other periods of the year. What does characterize its cultural scene is impermanence, and how susceptible it is to shifts in trends. So far, September and October have not been overwhelming. The National Art Center offered an ambitious show around the complicity of literature and contemporary art in Japan, exemplary as well in its sense of parity. The Mori Museum had a big show of Chiaru Shiota’s big works, while the censorship controversy surrounding the Aichi Triennale found renewed purpose. Ugo Rondinone had ‘a’ work in Aichi, and some will recall the stunning exhibition at the Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in collaboration with his great love and partner, John Giorno who recently passed.
Camille Henrot came to the Tokyo Opera City Gallery (pictures to follow in coming days) and will not be enjoying the same measure of success as she did at the Palais de Tokyo in 2018. As we near Winter, the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art/MOT will offer a variation on the Dumb Type retrospective showed at Pompidou Metz some eighteen months ago.
Perhaps one exception is to be found in the Tokyo Festival World Competition 2019 for live arts, dance, performance, theater, that engages actively and critically with a relevant international community (though not above opting for safety, as in inviting actress Juliette Binoche as head of its World Competition jury).
One last…French touch, as we’ll be heading to the Okayama Art Summit, directed by Pierre Huyghe, before it closes on November 24th. L’écho d’une rentrée.