The Art Assembly, which organizes several major art fairs across the Asia-Pacific region, will add one more to its portfolio.
The group plans to launch Tokyo Gendai in Japan, which will bring together between 80 and 100 international art galleries to the Pacifico Yokohama convention center. The new fair will run July 7–9, 2023, with a VIP preview day on July 6. Exhibitor applications for the fair opened today.
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“It’s quite a dynamic moment at present, whereby the art market across Asia is maturing and is reaching a new stage, where different constituencies around Asia deserve their own art fairs,” Magnus Renfrew, a cofounder of the Art Assembly, told ARTnews in a phone interview from Tokyo. “There’s incredible potential to develop audiences beyond where the art fairs currently are. This is what we do: broadening and deepening collector bases and audiences for contemporary art.”
Art Assembly operates five other art fairs, including Taipei Dangdai, the India Art Fair in Delhi, Sydney Contemporary, and the forthcoming Art SG in Singapore, which is set to open next January after several delays. In addition to these fairs, the region’s other major fairs include Art Basel Hong Kong, which typically runs each spring, and Frieze Seoul, which will host its first edition in September.
Tokyo Gendai (“gendai” means contemporary in Japanese) will include a main Galleries section, as well as three dedicated sections: Hana (“flower”) for presentations of emerging or mid-career artists, Eda (“branch”) for presentations of established or historically significant Asian artists, and Tane (“seed”) for booths focusing on digital art like NFTs, gaming, and AR and VR.
Though the fair has Tokyo in its name, it will technically be staged in Yokohama at the Pacifico convention center, which is about a 30-minute train ride from downtown Tokyo and is part of the greater Tokyo Bay region. Renfrew said that few venues in and just outside Tokyo could accommodate an art fair of this scale and that local stakeholders and gallerists agreed that Pacifico Yokohoma was the “the right choice and the right place.”
The Art Assembly team—Renfrew along with his partners Sandy Angus and Tim Etchells—have selected Eri Takane to serve as the fair’s director. Takane has been an independent art consultant, working with artists, collectors, and companies like Google Arts & Culture Japan. Previously, she served as the art director at the Sezon Art Gallery in Tokyo and worked at the Japan Foundation in New York.
The selection committee for Tokyo Gendai consists of Marc Glimcher, the president and CEO of Pace Gallery; Tim Blum, co-founder of L.A.-based Blum & Poe; John O Doherty, a director of Sadie Coles HQ, London; and Yaji Huang, the founder of Each Modern in Taipei. Pace maintains spaces in Hong Kong and Seoul, while Blum & Poe has an outpost in Tokyo.
“Japan is, has been, and always will be an important part of the international cultural scene,” Glimcher said in a statement. “Now it’s time for the country to take its place again as one of the most prominent collecting communities in the world, and establishing Tokyo Gendai as a landmark fair is the next step.”
In addition to the selection committee, the organizers have also composed an advisory group that includes major collectors: Miwa Taguchi, Ryutaro Takahashi, Takeo Obayashi, Howard and Cindy Rachofsky, and Yoshiko Mori, who is also the chairperson of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum. Both Obayashi and the Rachofskys are mainstays on ARTnews’s annual Top 200 Collectors list.
“Their role is to help provide access to their networks and provide counsel to the fair about how best to engage with the widest possible collector bases,” Renfrew said.
Within Asia, Hong Kong has long been the center of the art market, in part because it hosts Art Basel Hong Kong, which Renfrew cofounded as Art HK in 2007 and served as both iterations’ founding director. (Renfrew left Art Basel Hong Kong in 2014.)
“Hong Kong was a natural landing point,” Renfrew said, adding that “the market has moved on since then.”
Over the past couple years though, there has been speculation about Hong Kong’s decline as an art market center as mainland China has tightened control of the city. Major galleries have flocked to Seoul, opening branches there, which has only been bolstered by the forthcoming Frieze Seoul fair.
Could Tokyo Gendai be looking to make Japan and its art market, which has had its ebbs and flows since its height in the 1980s, a possible alternative to Seoul? Renfrew said that the launch of Tokyo Gendai is meant to complement rather than compete with all the activity going across Asia.
“Asia is home to half the world’s population,” Renfrew said. “People’s understanding of Asia is maturing now, so it’s not a case of either/or—it’s a case of and. People are looking for other opportunities to broaden their networks.”
He added, “It’s not so much a one-stop shop anymore. There’s huge scope there for art fairs to service some of the fastest economies in the world.”