You may not realize it, but your very own Fukuoka has for some time been home to a thriving contemporary art scene comprised of local artists, gallery spaces and curators that operate outside of the major museum circuit. In this article, I’m going to give you some information on the state of the art in Fukuoka, and let you know where to go to see it for yourself.
The Fukuoka contemporary art scene has lately been enjoying a fresh burst of energy thanks to a new generation of artists and supporters. Local artists are shying away from the traditional career jump to Tokyo and are instead basing themselves here while exhibiting throughout Japan and the rest of the world. There is something related to the physical size and space of Fukuoka City that enables city galleries, artists and the general public here to be quite concentrated and uniquely interactive and supportive. With the right encouragement from enthusiasts, it could easily blossom into something unique within Japan.
Photography, video, painting, performance and installation art are being explored with great passion and verve by local artists and enthusiasts. Local artists are now being recognized internationally, so this is a good time to become aquainted with what is going on. There are many small gallery spaces in Fukuoka where you can check out local art first hand, meet local artists, and maybe even get involved. Fukuoka is a walkable city, so what are you waiting for? If it’s a sunny day, get your walking shoes on and see what all the fuss is about.
Focus on Local Artists: Egami Keita
Egami Keita was born in Omuta City in 1951. After studying fine arts in Tokyo he returned to Fukuoka and has since been prolific in his exploration of ‘Utopian Melancholia’ via installation, painting, drawing and sculpture. His work is recognized and respected both within Japan and internationally, and he has been commissioned for permanent works in Fukuoka City. You may have seen his public work around the Riverain building in Nakasu; look for the blue-ish design in the floor outside Seattle’s Best Coffee. Last year, he exhibited in the Phillipines and the U.K., and was a special guest on the British ‘Japanarama’ music festival in 2001. Egami San is a great supporter, encourager and advisor to local artists. Tirelessly supportive of the local art scene, he is a Saturday night regular at the IAF Shop in Yakuin where he and other regulars passionately debate throughout the night.
Nomi Kikuko is a young artist from Kumamoto City. After moving to Fukuoka City 10 years ago she graduated from Kyushu Sangyo University and began to exhibit her installations and paintings in Fukuoka and elsewhere in Japan and South East Asia. With used and found material and clothes she creates pillow-like contorted shapes that are both pleasing and grotesque to the senses. She then fills various spaces with these objects and encourages the viewer to be submerged in the alien atmosphere that her installations evoke. Nomi San is very friendly and always ready to discuss and explain her work to those interested. She chooses to base herself in Fukuoka and regularly exchanges ideas and supports fellow Fukuoka artists and gallery spaces. She will travel to the Italian city of Bergamo in May to participate in a group exhibition.
Abe Takasumi comes from Oita Prefecture but is based in Fukuoka City. A conceptual artist, Abe San saturates complete physical spaces with installations that spatially dislocate the viewer. His works are often grand in scale but show restraint and decorum in relation to where he is working. Engaged in monitoring and recording everyday natural phenomena that are not perceptible to the human senses, his work has to some extent been influenced by Minimalist approaches to conceptual art. In 2004, he became a founding member of Artspace Tetra where he has a small work studio. His time at tetra has enabled him to meet and exchange ideas with various local and international artists. Later this year, he will travel to North Carolina in the U.S.A. for a six-week residency which will no doubt be an invaluble experience for him.
Courses and Resources
Here’s a list of some of the courses you can attend in Fukuoka City and some info on where to get your raw materials. With all of these courses, Japanese language ability is a must.
Modern Art Bank WALD Studio Course
Introduction to conceptual thinking and ways to approach the construction of artwork. Tackling the issue of how to think about art as well as providing practical skills in painting, calligraphy, installation art, etc.
Every Friday 20:00～
Fee: 1,000 yen (1 session)
Tel: 092 633-3989
IAF Modern Art Class by Egami Keita
Sessions are flexible and can cover the theory, concepts and practice of contemporary art, with mentoring from a successful artist.
Every Wed. 18:00～21:30
Fee: 5,000 yen (Monthly)
Tel: 070-5199-5326 (IAF – Mr. Sato)
Many community colleges offer courses covering a wide range of genres, but strong Japanese language skills are normally required. Here’s a few to check out:
Asahi Culture Center Tel: 092 431-7751
NHK Bunka Center Tel: 092 271-2100
TNC Nishinippon Bunka Circle Tel: 092 671-3405
100 Yen Shop
Everybody’s best friend! For pens, pencils, paper, paints, and all the ingredients for your art, on a shoestring budget.
Art Box (Ohashi)
Materials for painting, design, models – literally a giant “Art Box”.
Tel: 092 512-5880 Open: 9:30～19:30 Closed: Sun & Hol.
Paper specialty store & show room with 4,000 kinds of paper items. They also offer paper art classes.
Tel: 092 262-2264 Open: 10:30 ～ 18:30 Closed: Sat., Sun. & Hol.
Yamamoto Bumbodo (Akasaka)
Founded 1932. Stocks all kinds of tools for painting, calligraphy, models, papers etc. Ask the friendly, expert staff.
Tel: 092 721-0163 Open: 10:00～19:00 Closed: 3rd Mon.
Yuzawa-ya (Mina Tenjin)
Handicraft and hobbycraft goods shop with over 10,000 kinds of cloth, beads, materials, etc.
Tel: 092 721-4141 Open: 10:00 ～ 20:00 Closed: never
Visit the Galleries
As I said in the beginning of the article, Fukuoka’s size means that it is big enough to sustain a thriving art scene while still being small enough that galleries are reasonably close together and part of a larger community. Here are eight of Fukuoka’s art spaces – follow the See Map symbol to the Map pages (p.40 – 43 in the magazine) to locate them.
Art Space Tetra
‘artspace tetra’ is an independent artspace which began in 2004. It is operated by seven members who work together to produce exhibitions and music events for local and international artists and performers. Tetra’s staff is comprised of artists, designers, curators and musicians. Initiated by local curator Endo Mizuki and artist Abe Takasumi, artspace tetra is still in its early stages but after two years of operation it has become an important local gallery space.
Located in Suzaki Machi, traditionally a base for the yamakasa festival, the tetra building is about 60 years old. What has in the past served as offices and as rumor has it a one-time brothel, now accomodates exhibitions and performances on the first floor, an office and lounge area on the second and a design studio in the small third floor attic. The original glass fixtures in the building add to the strangely welcoming, incongruent atmosphere.
Tetra has been trying to build a base of support for local artists in particular by holding exhibitions whenever possible. The venue commenced the ‘Moan Ward’ series of music performance events which has sought to encourage local avant-garde musicians by giving them a place to play live. When possible, the venue also tries to have local musicians perform live with special guest musicians from elsewhere in Japan and the rest of the world.
Address: 2-15 Suzaki, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092 262-6560
Open: 13:00 – 20:00
Closed: Monday (if Mon. is a holiday, the following Tue. will be closed)
Now Showing: Renovations until the end of April, exhibitions resume in May
Art Space Baku
This cozy second floor cafe restaurant/gallery space is located on Oyafuko-dori right near the Showa-dori intersection. Opened in 1977, Art Space Baku has constantly been supporting local art for close to 30 years. The small gallery space holds various types of exhibitions throughout the year by local artists as well as artists from elsewhere in Japan. After looking at an exhibition you can walk straight into the cafe for a drink or meal. The staff are very approachable and the atmosphere is relaxed and rustic. If you are on Oyafuko-dori for a night out this is a good place to start or end your evening as it is open until late. Visit this important local gallery space.
Minami Taeko Exhibition
4/3 (Mon.) – 4/16 (Sun.)
Yuji Tanio – Private Garden
4/17 (Mon.) – 4/30 (Sun.)
Address: Koei Bldg. 2F 3-4-14 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092 781-7597
Open: Gallery: 11:00 – 20:00, bar -10:00
IAF Shop in Yakuin has been operation for well over a decade. It constantly holds exhibitions by local artists and is a weekly meeting spot for artists and art lovers to passionately converse, argue and drink until dawn. The exhibition space is quite small but local artists often find interesting ways to deal with spatial limitations. The gallery has a very accommodating cafe style atmosphere and the staff are keen to answer any questions. In regard to supporting young local artists, IAF Shop is unparalleled in this city. Their efforts are tireless and it is well worth the effort to visit the space in order to see work by local artists. Gallery space is also available to rent – visit for more details.
Then: Mike Benjamin Exhibition: “Then”
3/30 (Thu.) – 4/16 (Sun.)
Address: 3-7-9 2F Yakuin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Open: 18:00 – 23:00 (Sun. 13:00 – 18:00)
Closed: Mon. – Wed.
Nishitetsu Bus Shinakawa-cho
Artium is located near Rainbow Plaza on the 8th floor of the IMS building in Tenjin. Comprised of a small gift shop and a large exhibition space, Artrium holds monthly exhibitions by both international and Japanese artists. In the past the space has held design, video, installation exhibitions as well as more traditional mediums. The staff are very helpful and as it is so close to Rainbow Plaza it’s well worth checking out the next you are at IMS. They also have a variety of postcard reproductions of Japanese artworks that you may like to send back home.
Makoto Azuma: Garden of Reversal 01
300 yen etc.
Jan Scankmajer: Gaudia
4/27 (Thu.) – 6/4 (Sun.)
400 yen etc.
Address: IMS 8F 1-7-11 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092 733-2050
Open: 10:00 – 20:00
Closed: 3rd Tuesday
Connected with the Asian Art Museum, Artlier is located on the B2 level of the same building. It is directly accessable from Nakasukawabata subway station. Next to the exhibition space is a large restaurant and dining area. Video booths and art related publications are available for use by the general public and there is a small gift shop. You can also find extensive information about exhibitions in and around Fukuoka and elsewhere in Japan. The space often holds solo and group exhibitions by local artists as well as occasional seminars and discussions; it’s more than worth a visit. Don’t forget to visit the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum on the 7th and 8th floors, home to the Fukuoka Triennale.
“Aren’t You Navin?”
4/14 (Fri.) – 5/28 (Sun.)
Address: Riverain Center Bldg, 3-1 Shimokawabata, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092 281-0114
Located at a massive warehouse in the port area of Fukuoka, Sangosoko houses group and solo exhibitions by resident artists. Initiated by veteran Fukuoka artists, the enormous exhibition space allows and further challenges artists to produce often fantastic works of art. As it is outside of the city center you should try checking their schedule and hours of operation at the gallery homepage. Its distance from the confines of the city center are a blessing rather than a burden; don’t hesitate to visit this great gallery. As well as exhibitions, Sangosoko also occasionally holds dance and performance events.
Various solo and group exhibitions by resident artists – call for details.
Address: 4-3-12 Nanotsu, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092 716-9393
Existing in various locations since 1989, MOMA settled in at its current location on Kokutai-doro in 1996. This gallery space has an atmosphere that is exceptionally conducive to enjoying the works being exhibited. As well as exhibiting local artists, the MOMA team have also organized exhibitions by international artists such as Christo and hold annual exhibitions by Yayoi Kusama. Recently Moma has been exhibiting work by Taiwanese artists exclusively in Fukuoka. MOMA is a special gallery space in Fukuoka that you should experience the next time you are on Kokutai-doro.
No exhibition has been decided
Address: Ishii Bldg. 2F 1-1-3 Daimyo, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092 715-0355
Open: 10:30 – 18:30
Closed: Sun., Mon. & Hol.
Modern Art Bank WALD
Modern Art Bank WALD is a gallery space located in Hakata-ku. Opened in 1993, WALD has enabled artists from various genres to exhibit within a free and supportive environment; all genres are encouraged. The space seeks to support local artists but artists from elsewhere also exhibit here. Owner Yuji Mori is a great supporter of local art and enjoys talking enthusiastically about the Fukuoka art scene. A designer himself, he has designed and facilitated the completion of refurbishments at WALD that set a path for more solo exhibitions at the space. WALD also has a cafe/counter area where small pieces of work by local artists are available for purchase. This is a gallery space unique to Fukuoka that you really should visit.
Keiko Nakamura Exhibition
4/5 (Wed.) – 4/22 (Sat.)
Address: 4-12-2 Chiyo, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092 633-3989
Open: 12:00 – 18:00
Closed: Sun, Mon. & Tue
Now showing: Keiko Nakamura painting exhibition “bordering”
4/5 (Wed.)～4/22 (Sat.)
Shayne Bowden majored in Fine Arts at the University of Sydney and is a founding member of Artspace Tetra. He is also a video and sound artist and occasionally organizes local art and music events. A human punching bag for Japanese children most days, he has been known to pass out on the floor of IAF Shop.