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The Art of Asia Attracting Global Attention and Fukuoka’s Art Scene

The contemporary art scene in Asia, while evolving under the influence of Western traditions, uniquely incorporates works that meld modern expressions with traditional techniques and cultures. This fusion has elevated Asian art to a global platform, celebrated for its diversity.

Gone are the days when art fairs were predominantly Western-centric. Now, Asia hosts its own major players, like Frieze Seoul in Korea and ART SG in Singapore, marking a pivotal shift where both spotlight and investments are increasingly focusing on the Asian art market.

In this era of globalization, art transcends boundaries, serving as a vibrant channel for diverse expressions—from personal narratives to broader societal commentary—through mediums such as video, objects, and installations.

Fukuoka City, seizing the momentum of globalization, has been vibrantly enhancing its urban landscape with the initiative “Fukuoka Art Next (FaN)” since 2022. This effort includes launching “Artist Cafe Fukuoka” at Maizuru Park as a support hub for artists, broadening the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum’s artist-in-residence program, and facilitating “Art Fair Asia Fukuoka” in a joint public-private endeavor, accompanied by the dynamic “FaN Week” art events.

Art Fair Asia Fukuoka, アートフェアアジア福岡

Last autumn’s “Art Fair Asia Fukuoka 2023” turned out to be a monumental success, drawing an unprecedented crowd of over 10,000 visitors. With participation from 126 exhibitors, both local and international, the fair not only celebrated a record attendance but also saw transactions surpassing 300 million yen, further solidifying Fukuoka’s status on the international art stage.

Fukuoka’s Art History

Fukuoka boasts a rich art history, uniquely positioned as a cultural crossroads close to the Korean Peninsula, serving as a conduit for the exchange of people and cultures between Asia and Japan. The opening of the Fukuoka Art Museum in 1979, heralded by a special exhibition “Modern Asian Art – India, China and Japan”, marked the beginning of a dedicated effort to research, collect, and showcase the distinctive and inherent aesthetic of Asian art through regular “Asian Art Exhibitions.”

In 1999, building on the extensive experience garnered by the Fukuoka Art Museum, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum was inaugurated. Distinguished as the sole museum globally focused on systematically collecting and displaying both modern and contemporary Asian art, its opening was commemorated with “The 1st Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 1999,” an evolution of the museum’s ongoing Asian Art Exhibitions.

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 福岡アジア美術館

The 1990s witnessed the emergence of “installation” art as a novel expressive medium, transcending traditional museum and gallery spaces to animate the urban landscape. This period saw the inception of “Museum City Tenjin,” a groundbreaking initiative to exhibit contemporary art across Tenjin, engaging both governmental and private sectors for support. The inaugural event in 1990 spanned over six weeks, featuring installations in department stores, parks, and even municipal buildings. This biennial event, supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs between 1998 and 2000, also integrated artist-in-residence programs, further enriching Fukuoka’s vibrant art scene.

The Art of Asia Attracting Global Attention and Fukuoka's Art Scene, 世界が注目するアジアのアートと福岡のアートシーンNigel Rolfe ”From Day to Night” (1992, Aka-renga-bunka-kan)
Photo provided by Museum City Project Secretariat

The 1992 “Museum City Tenjin” transformed Tenjin, then a landscape of construction sites, into an open-air gallery where artworks adorned temporary enclosures. Among these, a significant photographic piece by Nigel Rolfe was notably showcased on the scaffolding enveloping the red-brick Culture Hall, itself undergoing renovation. This innovative use of urban space prefaced the “Fukuoka Wall Art Project,” initiated in 2021. This project creatively repurposes the temporary fences surrounding the city’s myriad construction sites into vibrant venues for art exhibitions, offering pedestrians an unexpected encounter with art in their everyday surroundings.

The Art of Asia Attracting Global Attention and Fukuoka's Art Scene, 世界が注目するアジアのアートと福岡のアートシーンYayoi Kusama’s first outdoor sculpture piece, “Pumpkin,” was exhibited at “Museum City Tenjin ’94 Fukuoka, Japan.”
Photo provided by Museum City Project Secretariat

As we stepped into the 2000s, Fukuoka witnessed a burgeoning growth of artist-run spaces—creative hubs managed and operated by artists themselves. These venues became fertile grounds for contemporary art exhibitions, lectures, and multimedia events, providing artists with the freedom to express and explore.

“Art space tetra,” inaugurated in 2004 near the Asian Art Museum, became a beacon for this burgeoning movement. Following suit, “konya2023,” a gallery nestled in the Daimyo district, opened its doors in 2009, destined for a planned closure and demolition in 2023.

The Art of Asia Attracting Global Attention and Fukuoka's Art Scene, 世界が注目するアジアのアートと福岡のアートシーン

The 2011 completion of the Kyushu Shinkansen and the subsequent renovation of Hakata Station catalyzed a creative endeavor to bridge the vibrant districts of Hakata Station and Tenjin. The “Machinaka Art Gallery,” active from 2011 to 2014, capitalized on the city’s vacant urban and commercial spaces, transforming them into pop-up galleries that enriched Fukuoka’s cultural landscape.

In September 2015, Fukuoka embarked on a new venture with the launch of “Art Fair Asia Fukuoka” (AFAF), initially hosted in the welcoming spaces of the Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel. This event, and subsequent ones held at prestigious venues like Hotel Okura Fukuoka, markedly increased the community of art collectors and enthusiasts within the city. Despite a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, the fair made a triumphant return in 2021, culminating in a significantly successful edition in the autumn of 2023, further cementing Fukuoka’s role as a pivotal center for the arts.

Art Fair Asia Fukuoka, アートフェアアジア福岡

2024: 25th Anniversary of the Asian Art Museum

At its heart, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum champions a mission to collect and showcase the distinct and innate splendor of Asian art, transcending conventional artistic confines and fostering new interpretations and values within Asian artistry. Notably, the museum stands apart for embracing a wide spectrum of art forms including folk, ethnic, and popular art—categories often marginalized in the art world. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the “Fukuoka Asian Art Museum – Best Collection” invites audiences to immerse themselves in these diverse and rich characteristics.

The exhibition’s initial phase presents a curated selection of 24 works from a vast repository of about 5,000 pieces, spotlighting 10 artists until April 9, 2024. These featured artists, revered as luminaries in the realm of contemporary Asian art, have significantly contributed to elevating the global perception of their native art scenes. By weaving together Asian traditions with contemporary global artistic movements, their creations serve as a vibrant conduit to the evolving landscape of Asian art, encapsulating the dynamic interplay between the traditional and the modern.

Nalini Malani, “Despoiled Shore”
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 福岡アジア美術館

This expansive artwork, stretching over 10 meters in width, is an assembly of seven paintings interspaced with five panels of white, each adorned with monochromatic figures. It captures a vivid narrative tableau that traverses the dawn of colonial history, the intricate dramas of men and women drawn from Greek mythology, the ravages upon nature by Western civilization, and the turmoil of the 1992 Mumbai riots. Together, these elements are woven into a dramatic spectacle, presenting a multifaceted exploration of historical and cultural themes.

Cai Guoqiang, “Drawing for Immensity of Heaven and Earth: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 11”
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 福岡アジア美術館

This work emerged from an explosives project conducted at the site of the Kashii Railway Yard in Fukuoka City, close to what is now JR Chihaya Station. Cai Guoqiang, the artist behind this creation, is celebrated worldwide for his unique gunpowder paintings, which articulate universal themes that bridge the cultural divide between East and West. Residing in Japan from 1986 to 1995, Cai engaged in several projects in Fukuoka during 1990 and 1991, showcasing his commitment to delivering a message that resonates on a global scale through his explosive artistic expressions.

Lin Tianmiao, “Spawn #3”
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 福岡アジア美術館

This artwork showcases a bald female figure adorned with round yarn balls of differing sizes. The figure is based on a photograph of the artist taken shortly after childbirth, using the yarn balls to symbolize the ovum produced by a woman throughout her life. It delves into the societal perception of pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare as predominantly “women’s work.” Through this creative expression of personal experience, the piece stands as a powerful symbol of the rise of female artists in China, highlighting their unique perspectives and contributions to the art world.

Second Collection Exhibition:
“Fukuoka Asian Art Museum 25th Anniversary Collection Exhibition Asian Pop”
• 4/20 (Sat.) ~ 9/3 (Tue.)
This exhibition masterfully integrates symbols and imagery spawned by consumer culture, including advertisements and mass media, offering an ironic commentary on the era and societal norms through the lens of “Pop Art.” It highlights the works of internationally acclaimed Asian artists active in the pop art realm, juxtaposed with the inspirations behind their creativity, such as movies and commercial posters. This approach not only showcases the rich diversity of Asian popular art but also explores its global impact and the unique perspectives these artists bring to the fore.

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, 福岡アジア美術館Mei Dean-E, Homage to Trotsky, 1991

The Tenjin Transformation: Cultivating Fukuoka’s Artistic Landscape

Nestled in the evolving heart of the Tenjin area, amidst the ambitious “Tenjin Big Bang” urban redevelopment project that sees over 100 buildings being revitalized, Kego Park stands as a symbol of potential and progress. In February 2024, the buzz around the possibility of transforming the park’s underground parking into a new exhibition space for the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum captivated many, highlighting the museum’s burgeoning collection and the growing demand for more exhibition space. Kego Park emerges as a prime candidate for this expansion, marrying the need for space with the city’s vision for cultural proliferation.

Urban evolution profoundly impacts the lifestyles and values of its inhabitants, nurturing a burgeoning interest in cultural endeavors and fostering what is celebrated as ‘artistic thinking’—a liberated form of cognition that transcends traditional barriers. Amidst a push towards globalization, with Fukuoka heralded as “Asia’s Gateway,” the city’s flourishing art fairs, proliferating galleries, and an expanding community of art aficionados underscore its esteemed status in the global art scene.

The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum’s 25th Anniversary Collection Exhibition isn’t just a retrospective celebration of the last quarter-century; it’s a catalyst for future exploration and connection through art. This milestone event underscores the power of art to bridge communities, ignite inspiration, and foster enlightenment. As we reflect on our sustained endeavors and the paths they’ve paved, we look forward with eager anticipation to the endless possibilities that lie ahead in Fukuoka’s artistic journey.

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
7-8F Riverain Center Building, 3-1 Shimokawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
• 9:30~18:00 (Fri. and Sat. until 20:00, gallery entry closes 30 minutes before closing)
​​• Closed: Wed. (or the following weekday if Wed. is a hol.), 12/26~1/1

Art Spots Around the Asian Art Museum

Positioned on the upper floors of the Riverain building, with a commanding view over the historic Kawabata Shopping Street that leads directly to Canal City, the Asian Art Museum offers a unique cultural vantage point. The shopping street itself, along with nearby Kushida Shrine, proudly hosts permanent displays featuring the vibrant decorations of Hakata’s esteemed “Hakata Gion Yamakasa” festival, blending the area’s rich historical tapestry with its contemporary cultural pulse. This area, cherished for maintaining the allure of old streets, is also peppered with a variety of art-related facilities, further enriching the cultural landscape of Fukuoka.

Art Space Tetra
​​• 2-15 Susaki-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
This space is a collaborative haven, steered and maintained by young artists and curators, offering a platform for independent exhibitions and talk events. It’s a hub where freedom of expression thrives, encouraging a dynamic exchange of ideas and artworks.

Renovation Museum Reizensou
​​• 9-35 Kamikawabata-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
​​• Office closed: Tue.
Transformed from its origins as a residential complex into an office building, this venue has evolved into a collective studio. It’s a place where people who cherish “individuals,” “town,” and “culture” come together. Within its walls, you’ll find art classes, galleries, and spaces designated for events, making it a vibrant center for artistic and cultural exchange.

Artas Gallery
205 Chowa Building, 4-8 Tenya-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
A gallery near Reizen Park hosting contemporary art exhibitions.

WeBase Hakata
5-9 Tenya-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
A hotel featuring “SHIP’S CAT,” a cat-themed work by contemporary artist Yanobe Kenji.

WeBase Hakata, WeBase博多

Fukuoka Now x Fukuoka City

Art & Culture
Fukuoka City
Published: Mar 26, 2024 / Last Updated: Mar 26, 2024

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