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Tokyo International Art Fair seeks to change perceptions

'Einstein Septych' by Mr. Brainwash
‘Einstein Septych’ by Mr. Brainwash

TOKYO (TR) – Ben Mori is an artist who loves animals.

“There is nothing more pure and honest than animals and nature,” says the 34-year-old, attired in a white t-shirt and black glasses, from inside the Satelites Art Lab gallery in Tokyo’s trendy Aoyama area.

But the Tokyo native, whose dot and drip works of butterflies and parrots were inspired by the likes of Koons and Hirst, also loves turning his art into cash. This week’s inaugural Tokyo International Art Fair might offer some assistance in that regard.

On Friday and Saturday, more than 150 artists from over 30 countries, are expected to congregate at Quest Hall in Harajuku to display contemporary pieces that can be purchased — an opportunity, says the organizer, that fills a void in Japan.

“In the Japanese art scene, the perception that Japanese people have toward art works is in a development stage in comparison to Europe or America,” says Satoshi Maruhashi of the London-based Global Art Agency.

Maruhashi finds that at overseas shows many art works of varying price, perhaps between 20,000 and one billion yen, are appreciated by seemingly average people. But, in Japan, there is no such culture for going to an art fair or gallery to buy art.

“I thought that if I brought the perception that exists in foreign countries to Japan then Japanese people’s perception might change,” he says.

Artists attending the Tokyo International Art Fair will be arriving from around the globe, with Europe, North America and Asia well represented. They will present works from a number of genres, including illustration, graphic design and street art.

From the Tokyo market, Aoyama’s New York Gallery will present works by street artist Mr. Brainwash while Kristal & Glam, located in Roppongi, will offer the sparkling pop pieces of Daniele Donde.

Ben Mori
Ben Mori

For Mori, he will be temporarily setting aside his animals. He will instead showcase a three-meter wide painting of Tokyo Bay as viewed from the Odaiba seaside at night. “It is Tokyo’s most beautiful view,” he says.

Since 2010, Global Art Agency has promoted art events, primarily in Europe. With this being the first incarnation of the fair in Tokyo, Maruhashi is a bit uncertain about how the event will be received. But he is hopeful that it can serve as an initial step toward fostering Japan’s involvement in the worldwide art market in the future.

“I want to use positive energy to make this show in Japan by Japanese people,” Maruhashi says. “Then, if people can say this show was good, maybe Japanese people will go abroad and foreigners will come to Japan. I would like to be that bridge.”