To breathe a bit of freshness into the column, I would love to introduce you to the Asian scene of visual arts today. Just as exciting as the European and the American counterparts, the art and fashion world of Japan and Korea have a lot to impress the Western minds. Not without reason Berlin gallerist Johann König has set his sight on the Seoul art market, while Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo justly belongs to the Top 5 global fashion weeks. Yōkoso, AD: March 15—20!
*yōkoso [ようこそ] — Japanese for ‘welcome’
C O N T E M P O R A R Y A R T
Yayoi Kusama’s early works never exhibited before are expected to raise a fortune at auction
Even for those who believe themselves Yayoi Kusama’s art connoisseurs, that might come as a surprise. Bonhams auctions off the three early paintings and eight works on paper by the world’s famous Japanese artist, which she gifted to her doctor Teruo Hirose. The pieces originate from the private collection of the late Teruo Hirose (the doctor passed away in 2019 at the age of 93) and taken together, are estimated to fetch between $8.8 million and $14 million during the sales at Bonhams New York, which take place from April 30 till May 12, 2021.
Hirose, Kusama’s countryman, met the artist in New York in the late 1950s agreeing to provide some pro bono medical services for her. Yayoi Kusama gave the savior a couple of her artworks in gratitude, including ‘Mississippi River’ and ‘Hudson River’ (1960). Bonhams post-war and contemporary global head Ralph Taylor claims the works are rare not only because of their incredible provenance but also due to the exceptional character of Kusama’s early oeuvre with some features and themes emerging to be developed throughout her further career. The ‘River’ paintings have never been exhibited in public before.
Not just a poodle: Masayoshi Matsumoto amazes with his balloon animal sculptures
Today the artists are so free to choose the materials to work with that one will hardly be surprised seeing artworks made of, let’s say air or human tears. Yet excellence and vivid imagination of some artists never ceases to amaze. That’s the story of the Yokohama-based artist Masayoshi Matsumoto, who uses nothing but balloons while creating his incredible animal sculptures. The artist aims at recreating the physical form of the subject, thus, he puts effort into selecting the right kind of texture, color, and twists the material until it takes shape.
‘When they hear the term ‘balloon art’, many people imagine a poodle or such, but I would like people to realize that there is an area of this art form that takes time to create complex works too.’ (Masayoshi Matsumoto)
Indeed, Matsumoto replicates any living creatures, including not the most obvious ones when it comes to balloon art, such as oxen, lemurs, butterflies, koala bears, peacocks etc. And the most surprising thing is, he avoids using glue or other adhesive materials in work, neither he resorts to decoration. The artist’s balloon animals delight with the veracity of color and form, each of them having a unique character and even a particular eye expression, which is more than enough. Feel like following Masayoshi Matsumoto’s lead? Good news, the artist shares his skills in YouTube tutorials. Or you can just enjoy Matsumoto’s new works on his Instagram, which is pretty popular, by the way, for not a society man.
F A S H I O N
A few words about Tokyo Rakuten Fashion Week
The show must go on, and it goes (I am talking of vogue now). Tokyo’s Rakuten Fashion Week, which enters the Fab Five of the world’s fashion weeks, has just finished. Taking place twice a year, in autumn and spring, Rakuten represents Japanese couturiers, both world-renowned and emerging ones. This time, Tokyo Fashion Week took place from March 15—20, featuring around 35 brands/51 designers, one third of which, in their turn, provided physical presentations of their Fall/Winter 2021 collections. As would be expected, the latest Rakuten season both consisted of online shows and in-person events with a minimal number of viewers allowed, balancing between the fashionable celebration of life and the national state of emergency due to the pandemic.
Glancing at TFW schedule, one would love seeing a few well-known names from the world of fashion, including Tae Ashida and Hiroko Koshino, while also discovering some cheerful up-and-comers, such as the Men’s RTW brand De_caffeine homme (est. 2018) and the Women’s label Adelly (f. 2014). Don’t be surprised encountering a couple of old mates: Ka Wa Kai and KoH T landed at Rakuten, right after showcasing their collections at the February New York Fashion Week, here how it was. It’s also striking that the TFW curators diversified the program by adding some cultural activities into it, such as the series of events linked to the Fashion in Japan 1945-2020 exhibition, which runs at the National Art Center Tokyo until June 09. Vogue columnist Kira had the pleasure of seeing Rakuten Fashion Week shows firsthand and provided a detailed coverage for all those who wished they had been also present.
A R T M A R K E T
Berlin gallerist Johann König targets at Korean art market
Berlin art dealer, author of the acclaimed memoir ‘Blinder Galerist’ (Blind Gallerist) Johann König has announced the opening of a new art space in Seoul. König Seoul, that’s what the place is called, occupies the fifth floor of the MCM Haus, a luxury clothing brand based in the posh district of Gangnam. ‘Korea has a strong position in the art market, so we are excited to be presenting our program to the Korean audience,’ König says in the statement, explaining his decision to collaborate with MCM.
König Seoul, which opens on April 03, represents such established artists who Johann König has already worked with back home, such as Erwin Wurm, Jeppe Hein, Katharina Grosse, and Alicja Kwade. There are already some less well-known names including Trey Abdella and Conny Maier, who, with the help of the talented gallerist stand a good chance to become famous. The Gangnam-based gallery will be the third art venue established by Johann König, following his flagship König Galerie in Berlin, which emerged at the place of a Brutalist church, and its London branch. König institutions regularly issue an eponymous thematic magazine, while the gallerist himself records an interesting podcast Was Mit Kunst, where he discusses the most vital issue of arts with his colleagues from the field, i.e. artists, curators, art publishers etc.
On the cover: Tokyo Fashion Week Rakuten Fall 2021. Photo: Kira / Tokyofashion.com