“Japanorama”

In conversation with Yuko Hasegawa

Yuko Hasegawa is an international curator par excellence. In her native Japan, she is a co-founder of Inujima Art House Project on Naoshima and an artistic director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT). Her latest project, “Japanorama”, is currently on at the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France. In the recent years, Yuko Hasegawa curated the Moscow Biennale (2017) and the XI Sharjah Biennale (2013), co-curated the 29th Sao Paulo Biennale (2010), and judged the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award and the MAXXI Bulgari Prize.   “Japonorama” is an extremely ambitious undertaking: the exhibition spans over 45 years of Japanese contemporary art history, and includes around 350 works by 100 artists.  You are obviously a very experienced curator, but do you still find it difficult to cope with such mammoth projects? First, let me explain why the exhibition starts in 1970.  In 1986, Pompidou staged an important overview “Japon des avant-gardes” that traced the history of avant-garde art in Japan from 1910-1970.  The new show follows on that earlier exhibition, picking up where the previous one ended. Same year “Expo ’70” in Osaka took place: a symbolic event marking Japan’s transition from the post-war period towards its own, new path of development in society, economy, technology, as well as culture: meaning a lot of people were seeking an original cultural identity, looking inside rather than outwards. This is why I thought it is important to start the exhibition from 1970 and up to the present day. Many exhibitions on contemporary Japanese art organised by foreign curators focus on art produced in the 1950-60s: mainly because this period was largely influenced by the European modernism, so it is easy for Western curators to contextualise it under this umbrella. In Japan of the 70s, Minimalism starts developing, whereas in the 80s...

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