Ja­panese ex­pert set to brighten up Shang­hai’s CBD

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - ByWANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Fram Kita­gawa be­lieves that fine art is not in­de­pen­dent of or­di­nary peo­ple’s lives. In 1994, the 70-year-old Ja­panese exhibition cu­ra­tor changed Tachikawa, an aban­doned mil­i­tary area on the out­skirts of Tokyo, into an ex­per­i­men­tal art zone.

That year, he brought the FARET Tachikawa project to the small town of seven blocks, at­tract­ing 92 artists from 36 coun­tries and re­gions. The project saw more than 100 pub­lic art pieces blended into the ur­ban land­scape.

This ex­am­ple has been copied around the world.

Kita­gawa, chair­man of the Tokyo-based Art Front Gallery, tells China Daily: “I pre­fer to in­volve many artists to get dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. They are not here to cre­ate a sin­gle mon­u­ment, which em­pha­sizes uni­form values.”

Now, he has a goal in China: To cre­ate the world’s most im­por­tant pub­lic art zone in Lu­ji­azui, the heart of Shang­hai’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict.

Over the year 2017-18, 43 out­door pub­lic-art pieces are to be cre­ated in a new busi­ness area in Lu­ji­azui, which cov­ers more than 250,000 square me­ters, says Kita­gawa, who is the art di­rec­tor of the project.

Speak­ing about Shang­hai, Kita­gawa, who re­cently vis­ited Bei­jing to de­liver a lec­ture at Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity, says: “Since its open­ing up as an in­ter­na­tional harbor nearly 180 years ago, the city has al­ways been a hub for dif­fer­ent cul­tures due to cross-bor­der com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trade.”

Kita­gawa says that 15 spots have been re­served for “renowned” artists, while the rest are open for ap­pli­cants.

The dead­line for ap­pli­ca­tions is the end of this month, but Kita­gawa says he has al­ready re­ceived pro­pos­als from artists from around 60 coun­tries and re­gions.

“The project in Lu­ji­azui has an in­ter­na­tional fla­vor and will use artists to cre­ate a pub­lic space, which has deep cul­tural con­no­ta­tions,” he says.

“Pub­lic art is to let peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent ways of life in one life­time, just like read­ing.”

Mean­while, in spite of his global per­spec­tive, Kita­gawa says he wants pub­lic art­work to be deeply rooted in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“It can be suc­cess­ful only when it is ad­mired by lo­cal peo­ple and re­flects their hap­pi­ness and sad­ness.”

As for Kita­gawa’s other pro­jects, there is the Echigo-Tsumari Art Tri­en­nale in a moun­tain­ous area of Ja­pan’s Ni­ia­gata pre­fec­ture. Launched in 2000, the first show fea­tured 148 artists from 32 coun­tries and re­gions, show­cas­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween hu­mans and na­ture through more than 1,000 pieces.

He says that lo­cal farm­ers are part of that “art gallery”, which cov­ers 760 square kilo­me­ters.

Speak­ing about the event’s im­pact and the farm­ers’ roles in it, he says: “Per­haps, they did not un­der­stand the works at first, but when the event brings vis­i­tors … tourism brings hap­pi­ness to lo­cal peo­ple. And Echigo-Tru­mari has seen an ex­traor­di­nary num­ber of re­peat vis­i­tors.”

Over half of the vis­i­tors to the event have been there be­fore.

An­other ma­jor project is the Se­touchi Tri­en­nale, which Kita­gawa launched in 2010.

The event was meant to re­vi­tal­ize the lo­cal econ­omy by cre­at­ing mod­ern art pieces re­lated to the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

Giv­ing his views on pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in the cre­ation of these art zones, Kita­gawa says that, in the case of Lu­ji­azui, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the prop­erty own­ers are to be in­vited to have their say in the choice of the art to be dis­played as a first step to blend­ing their daily lives with the up­com­ing art zone.

But Kita­gawa is against the idea of polls when it comes to de­sign­ing pub­lic art spa­ces.

How­ever, the Lu­ji­azui project will have an ap­praisal panel com­pris­ing mu­seum cu­ra­tors, art com­men­ta­tors and govern­ment ex­perts.

“Dif­fer­ent tastes can live to­gether, and we don’t need uni­for­mity. The qual­ity of the art­work is the pri­or­ity,” he says.

“I’d like to use my pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence to bring some­thing un­prece­dented to Shang­hai, but no one knows what is about to come.”

Kita­gawa says he is more in­ter­ested in ush­er­ing pub­lic art into tra­di­tional neigh­bor­hoods in Chi­nese cities, rather than newly es­tab­lished districts.

“And, with China now ad­vo­cat­ing a ‘beau­ti­ful coun­try­side’, I think I can help bring newlife to those vil­lages.”

But he ad­mits it will take time be­fore pub­lic art is widely ac­cepted.

“In most cases, artists cre­ate works fol­low­ing their

I pre­fer to in­volve many artists to get dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.” Fram Kita­gawa, Ja­panese exhibition cu­ra­tor

in­tu­ition. And though the works may not have high­sound­ing themes, they do man­age to touch peo­ple’s hearts and give them pos­i­tive en­ergy,” he says.

Com­par­ing art to a baby, he says: “It is disobe­di­ent and not pro­duc­tive, but very in­ter­est­ing. And peo­ple will build con­nec­tions with each other to pro­tect it.”


An in­stal­la­tion at Tachikawa art zone on the out­skirts of Tokyo.

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