Facts of Life, and more: Exhibiting Japanese Art in the UK since 2000

Date: Wednesday 9 November at 6.45pm
Venue: The Oriental Club, Stratford House, 11 Stratford Place, London W1C 1ES

Facts of Life, an exhibition organised by the Japan Foundation and Hayward Gallery as part of the Japan Festival 2001, was and still is the largest exhibition to date of Japanese contemporary art in the UK. Curated by Jonathan Watkins, including work by 26 artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Shimabuku, Takashi Homma, Yoshihiro Suda, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tatsuo Miyajima and Genpei Akasegawa, it asserted an everyday realism as opposed to the exoticism too often associated with (and projected onto) Japanese art. It laid a foundation for Watkins’ artistic programme at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, where he has been director since 1999. At Ikon Japanese art has been consistently featured in a wide range of exhibitions including the ukiyo-e of historical figures such as Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Hiroshige (in collaboration with The British Museum), surveys of established artists such as Nobuyoshi Araki, On Kawara and, most recently Atsuko Tanaka, and debuts for younger artists including Tadasu Takamine and Noguchi Rika. This lecture will be a review of such curatorial activity in the light of questions that inevitably arise through the representation of a national culture.

Jonathan Watkins has been Director of Ikon Gallery since 1999. Previously he worked as Curator of the Serpentine Gallery and Director of Chisenhale Gallery. His tenure at the Chisenhale Gallery saw a rise in its international profile, with a number of its artists moving on to win the Turner Prize. He was Artistic Director of the Biennale of Sydney in 1998 and has worked internationally in Beijing, Venice, Turin, Milan, Shanghai, Sharjah and Palestine. He was also on the curatorial team for ‘Facts of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art’ (Hayward Gallery, London 2001). Watkins is a prolific writer on the work of artists such as Giuseppe Penone, Martin Creed, Yang Zhenzhong, and Noguchi Rika. He was the author of the Phaidon monograph on Japanese artist On Kawara.

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