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Why Not Live For Art? / 12 September 2013

Why Not Live For Art?
Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. Saturday, 13 July - Sunday, 23 September, 2013.

In 2004 the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery created an exhibition to explore collecting Art. Japanese people, more used to viewing art than owning it, were beginning to collect and the exhibition aimed to highlight and encourage the phenomenon. 
Not quite ten years later the gallery revisits the idea with the treasures of nine new collectors, so I'm off to Shinjuku, via the metro, to discover Tokyo Opera City and to find out more.
The journey includes a couple of train changes and I'm glad of the assistance provided. One change requires going back up to street level and crossing a few roads and then of course there is the warren of underground tunnels...
Tokyo Opera City is a multi-story complex with a Concert Hall, Recital Rooms and an Art Gallery. There are also restaurants and shops. And a hideous statue - oops, personal taste overtaking here, but I didn't appreciate this collection of 'stuck together shapes' like cardboard cut-outs, that resembled a larger than life flat-pack man daubed with grey paint.
The Art Gallery on the third and forth floors, has a permanent collection, project N (to feature and promote up-and-coming artists), plus this special exhibition, Why Not Live For Art? There is free entry for 'persons with a disability certificate and an attendant'. The venue is well signposted and accessible.

(As far as the disability certificate goes, venues are capable of using their own judgement and initiative. Often times the fact that I am in a wheelchair is 'certificate' enough, but I also come up against those who work strictly by the book - and then a Japanese certificate is the only acceptable documentation.)

The nine collections, most of modern work by popular Japanese artists and emerging artists from other countries, reveal intriguing harmonies and contradictions in each of their anonymous collectors and this exhibition is a rare opportunity to see work not usually accessible to the public.
I did wish there was English information about the Japanese works, my skill with the written language is limited to identifying the three separate alphabets used in its complicated construction. The foreign works with English titles also included English information, so I had an unequal understanding of what I was looking at.

Most of the exhibition is accessible, but one piece, a screen placed on the floor, angled in and blocking a narrowing of space, defeated me. It was showing a video of the floor.
Lacking information, I found a third of the works baffling and a few unsettling. There were also funny, self explanatory, and enlightening pieces, as well as the moving and beautiful. And not one collection I would have taken home unedited. 

I found myself seeking something that wasn't there...
Perhaps I was hoping to find collections that conveyed the impression that their owners' lives depended on them? I was disappointed to discover that 'Why Not Live for Art?' was more of a rhetorical question. In the catalogue it says 'We hope this exhibition provides an opportunity to consider the possibilities of art collection that transcends mere personal collection, as well as to think about new roles that individual collectors could have in the art scene.'

A review of the 2004 exhibition suggested that it did answer the question, 'Who buys this stuff anyway'. In 2013 the answer 'Collectors' is surely not enough.

I recognise names, dates
read descriptions:
pencil, acrylic on paper.
I form opinions based 
on more than just
my eye, my taste.
And then I see
Kanji and Hiragana 
beyond my
comprehension,
beyond my superficial
instinctive likes and
dislikes nothing but
squiggles of exotic.
Knowing only that
it is not Katakana.