Photo: Masanori Ikeda (Yukai)
General Information

Held every 2 years, the Tokyo Biennale is an international art festival that sets the city of Tokyo as its main stage. The festival is a new type of event that aims to dig deep into the city, as it is created together with the area’s local citizens, as well as a wide variety of artists and creators from around the world.

Name
Tokyo Biennale 2020/2021
Theme
Unseen Everyday Scene ― Purity×Earnestness×Deviation ―
Period
July to September 2021
*Please note that some event periods may be changed.
Organizer
General Non-Profit Incorporated Organization Tokyo Biennale
Endorsement
Taito City
Chiyoda City
Bunkyo City
Chiyoda City Tourism Association
Embassy of Iceland in Tokyo
Support
Arts Council Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and CultureAssociation for Corporate Support of the Arts, Japan : 2021 Fund for Creation of Society by the Arts and Culture
see this page
Sponsor
Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co.Ltd.
Nippon Paint Co., Ltd.
Builtech Corporation.
(As of May 20, 2020)
see this page
Cooperation
3331 Arts Chiyoda
Artist initiative Command N
General Director
Masato Nakamura, Kazuko Koike
Project Producer
Shinobu Nakanishi
Creative Director
Naoki Sato
Liaison Director
Kiyoshi Hashimoto
Social Project Director
Tatsuya Ito, Naoki Sato, Tsukasa Nishida, Ren Fukuzumi, Kiyoshi Kusumi, Yoshitaka Mori
Venue
Across the 4 wards – Chiyoda City, Chuo City, Bunkyo City, and Taito City – of the Northeastern area of central Tokyo.
Historical architecture, Public place schools, Rooftop of shops, Idle facilities (both indoor and outdoor)
Ticket price
Announcement of ticket information is scheduled around March 2021
Vision

Art x Community x Industry

A new city and culture to call our own, built by our own hands in our own place

The Tokyo Biennale aims at creating activities to become events shared by everyone through many kinds of encounters made between us all.
New groups of people have gathered in the area comprising of local citizens with deep roots, as well as those from all over Japan and the entire world. While all kinds of people are living, working, and enjoying the cosmopolitan city of Tokyo, art is what connects them from across different backgrounds as it brings to life our neighborhoods’ histories and draws out the future. From here, the concept of “us” emerges and each person may even discover a new “me”.
Under the theme of “Purity x Earnestness x Deviation”, the key words are “art x community x industry” as we work with people in the area to build our own culture in our own place with activities surrounding the concepts of “HISTORY & FUTURE”, “EDUCATION”, “WELL-BEING”, and “RESILIENCY”.
The Tokyo Biennale is a celebration for the new city and culture that we ourselves will build.

Art x Community x Industry

HISTORY & FUTURE

The future cannot be discussed without knowing the memories left in the places where we live. Starting with bringing up the memories from Edo’s history and culture, problems in contemporary society will be drawn out in order to think about the future. In turn, the future will be visualized through memories hidden in history.

EDUCATION

Tokyo Biennale will become the catalyst for actualizing STEAM (skills of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics), which integrates fields that are usually held separate in our education system. Through the programming, students of all types of fields will cooperate and become involved with local citizens, which will result in the nurturing of human resources adept at problem-solving.

WELL-BEING

WELL-BEING refers to the good physical, emotional, and social state of individuals. In society, this is the continued state of political, economic, cultural, and environmental wellness. Tokyo Biennale will think in-depth about both the WELL-BEING of “me” and “us”.

RESILIENCY

The old saying goes that “Fires and fights are Edo’s flowers”, referring to the town firemen at the core of the disaster prevention community. Edo’s disaster prevention holds deep roots in its local communities. Through Tokyo Biennale, connections between local communities will be revived as a measure towards a society capable of action in cases of disaster.

Project Descriptions

The event develops a wide genre of projects involving disciplines such as art, architecture, design, fashion, culinary culture, technology, and more. We will include works for viewing, interactive installations, live talks,and events that provide experiences that stimulate the senses.

Invited Art Projects
Tokyo Biennale is a cluster of art projects crafted by leading artists and creators pulled from each industry.
Open Call Projects
(Social Dive)
With the mission to “Dive into Tokyo, Engage with the People!”, Tokyo Biennale calls for artists with a sharp eye on our era who can uncover new values in our society. This is a project consisting of both a domestic and international open call. We invite Kiyoshi Kusumi as the project director in charge of planning and promoting the domestic open call. For the overseas open call, we welcome resident artists from around the world to create and present their projects here in Tokyo.
Social Projects
Include, “Projects for Resiliency in Tokyo”, “Projects to Foster International Critical Spaces”, “Projects to Build Academic Community”, “Projects Utilizing Schools”, and others. Through these projects, the Tokyo Biennale will allow art to integrate into the community with its continued involvement and also offer programs to educate people.
Collaboration projects

Information on the event will be posted on the official website and pamphlets in cooperation with projects that will be held in the venue area around the same time. We will try to connect the areas by clarifying that events occur frequently and simultaneously in the venue area.
※ We may not be able to meet your wishes. Please note.

Tokyo Biennale 2020/2021 theme

Unseen Everyday Scene

― Purity×Earnestness×Deviation ―

It is Art that drives things happening around town. “Unseen Everyday Scene” is made to share this concept.
The Artist’s mission is to generate the unimaginable in our existing city to make us appreciate something unfamiliar. If you feel something different when walking down one familiar and normally unnoticed path, it could be the act of Art. Seeing everyday spaces and scenes through new eyes leads to the future, and we hope to discover ways to rebuild things from today.
Having to face this difficult summer gives us all the more reason to put our deepest hopes and wishes toward Art.

Tokyo Biennale 2020/2021 General Director
Kazuko Koike (Creative Director)

What are the reasons that painted cloth and lumps of iron are said to be “art”?
Generally sublime famous paintings, sculpture, opera, and dance, things of very high value, or acts that no one can imitate are said to be “art.” But why are they said to be so?
What is the difference between “art” and “something that is not art”? Furthermore, the person who makes this is called by the special term of“artist.”
Generally speaking, what is it they can do, that allows them to be called this? Also, what is the reason to have to use the special term of“art brut”?
I will raise three keywords to unravel these things.
The first is purity, such as “pure art” or “fine art” is said to be. Even among various types of creativity, to feel the dignity of a sublime mentality or a richness of spirit, is said to be “pure.” This is contrasted with popular, commercial, and contrived acts, and in accordance with the grade of purity a keen sense of humanity is felt.
The second is earnestness, such as when people find themselves in an extreme situation, and they cannot help but perform. An act or expression, which, like living, is something you just have to do. For example, when a person loses their family, home, and money in an earthquake and they have nothing, the act of starting life again is very e a r n e s t.
The third is deviation; when a person with this pure mentality and tireless earnestness in their acts of expression creates something unique, a deviation of previously existing things or expressive acts occurs. Especially a thing that was not outstanding suddenly begins changing, and at a certain point acquires the presence of deviation. This creative process in deviation is important.
When earnest, pure acts or expressions acquire the presence of deviation, I feel they reach a state that can only be called “art”.
I sometimes feel “art” in things drawn quickly and casually on paper with a pencil, but may not feel this at all in the grandiose buildings that took dozens of years to build. It is my theory, but this is because one of these three “purity”,“earnestness”, or “deviation” is missing. No matter how expensive the materials used are, when it doesn’t feel “pure”, I cannot say it is “art”. If an expression is not “earnest”, even if it is technically superior, it does not rouse human charm. And even if the state of expression is “pure” and “earnest”, if there is no “deviation”, I can only take it as normal expression.
I want to throw the concept drawn from these three terms of “Purity” x “Earnestness” x “Deviation” and their crossing, into a framework for new visions we call, “Tokyo Biennale”. Japan has experienced the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, areas of Tokyo burned to the ground during the air raids of the Second World War, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident caused by the Great Tohoku Earthquake. In Japan where there is repeated destruction and construction, the various frameworks and social contexts arising “between man and matter” served to create the social capital between “me” – the “individual” and “us” – the “collective” that I wish to continue building. In this pursuit, the “Purity” x “Earnestness” x “Deviation” inside the “me” who works and lives here, which can be termed as a “physical cultural asset”, serves as the roots towards evolving into “us”. This is the idea that will create the new “Tokyo Biennale”. In other words, each project held within the Tokyo Biennale will overcome the wall of “me” as an opportunity for a one-point breakthrough in all directions, driving a deadlocked Tokyo into new metabolism. Moreover, the citizen’s perspective, a diverse “us” not just about pushing for something or simple joys, but a “culture that is ours” and a “place that is ours”, will continue to emerge as an organization. That is what all of “us” in the Tokyo Biennale Citizens Committee believe to be the “Tokyo Biennale” of the next era.

Tokyo Biennale 2020/2021 General Director
Masato Nakamura (Artist)

General Directors
Masato Nakamura

Born in Odate City (Akita, Japan) in 1963. Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts (Department of Painting). A socially aware artist pushing forth diverse art projects with focus on “art x community x industry”. In the early 1990’s, he set up guerilla art projects – “THE GINBURART” in Ginza and “Sinjuku Shonen Art” in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho district (1993). From 1996 on, the artist caught global attention by transforming corporate identities into artworks, one major example being the McDonald’s golden arches. In 1997, he formed an alternative artist initiative called “Command N”. Activities of this group include the international video installation “Akihabara TV” held multiple years in 1999, 2000, and 2002. His work was displayed in the 49th Venice Biennale (2001) Japan Pavilion “First & Slow” exhibition. From 2004, he founded a number of art projects including “himming” in Himi (Toyama Pref.) and “ZERODATE” in Odate (Akita Pref.) Nakamura then founded 3331 Arts Chiyoda in June 2010 as an independent and sustainable art center. Through Command N and 3331, Nakamura has founded 10 art bases and held 740 art projects, in addition to overseeing close to 3,100 events with the collaboration of 2,000 artists, 180 core staff members, and 1,350 supporting staff/volunteers. With an extensive background in a variety of expressive activities, starting in summer 2020 he is taking on the challenge of developing the Tokyo Biennale, an art festival that will dig for the cultural and artistic resources underlying the city of Tokyo.

Kazuko Koike

Born in Tokyo. Graduate of Waseda University in Literature. Founder/Curatorial Director of SAGACHO EXHIBIT SPACE, Japan’s first alternative-space for Contemporary Art (1983-2000). Published:“WHERE DID ISSEY COME FROM? The Life and Work of Issey Miyake” – HeHe, 2017. 2017 AVON Award of Merit. 2019 JAPAN MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL Special Achievement Award. MUJI Advisory Board Member. Professor Emeritus, Musashino Art University.
Photo: Taishi Hirokawa