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Yokohama Triennale

by Monty DiPietro

            The Yokohama Triennale, a grand scale international art exhibition four years in the making, debuted last weekend with a gala vernissage attended by the everyone who is anyone on the Japanese art scene, a sparkle of the international art illuminati, and Prince Akita, even. The 10-week-long exhibition is being held in the 10,000 square-meter Pacifico Yokohama Exhibition Hall, the historic Red Warehouse No. 1, and a half-dozen smaller venues in and around Yokohama's Sakuragicho station.

The Yokohama Triennale is Japan's answer to the Venice Biennale and Documenta in Kassel. The first undertaking of its kind in this country, it features work by more than 100 leading contemporary artists. While many of the participants are European and American-based, more than one-third hail from Asia, making the Triennale one of the best places to see some of the exciting new art emerging from this part of the world.

The Triennale was curated by a quartet of respected Japanese art figures: Shinji Kohmoto, Senior Curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Tama Art University Professor Akira Tatehata, Nobuo Nakamura, Director of the Center for Contemporary Art CCA in Kitakyushu, and independent curator Fumio Nanjo. It is being held under the auspices of the Japan Foundation, the City of Yokohama, NHK, and the Asahi Shimbun.

To best take in the sights, and there are many, start by heading for the Pacifico Exhibition Hall, a gleaming new structure located about a ten minute walk from Sakuragicho station. En route, look for Tatsumi Orimoto's Breadman and Alzheimer Mother posters in the Queen's Square arcade, and Sochi Nakagawa and Brand 20471120's Recycle Project, where you can drop off an item of no-longer-needed clothing and have it metamorphosized into a designer outfit.

Leaving Queen's Square, look up while crossing the pedestrian walkway to see Noburo Tsubaki and Murai Hisashi's big green bug perched on the side of the Intercontinental Hotel, before entering the Pacifico Exhibition Hall, which houses most of the work in the Triennale.

Here you will find everything from painting and sculpture, to waterfalls, concrete-covered office furniture, and Sun Yuan and Peng Yu's four meter high column constructed entirely out of human fat. Truthfully, the efforts are uneven, more than a few big-name artists seem to have put almost nothing into their booths, but fortunately there are enough pleasant surprises to balance things out. There is a whole lot of video, too much, I think, there are interactive works, and, thoughtfully, there is a cool little kids' play area. Also find a couple of pieces out back, in Rinko Park.

When you've finally finished with the Pacifico, head over to the 90 year-old Red Warehouse No. 1, which is the most intimate and just maybe the best part of the Triennale. Although there is a bus connection, it is a little confusing (the driver yelled at me), so you might be better off with the five minute taxi ride option, as there is nothing to see on the way anyhow, besides Sakuragicho's giant Ferris wheel.

The corridors of the oblong and three-story Red Warehouse are a nice change after the cavernous Pacifico, and the lighting is friendlier here. Look out for Miwa Yanagi's My Grandmothers photo series, and don't miss Casagrande and Rintala's Bird Cage, and Yoko Ono's Freight Train (my personal favorite), which are outside, just behind the Red Warehouse, toward the bay. Tokyo's hip restaurant/gallery space P-House is running a relaxed little cafe at the Red Warehouse, this a nice place to rest your tired feet.

If you still have it in you, wind around to the Kanagawa Prefectural Hall, the Yokohama Archives of History, and the Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Tower on your way back to Sakuragicho Station, each of these locations are hosting single-artist exhibitions.

As the Triennale shuts down at 6:00 p.m. most days, be sure to arrive early to see everything, and if possible visit on a weekday to avoid crowds. I'll be going into more detail on the art and artists at the Triennale in coverage here over the next few weeks.

Notes: The Yokohama Triennale runs to November 11 at various locations in Yokohama. Pictured is a detail from Kyoichi Tsuzuki's installation "Planet of the Sexoids" (top) and Chiharu Shiota's "Memory of Skin."
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