Tag Archives: Tokyo

Tokyo Gets $2 million Christmas Tree

Tokyo Gets $2 million Christmas Tree

Want to impress the kids this Christmas? A Tokyo retailer has just the thing – if you’ve got about $2.0 million to spare.

Jeweler Ginza Tanaka is going all out this season with a two-meter (6.6-foot) Christmas tree made with pure gold wire that’s as fine as angel hair pasta. If this sounds familiar, that’s possibly because the same jeweler made a splash with something similar some years ago.

The shop in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district says the 19 kilogram (42 pound) tree is made up of more than 1,200 meters (3,950 feet) of gold wire.

“The wire is made of the finest gold which has a 99.999 percent purity level,” Ginza Tanaka store manager Takahiro Ito told AFP on Tuesday.

Ito said the tree was made by the jeweler’s in-house artisans. The price tag? A cool 200 million yen ($1.8 million).

While it may be a stretch finding a buyer, Ito said he hoped the opulent display would show off Japan’s world-famous craftmanship.

“We want them to see our great technique and craftsmanship, and the glittering beauty of gold,” he said.

Tokyo Over Paris: Why Japanese Fashion Should Choose

Tokyo Over Paris: Why Japanese Fashion Should Choose

Tokyo may be the style capital of Asia, but with South Korea and China snapping at its heels and Japan’s most iconic brands rooted in Europe, the city is being urged to haul its fashion week into the big leagues. Given that the fashionably messianic (and thoroughly Japanese) Rei Kawakubo is the focus of the Met Gala in 2017, it is perhaps time to look seriously once more at Tokyo and its somewhat lackluster Fashion Week.

Tokyo Fashion Week kicked off its spring/summer 2017 season showcase last week with six days of events intended to promote 50 brands, a mixture of the established and the new.

Yet Japanese labels that are household names in the West – led by Kenzo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons – eschew home shores for the bright lights, prestige and visibility of Paris.

Tokyo Fashion Week attracts only 50,000 visitors – just a quarter of the total number that attend New York’s two annual fashion weeks, and also lagging behind London, Paris and Milan.

Held after the fashion merry ground exhausts the “big four”, few make the extra trip to Tokyo, and not many in Japan believe they are missing out.

According to a poll from local website (in Japanese obviously) Fashionsnap.com, only 20 percent of the Japanese fashion industry, including designers, stylists and editors, consider Tokyo’s events to be of interest.

The calendar, the no-show by the biggest brands, reluctance to open their doors to the wider public and sluggishness to embrace see-now, buy-now were all listed as shortcomings by the 221 people surveyed.

Focus on Your Own

The award-winning, Milan-based Turkish designer Umit Benan, wants to change all that.

“Everyone needs to get together to make the Japanese fashion week much better,” the menswear designer told reporters after making his Tokyo debut, having announced he would ditch Paris fashion week.

He called Japan’s menswear the “most sophisticated you’ll see in the streets” and said Tokyo was packed with the world’s most creative buyers and designers, along with some of the most sophisticated consumers around.

“I think you really need to focus on your own fashion week, trying to create new waves in Japan fashion,” he said, joking that he loves Japan so much, he visited 40 times in the last five years.

He called Japanese fabric second only to Italy’s. But unlike in Italy, where high fashion is governed by precision, he said the Japanese were willing to take risks, such as mix nylon with cashmere.

“The Italians don’t have the balls to mix nylon into a 200 euro fabric,” he said. “In Japan they’re very flexible and very creative, spontaneous… when you touch it you’re like my God what is this?”

While Tokyo has long been a springboard for up-and-coming designers, neighboring Seoul, with its vibrant street style, and Shanghai, as the commercial capital of China, are attracting increased interest.

“To me, Tokyo is the Asian fashion center with long fashion-forward history,” said Hong Kong designer Vickie Au who brought her “Urban Chill” collection to Tokyo after showing in New York.

The street look, minimal style and clean lines of her House of V label, this season inspired by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry is well suited to Japanese taste.

Beauty of the Craft

While she has boutiques in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, and online, she is looking to break into the Japanese and US markets.

Au cited Yamamoto, the famed Japanese designer based in Paris, as an inspiration, praising him as a master of “modern and avant-garde tailoring”.

Christelle Kocher, creative director of up-and-coming French label Koche, also said she had learnt from Yamamoto and that it had been special to be the only French brand participating in Tokyo this season.

“Japanese culture is really refined and I think may be more than other places, they understand the beauty of the craft and the beauty of the time to make beautiful things,” she said.

US retailing giant Amazon is sponsoring Tokyo Fashion Week for the first time, and among the fashion set in Japan there are hopes that it can help rebrand the event into something brighter and larger.

The company is already the largest clothing retailer in the United States and fashion vice president for Amazon Japan, James Peters, signalled that he is determined to replicate that success in Japan.

While Tokyo still follows a six-month delay between catwalk and store, he said Amazon would be happy to help Japanese designers facilitate see-now, buy-now collections increasingly at the fore in New York.

“I think if that’s what the designers want to do, we’re ready to do it,” he told AFP at the week’s launch party.

Queen in Versailles: Marie-Antoinette Tokyo Exhibit

Versailles will be visiting Tokyo this winter. The exhibition “Marie-Antoinette, a Queen in Versailles” will be running from October 25, 2016, to February 26, 2017 at the Mori Arts Center Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. It will be the first exhibition dedicated to the last queen of France in Japan, where the historical icon is made a household name through a thoroughly Japanese medium, but wholly unexpected anywhere else in the world, the bestselling manga The Rose of Versailles.

The exhibition will provide a look at the life of Marie-Antoinette, who is famous (some say unjustly infamous) for her refined taste in luxury and fashion (which means made-to-order spectacles since this is 18th century France). The works of the queen’s preferred artisans are shown in the exhibition, such as tableware from the Sèvres Royal Porcelain Works.

One of the main highlights will be a reconstruction of the queen’s private apartment in the Palace of Versailles – complete with the bedroom, bathroom, and a majority of the furnishings. Meanwhile, the stucco library is to be reproduced in 3D. That bathroom is particularly notable as the French queen had a proper in-door lavatory, which was unique in Versailles. Thinking on that makes us realize that everyone reading this has access to more luxury than even the richest of the rich in the pre-Industrial era.

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“Marie-Antoinette” by the Sèvres Royal Porcelain Works by Louis-Simon Boizot. © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN/ Christophe Fouin

Visitors will also be able to view a retrospective of Marie-Antoinette’s life: from her wedding to Louis XVI (who was dauphin at the time) to the day she became queen and the birth of her children. Marie-Antoinette’s entourage and fellow members of the French royal family, are featured as well. The showcase also explores the queen’s darker days, such as the infamous Affair of the Necklace, and of course the deadly consequences of the French Revolution for her and her family.

A total of 200 pieces will be showcased at the exhibition, most of them hailing from the Palace of Versailles collections. You can also view similar treasures at the grand museum in Canberra, Australia this season.

Tsukiji Market

Tokyo Puts Tsukiji Fish Market Move on Ice

Plans to move Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market – the world’s largest – were put on ice Wednesday over fears about toxic contamination at the new facility, as the cost of the move soars. The market is regularly the site of record-breaking bids for fresh fish and we have revisited it often over the years for that reason.

The megacity’s new governor, Yuriko Koike, said she would postpone the move set for November until at least early next year, as she awaits final groundwater testing results at the new site, a former gas plant. Anyone planning a trip or intending to bid on any bluefin tuna should take note.

Plans to uproot the more than 80-year-old market, a popular tourist attraction, have been in the works for years, with advocates citing the need for upgraded technology.

But Koike, a former TV anchorwoman elected last month as the Japanese capital’s first female governor, had pledged to reconsider the plan.

“Needless to say, it is a market that handles fresh food,” Koike told a press conference as she announced the delay. “The Tokyo metropolitan government, which chiefly runs the market, is responsible for telling the world: ‘It’s safe.’”

Critics of the move cite contaminated soil found at the former gas production site.

The local government paid a whopping 86 billion yen ($833 million) in cleanup costs but Koike said she wants to wait for the results of water testing in January.

Koike would not say if she would consider scrapping the relocation altogether if the test results are bad.

“I want to wait for the examinations being done by the project team,” she said.

Koike also questioned the 588 billion yen in relocation costs, 36 percent higher than earlier estimates.

These costs include relocating the market to a less-central location several kilometers away and building a modern facility about 40 percent larger with state-of-the-art refrigeration.

Japanese media have reported that postponing Tsukiji’s move would cost about seven million yen a day, and could delay construction of a highway connecting the current site with an athletes’ village being built for the city’s 2020 Olympics.

Vinexpo Japan Returns With Second Edition

The last we left Vinexpo, it was in Hong Kong, where the wine trade event revealed Singapore’s favorite wine and made some interesting observations about Japan. Later this year, Vinexpo returns to Japan, the first return visit since its debut in 2014.

It is no surprise that Japan was chosen as the destination, with the nation being the number one Asian market for spirit imports, as well as the second largest for imported wines. In fact, wine imports last year climbed to a value of 1.41 billion euros, which is a nearly four percent increase relative to 2014. With wine consumption on the rise in Japan, it is forecasted in a previously published Vinexpo market study (linked above) that by 2017, Japanese consumers will drink 37 million cases (or a total of almost 445 million bottles!), another four percent increase from 2013 to 2017.

With the Japanese audience’s strong appetite for wine, Vinexpo Tokyo is expected to attract 4,500 trade visitors. Should you wish to contribute to that number, Vinexpo Japan will take place November 15 to 16 at Prince Park Tower Hotel.

This story is also available in Bahasa Indonesia. Read it here: Vinexpo Jepang Kembali Digelar

Valentino Opens Omotesando Flagship Boutique

Italian fashion label Valentino is forging ahead with expansion plans. In collaboration with British architect David Chipperfield and Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli, meet the label’s new Omotesando flagship boutique in Aoyama, Tokyo. In commemoration of the new opening, the windows of Valentino stores will come to life worldwide with a special window installation.

A 300-piece limited edition tote bag will also be available for sale. Priced at 112 euros, 100% of all sales will be donated to the Kumamoto Earthquake relief, in aid towards the victims of the April 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake.

Read more about the Flagship boutique at Men’s Folio Singapore.

Tokyo Keio Plaza Hotel Celebrates Porcelain Art

Among the wide range of Japanese porcelain types out there, the Arita/Imari style is notable for being one of the more flowery styles. It was first produced in the town of Arita in the 17th century and is best recognized by the white porcelain with colorful nature motifs on it. In celebration of the 400 years that the style has existed, the Keio Plaza Hotel located in Tokyo has decided to host a number of special treats lasting from July 1 to August 7.

Held in the lobby of the hotel, the annual Arita Porcelain Fair will enjoy its 36th iteration this year. For this year, a giant “Porcelain Tree” sculpture (9.5 meters long and 3 meters wide) will be installed there alongside the work of three prominent Arita artists. Among these three artists – Inoue Manji, Imaizumi Imaemon, and Sakaida Kakiemon – two hold the title of the special ‘National Living Treasure’ certification. Their work represents the best in the craft through their willingness to mix time-tested porcelain techniques with a contemporary sense of innovation.

At the same time, 10 of the restaurants at the hotel will be offering a selection of special menus served in Arita/Imari porcelain. From there they’ll be able to see how the beautifully arranged food plays off the designs on the porcelain. The menus range from a Japanese lunch set (priced at 4,200 yen) to a full Tempura course (priced at 18,000 yen).

If you’re interested in finding out more about the traditions of Arita/Imari porcelain, you can check out the full scope of events over at the Keio Plaza Hotel website.

Hong Kong is World’s Priciest City for Expats

Hong Kong has beat the capital of Angola for the dubious honor of being the most expensive city for expats this year. Yes, for those who don’t recall, Luanda has topped a rather unflattering list that often left people wondering what the hell Luanda is…

Well after three years at the top of the list, Luanda was pipped to the post following the weakening of its currency, and a considerably stronger Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar. The annual list, compiled by consultancy firm Mercer, is designed for companies to gauge allowances for expat workers. More than 200 items are considered in each of the 209 cities across the world, including the cost of housing, food, transport and entertainment.

It is status quo for expats in Singapore and Zurich. Zurich and Singapore remain unchanged in third and fourth position on the list respectively. You may recall that Singapore topped another list like this one so do remember that who the list is meant for. With a stronger yen, Tokyo was jumped six places up the list to become the world’s fifth most expensive expat destination. Kinshasa of Congo made its debut on the top 10 list by ranking sixth this year, beating Shanghai, Geneva, N’Djamena (that’s in Chad in case you wondered) and Beijing.

Mercer said that rankings were affected by “volatile markets and stunted economic growth in many parts of the world”. True enough, the cost of living in several US cities rose proportionately with the backing of a strong currency. Conversely, cities in countries with a weakening dollar have become more economical. The weakening of the Russian Ruble has resulted in Moscow tumbling 50 spots down the list – from 17th costliest city to the 67th.

Expats living in the UK also have reasons to rejoice (sort of). London dropped five places to 17th, while Glasgow dropped 10 places to 119th and Birmingham fell 16 places to 96th position. Now that Brexit is here and the sterling is taking a beating, all these cities will become less painful on the bottom line…

Den Restaurant Singled Out by Asia’s 50 Best

Despite being hidden in a small alleyway next to a convenience store, Den may be one of the most interesting Japanese dining-spots out there. The Tokyo restaurant first made Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in February at 37th place. Now, the World’s 50 Best has marked it as this year’s ‘One To Watch’ – due to chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s unique and playful vision of traditional kaiseki cuisine.

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Hasegawa started off at a ryotei (a traditional high-end Japanese restaurant) where his mother was working. He grew dissatisfied with the traditional style of cooking – noting in an interview that formal Japanese cuisine “lacks range… It’s not like haute couture where everything fits each customer perfectly”. With this new vision of hospitality (or, in Japanese, omotenashi) to accommodate each diner, he opened Den in 2007.

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The small intricate dishes that can be found within the restaurant have a vision of inventiveness that goes beyond many chefs out there. One of the signature dishes includes a garden salad made up of 20 different vegetables. Another is a ‘moss rock’ desert actually served on a shovel. The eight-course menu changes with the seasons.

The ‘One to Watch’ award is presented to the restaurant thought to have the most potential to move up the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in the near future. Hasegawa will receive the distinction on June 13 during The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in Manhattan.

You can check out Den’s website over here.

Images courtesy of World’s 50 Best List. This story was written in-house, based on an AFP report.

Degustation: 3 Chefs Talk Creativity, Cuisine

Imagine sitting in a restaurant and savouring five to 10 exquisitely prepared dishes over a period of three or more hours. You get to taste the food on your palate, relish the visual spectacle on the plate, and indulge in the freshness of the produce and surprising combinations of flavour. These, combined with immaculate table service, are all part of the degustation experience. But what is degustation, really? Originating from the French word “dégustation”, the culinary term refers to a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods that focus on the gustatory (taste) system, the senses, high culinary art, and, of course, good company.

A degustation often involves the sampling of small portions of a chef’s signature dishes in one sitting. It usually begins with the lightest dishes that segue into heavier ones. In between, slightly acidic dishes such as sorbet act as palate cleansers. Cocktails and wines are also an important component of a degustation menu and are suggested as accompaniments to certain dishes.

This is a form of art and science that requires a chef to have an innate sense of gastronomical aesthetics and a knowledge of sophisticated culinary techniques, reflecting the chef’s creativity and innovation, and his or her propensity to induce a sense of curiosity and surprise in the diner.

Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara, Kaiseki YoshiyukiYoshiyuki Kashiwabara

Japan has its own version of degustation in the form of kaiseki. One of the highest degrees of culinary art in Japan, this traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine was derived from 16th century tea ceremony rituals in Kyoto. And no one knows it better than award-winning chef Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara, who spent seven years as the personal chef to Japanese ambassadors based in San Francisco and Singapore. According to Yoshiyuki – whose résumé includes a stint at the esteemed Kyoryori Hosoi in Tokyo, where he joined as a trainee and eventually headed the kitchen – the essence of kaiseki is an emphasis on natural flavours, a balance of taste and texture, and delicate presentation. 

What inspires your kaiseki menu?

Japan’s four seasons and the finest ingredients each season has to offer. For example, I will only use the chestnut in autumn – when it is at its freshest – and not in spring. When it comes to presentation, I will plate the dish with flowers and birds symbolic of a particular season.

Kaiseki Yoshiyuki Interior

Kaiseki Yoshiyuki Interior

What does your kaiseki menu include?

We have a seven-, eight- or nine-course kaiseki menu. For the latter, I create it on the day itself with the freshest and most refined ingredients available that day. It is done in the style of Omakase, which refers to a meal consisting of dishes that are selected by the chef – so it’s up to me. For the other menus, I start with Hassun which features the best vegetables of that season in the form of small appetisers. This is followed by Suimono, a soup with light broth. After this comes Tsukuri, which features sashimi such as akami (tuna) – also known as maguro – and chutoro, a fattier version of akami. Chutoro, or tuna belly, is a premium part of the tuna. When it’s fresh, its taste is unbeatable. I usually served it as small, sliced cubes so that it is not too rich for the palate.

How do you get your fresh produce?

Every morning at 1am, I call the suppliers from Tsukiji market, the largest fish market in Japan, to check what’s available that day. Sometimes, I fly to Japan to select the freshest ingredients in season and deal with suppliers directly, and have the ingredients flown in to the restaurant at least twice a week. If there’s an unforeseen circumstance (such as when a typhoon in Japan affects the produce), I will have to improvise and think of something different for the menu.

Hassun (seasonal vegetables appetiser) that features Japan’s spring

Taste, texture and presentation – how important are
these factors?

Creating subtle, fresh tastes, light textures and intricate food presentation is key. Whether it’s the thought process, the act of cooking or the presentation, it is of utmost importance to pay great attention to detail. Also, all the flavours have to be balanced and reflect the seasonal theme of the dish.

To what extent is kaiseki a form of art and showcase of technique?

Kaiseki cuisine requires a lot of patience, cooking and skilful knife techniques, especially when it comes to carving birds and flowers out of real food and plating them. I have a personal set of knives – they are my tools. A knife is very important to a chef, just like a brush is to a painter. In fact, the way you slice a fish can change its taste and texture.

Daikon (mild flavored winter radish) with crab

In three words, describe your brand of kaiseki.

Poetic, beautiful and pure.

What kind of kaiseki experience do you want diners to have at your restaurant?

I want them to feel good and healthy while tasting the freshest seasonal ingredients, all of which have high nutritional value.  And I want to bring them on a journey of Japan’s four seasons through the ingredients and the beauty of the dishes; I want to transport them from Singapore to Kyoto.

Ryan Clift, Tippling ClubRyan-Clift

Over the course of his 23-year career, Wiltshire-born Ryan Clift has worked with some of the world’s finest chefs, including Marco-Pierre White, Peter Gordon, Emmanuel Renaut, Shannon Bennett and Raymond Capaldi. In 1999, Clift was ran the show in the kitchen at Vue de Monde, one of Australia’s most acclaimed restaurants. 

What is your concept of degustation?

I believe that customers need a level of trust in the chef in order to select the degustation option for a meal. For me, it allows us to be truly creative – with the flexibility to select the freshest produce that may only be available on a particular day, or to create something special for a customer.

Snow Crab

Snow Crab

How important are taste, texture and presentation?

For me, taste and texture take precedence over presentation. Taste is always the most crucial factor, while textures make the dish that much more exciting and memorable for the diner. Presentation, for us, is based on coming up with the best way to showcase the ingredients and it’s quite fluid – we’re not sticklers for that.

What inspires your degustation menu?

Our latest menu reflects the kitchen team’s travels around the world, particularly Tokyo. The ingredients that we discover on our trips abroad constantly inspire us and we want to share that with our customers and introduce them to unique flavour profiles.

Mangalica Pork Collar

Mangalica Pork Collar

What are some of the highlights of this new menu?

We’ve got a number of really interesting dishes such as the Mangalica Pork Collar, where we brine the meat, then slow cook it for 19 hours at 72 degrees for fork-tender texture. It’s served with cinnamon-infused dashi broth, vegetables pickled in nuka (Japanese rice bran) and nori crackers – all made in-house.

The lobster menu is a really delicate dish of lobster from Brittany served with horseradish, chive gel and, for contrast, a puree of sea buckthorn for some acidity. We then pair it with the Daruma-Mazuma cocktail, which contains lime and lemon that reflect the acidity of the dish.

Our Snow Crab features a refreshing delicate crab salad made from Western Australian crab topped with sliced Kyoho grapes from the Yamanashi prefecture in Japan. It’s all about showcasing the best produce we can find and create matches that really excite the customers’ taste buds.

What kind of experience do you want guests to have with your degustation menu?

I believe everyone has his or her own unique experience. For me, I do not want my guests to feel like they’re in a stiff, formal restaurant, but rather, in a place that’s fun – with damn good food!

Kirk Westaway, Jaan

Kirk Westaway

Kirk Westaway

Growing up in Devon, England surrounded by farm-fresh produce, Westaway’s passion for only the most excellent ingredients is evident in his gastronomic creations. Recently promoted to Chef de Cuisine of Jaan, the 29-year-old spent a term at two-Michelin-starred The Greenhouse in London’s Mayfair. Last February, he was crowned the South East Asian regional winner in the semi-finals of the inaugural S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 competition.   

What inspires your degustation menu?

Ingredients are what inspire me, they change all the time depending on what produce is at peak. We have five to seven courses that are set and printed daily, depending on the availability I get that day from each fish, meat and vegetable.

The 10-course, being the inspirational menu, is not printed – I create the dishes on the spot before they come in and as they go along during the dining experience, depending on availability. For example, I might have live lobster from Scotland, but that could change to a different fish or meat according to how many dishes are served that night.

I am open to ideas. I talk to diners and listen to their feedback. I value their opinions; sometimes, they inspire me.Jaan at Swissotel The Stamford

What is your most intricate dish?

The Tomato Collection – it’s fresh, clean, sweet and savoury, and has a smooth texture. It is a tomato within a tomato. Firstly, we hollow out the centre of the vine-ripened tomato, semi-dry the part that is taken out overnight, chop it up and add some fresh shallots, parmesan, capers, smoked olive oil and other good ingredients, and stuff them back inside the vine tomatoes. It takes 16 hours for them to dry. We also make some tomato water, add basil sorbet and croutons for crunch. People think they are just looking at a tomato, but when they slice it open, they see all work that goes into it. 

In what sequence are the dishes presented?

Step by step, from warm to dense and complex. The menu usually starts off with a Langoustine Cannelloni dish served ice cold. The next dish is served at room temperature – one example is the Tomato Collection. This is followed by an egg that’s served at 55 degrees, then fish with a hot sauce right off the stove. I always finish off with meat and then a palate cleanser before dessert.

Langoustine Cannelloni

Langoustine Cannelloni

How much emphasis do you place on presentation?

My main focus is on taste but I try to make every plate pretty as well; my style of presenting is clean, tidy and elegant. I like to put interesting items on each plate. Colour is important – I generally finish plating dishes with fresh and unique green herbs, and flowers, such as fennel blossom, garlic flowers or carrot flowers – all of which you might not see locally.

How do you come up with all the combinations of flavours and textures in your degustation menu?

We have many ingredients, all of which become different components in each dish. Each flavour serves a purpose, and complements another. For example, when I cook a meat with a sauce, and it works, I’ll leave it. But if I think it needs something interesting, a bit of richness, a bit of crunch, a bit of acidity or sweetness, then I’ll add ingredients accordingly. But if I taste the dish and I feel that one of the elements is not needed, I’ll take it out straight away.

Tomato Collection

Tomato Collection

What sort of experience do you want diners to have?

I want to create memories and evoke emotions. The menu might look simple, but when the food comes, diners are impressed by how intricate the dishes are. They get to taste fresh organic vegetables, fine cheese and flavoursome quality products from around the world. It’s not just a meal to fill your stomach, but also a multi-sensory experience put together by the culinary team.

Story Credits

Text by Abigail Chia

This story was first published in L’Officiel Singapore. 

Louis Vuitton Exhibition to Open in Japan

From Paris and straight to Tokyo, Louis Vuitton brings its highly successful exhibition this spring. Titled Volez, Voguez, Voyagez the exhibit spent its three-month run in Paris this past winter drawing in 200,000 visitors. We covered that run right here.

The exhibition tracks the 160-year history of a brand that originated from one man’s goal of improving the travel trunk. From Nicolas Ghesquière to the founders themselves, it will showcase an in depth map of how the brand reached its success today. Now an international empire of luxury goods, Louis Vuitton has a strong connection to Japan.

Many have even compared the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram to the Japanese cherry blossom. The exhibit will have a special room dedicated to Japan. The exhibition will open in the Kioicho neighbourhood of Tokyo, home of Vuitton’s first store in Japan.

The Volez, Vogues, Voyagez exhibition will run from April 23 in Tokyo and will be open to the public.

Bally Opens Flagship Store in Ginza

Swiss luxury brand Bally has opened a flagship store in the upmarket shopping district of Ginza. This marks a new chapter for the brand in Japan, and, to celebrate this, they’ll be unveiling an exhibition of pieces (titled Bally Untold) from their archives running till May 8, taking viewers through 100 years of its history.

Bally Ginza store - exterior 1

The Tokyu Plaza building stands at what is considered the ‘gate’ of Ginza, and the Bally store is located right there. Collaborating with David Chipperfield Architects, the flagship store stands out with a 50 meter brass aluminum façade running the width. The 845 square meters of space is set over two floors, with the ground floor dedicated to accessories and ready-to-wear collections, as well as the special Gentleman’s Corner. The second floor houses the VIP room and a space dedicated to events, which is also the space for the Bally Untold exhibition. Timber walling combined with a continuous white ceiling, spotted with light-tubes, creates and elegant modern atmosphere.

Bally Ginza store - interior 4

The Gentleman’s Corner is dedicated solely to Bally’s expertise in shoemaking and shoe care. With its Made to Order and Made to Color services, customers will be able to create personalized shoes and belts with multiple color and material combinations. The VIP room is a private room for a more intimate and exclusive shopping experience, with its own private fitting room and service area.

Bally Ginza store - interior 9

Exclusive for the Ginza opening, Bally will also reissue four shoe styles based on archive pieced dated to the 1930s. The limited edition shoes in D’Orsay style with a Louis XV heel come in red and blue silks punctuated with gold and silver leather.

Bally Ginza store - interior 7

This is only one of the steps in an ambitious 15 store global rollout planned for 2016. After this Japan venture, the next flagship Bally aims to set up will be in Beijing, later in the year. These steps will surely cement the company, which came into establishment in 1851, further on the industry’s map.

For more information, you can check out Bally’s website here.

Focus: Art Collective TeamLab

TeamLab is an artist collaborative that brings together creative professionals from disparate disciplines to realise visionary art projects. Founded in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko, the team has grown to more than 400 people, including architects, artists, composers, computer graphics animators, editors, engineers, graphic designers, mathematicians and programers.

A multi-tasking outfit, TeamLab operates out of its Tokyo-based office. It offers creative solutions and innovative ideas through products such as interactive software and mobile applications, and of course, its artworks. Calling themselves ultra-technologists, the members contribute their unique expertise to create signature cross-disciplinary artworks that blur and push the boundaries between art and technology.

TeamLab had its first exhibition in 2011 at Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei. Since then, interest in its artworks has grown steadily. TeamLab has exhibited in other parts of the world, such as at the Singapore Biennale 2013, at Pace Gallery in New York in 2014, and in Europe at events such as Expo Milan 2015 and Art Paris Art Fair 2015. Earlier his year, TeamLab was also shortlisted for the ‘Best Emerging Artist Using Digital and Video’ award at the Prudential Eye Awards, and exhibited new works at START Art Fair 2015, presented by Prudential and held at Saatchi Gallery in London.

Interactive Digital Art

Installation view of Harmony and Diversity for the Japan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015

Installation view of Harmony and Diversity for the Japan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015

TeamLab creates digital art. This is different from video art, which runs from beginning to end in a finite pre-choreographed sequence, and when exhibited, is played in loop that remains the same each time it is presented. Video art is also independent of the audience’s actions. In contrast, the digital art that TeamLab creates is neither pre-taped nor replayed. Rather, it is a computer program that is able to run endlessly, and what is seen is dependent on the audience’s interactions with the artwork.

In making its digital artworks, TeamLab is deeply influenced by what has come before in Japanese art. It has coined a special term, “ultrasubjective space”, which refers to “the logical structure of the spatial awareness of ancient Japanese”. Although Japanese paintings are often considered flat in contrast to Western paintings, TeamLab sees it as an equally logical perspective to view the world. This is an underlying principle in the making of its digital artworks.

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

 

Japanese Culture and Way of Life

In August 2014, Pace Gallery New York presented TeamLab’s first exhibition in America, aptly named ‘Ultra Subjective Space’. On display were six artworks including five large-scale digital monitor pieces, as well as the immersive digital installation ‘Crows are Chased and the Chasing crows are Destined to be Chased as Well, Division in Perspective – Light in Dark’. This was spread out across seven staggered screens, showing Yatagarasu, a three-legged crow in Japanese mythology, flying through the screens, leaving in its wake what TeamLab called “spatial calligraphy”, a digital trail of the crow’s movements.

Another work in the exhibition, ‘Cold Life’, was equally inspired by Japanese culture. Based on the Japanese and Chinese character 生, pronounced sheng, meaning life, the strokes that made up the character morphed into a tree – a fitting commentary on the magical power of nature. It was also a technological marvel in its Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD) display – four times the resolution of Full High Definition (FHD) – to show off the technical intricacies that made the work possible.

Dance!@ Art Exhibition at Miraikan

Dance!@ Art Exhibition at Miraikan

There is inherent pride in Japanese culture that comes through in all of TeamLab’s works. For the Singapore Biennale in 2013, the work ‘Peace can be Realized Even without Order’, drew from the traditional Awa Dance Festival. The artwork, exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum, featured a group of male dancers in holograms wearing printed kimonos playing instruments. When a visitor came into proximity with a dancer, he would stop moving and making music, which in turn made his neighbouring dancers do the same. Soon however, the dancing and music resumed. Peace, represented by the convivial atmosphere of merry-making, would be restored.

It is not only from cultural forms that TeamLab takes inspiration for its works, but also the Japanese way of life. For the Japan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, which opened in May this year and will close at the end of October, two works are shown: ‘Harmony’ and ‘Diversity’. In ‘Harmony’, screens are placed horizontally at knee and waist levels for visitors to walk past, transporting them to the rice fields of Japan. This simulation allows the visitor to experience the change of seasons throughout the year. The artwork effectively communicates the delicate and harmonious relationship shared between people and nature.

Complementing the focus on Japanese food, in ‘Diversity’, images of food items from Japan are placed against a computer-generated waterfall. Visitors are able to transfer these enticing pictures, together with details about the delicacies onto their smartphones, taking away the experience of the artwork with them. It is an innovative way to share information about a distinctive part of the Japanese way of life.

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

Nature in Japanese Art

The imageries that TeamLab uses are for the most part derived from nature, including water, birds, flowers, insects and trees. TeamLab is particularly taken by the depiction of water in traditional Japanese paintings, which it remains faithful to in their digital artworks. Speaking to Art Republik, Takashi Kudo from TeamLab noted that the way water is traditionally depicted in Western art and Japanese art are vastly different. For example, while the former may hint at rain through the subjects’ use of umbrellas or the glistening of a wet rock, the latter uses curvilinear lines to represent rain itself.

In an exploration of the Japanese way of portraying water, TeamLab created ‘Universe of Water Particles’, a waterfall made of digitally created water particles and lines. It has been exhibited at different locations, including the Dojima River Biennale 2013 and Art Stage Singapore 2014. In March this year, the work was projected on the façade of the Grand Palais by invitation from Bogéna Galerie, as part of Art Paris Art Fair 2015 in March.

Installation view of What a Loving and Beautiful World at Shake Art Exhibition

Installation view of What a Loving and Beautiful World at Shake Art Exhibition

Flowers often take centre stage in TeamLab’s artworks. ‘Floating Flower Garden – Flowers and I are of the Same Root, the Garden and I are One’ is a work by TeamLab that is made up of an explosion of flowers. The colourful work features over 2300 flowers, each with an accompanying insect. As each visitor enters the space, flowers that are “disturbed” by the intrusion float up and hover in a dream-like flower halo. As the visitor moves away, the flowers float back down to occupy the space that he or she has left. If there are many visitors in the interactive kinetic installation at a time, then the flowers move to form one big dome that surrounds all of them. This will be shown at the 20th anniversary instalment of the Maison&Objet Paris fair in September.

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

TeamLab often makes variations of a work. For instance, there is ‘Flowers and People – Dark’ and ‘Flowers and People – Gold’, which show shifting fields of flowers in two colour schemes. As one walks through each installation, the flowers goes through their life cycles, budding, blooming and finally withering away. Similarly, the works ‘Ever Blossoming Life II – Dark’ and ‘Ever Blossoming Life II – Gold’ present the predictable life cycle of flowers, one with a dark background and the other with a gold background. Surrounded by responsive screens of animation, the viewer experiences a simulated Zen garden that responds to his or her movements.

Besides recreating nature in controlled environments, TeamLab has worked directly in the great outdoors where the digital worlds it creates co-exist with the natural world. In an upcoming project for 2016, ‘Resonating Trees – Forest of Tadasu at Shimogamo Shrine’, a light show will be installed among the trees that line the way to the World Heritage site of Shimogamo Shrine. With the approach of people or animals, the light that each tree is bathed in will change its colour, bringing attention to the presence of other living beings in a serene and poetic commentary on the ecosystem we all live in.

Sights and Sounds

To facilitate its immersive environment, TeamLab adds sounds to its visually captivating artworks, giving the audience a multi-sensory experience. In ‘Resonating Spheres and Night Fish’, currently on show until December at the Enoshima Aquarium in Kanagawa, Japan, spheres of light on the walls and ceilings change their colours upon touch, accompanied by a change in sound, which is unique to each colour. As this happens, the other spheres also react to the shifts, and momentarily emit the same colours and sounds as part of a chain reaction.

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

TeamLab has a long-time music collaborator, Hideaki Takahashi, who has produced soundtracks for many of its works, including ‘Resonating Spheres and Night Fish’, as well as ‘Floating Instrument’ back in 2010, ‘Flowers and People – Gold and Dark’ in 2014, and most recently ‘Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – Dark’, ‘Floating Flower Garden – Flowers and I are of the same root, the Garden and I are one’ in 2015, among others. The music serves to envelop the visitors and helps them to transition from real world to the alternate realities that TeamLab creates.

Inspiring the Next Generation

As innovators, TeamLab is far seeing not only in the works it realises, but also in the potential for their works to connect and inspire people. In particular, the artist collaborative has its sights set on grooming the younger generation through introducing them to new ways of learning, playing and eventually, in the future, working. A key idea is the importance of working in collaboration with others rather than in isolation.

Back in Japan, TeamLab’s first major solo exhibition at home opened at Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, also known as Miraikan, in November 2014. The exhibition had two sections that displayed 18 artworks from the artist collective’s oeuvre: ‘Dance! Art Exhibition’ and ‘Learn and Play! TeamLab Future Park’. The latter featured children-friendly artworks. The exhibition was a huge success, with nearly half a million visitors coming through the museum’s doors. ‘Learn and Play! TeamLab Future Park’ was a first step in the artist collaborative’s forward efforts to provide a platform for children to see the fun in being creative, an indispensable quality that TeamLab believes is not encouraged, let alone groomed in an education system they believe places emphasis on rote learning.

Nirvana at Shake Art Exhibition

Nirvana at Shake Art Exhibition

One artwork, ‘Sketch Town’, was a three-dimensional town built on the two-dimensional drawings of cars, buildings and the like from children, allowing them to see “in reality” the fruits of their imagination. Furthermore, the children’s drawings were also made into paper-craft patterns that they could then take home to turn into three-dimensional models. Another interactive installation, ‘Sketch Aquarium’, worked on the same idea, and to make it more interactive, the children could touch the sea creatures they drew to feed them or make them swim away.

Coming Up

The momentum that TeamLab has gained over the past few years shows no signs of slowing down. At START art fair from 10 to 13 September, TeamLab showcased as part of START Projects. This marked the first time the artist collaborative exhibited in London, and a book documenting its oeuvre launched at the same time.

Altogether, TeamLab showcased three works: ‘Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year’, ‘Dark, Ever Blossoming Life II – Dark’ and ‘Flutter of Butterflies beyond Borders’. As with other TeamLab works, the visitors’ movements have an impact on what happens on screen.

Flower and Corpse Glitch at Shake Art Exhibition

Flower and Corpse Glitch at Shake Art Exhibition

In addition, the artworks will interact with each other as well. The butterflies are free to flit through the other two works that are on display, creating a single immersive experience. The butterflies’ flight paths are altered by the visitor’s direct interaction with it. Kudo explains that if one touches a butterfly, for examples, it dies, as it might in real life, where human interaction with nature has the potential to nurture and equally to harm. The butterflies’ movements are also influenced by what happens with the other movement-sensitive artworks in the same space.

TeamLab is daring and ahead of its time in the execution of their artworks through ground-breaking vision and advanced methods. While TeamLab’s artworks seem avant-garde, they are also accessible. Combining the traditional with the contemporary – and at times the futuristic – TeamLab has pioneered a new model of art-making that pays homage to and preserves its country’s artistic heritage by presenting it in a way that is entertaining and exciting. More importantly, it is encouraging a new way of thinking and working for the next generation – a legacy that any artist can be proud of.

Peace can be Realized Even Without Order at Singapore Biennale 2013

Peace can be Realized Even Without Order at Singapore Biennale 2013

Story Credits

Text by Nadya Wang

This story first appeared in Art Republik.

Singapore is World’s Most Expensive City

Singapore is the most expensive city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking; this is the third year in a row that the republic has topped the list. The ranking takes into account 400 individual prices across 160 products and services in 133 cities.

Being based in Singapore as we are, this report always gives us pause for thought. The EIU report is mainly useful to business travelers and for people looking to relocate for work, even though the report itself is called the Worldwide Cost of Living survey.

In the results of the survey this year, Singapore is tailed closely by fellow finance giatns Zurich and Hong Kong, which jumped up seven places in the ranking in the last 12 months. Geneva, Paris, London, New York, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, and Seoul round out the top ten. New York, it is worth noting, achieves its highest position on the list since 2002, coming in at seventh; it is one the fastest rising cities on the list, having moved up 42 rungs since 2011.

In making its assessment, the Worldwide Cost of Living survey, released twice a year by the EIU, compares prices on everything from food and drink to clothing, household supplies, and personal-care items, home rents, transportation, utility bills, private schools, domestic help, and recreational costs. In total, more than 50,000 individual prices are collected in each survey; New York is used as the benchmark and positions on the list depend strongly on how well the US dollar is doing. For example, Tokyo used to top the list before Singapore overtook it and this drop is attributed to the general weakness of the yen against the greenback and persistent deflationary pressure in the Japanese economy.

The report notes that part of Singapore’s run as the most expensive city is due to its high transport and utility costs, both of which can affect travelers as they can translate to higher hotel room fees and more expensive public transit. This is in large part due to Singapore’s complicated Certificate of Entitlement system, which results in transportation costs that are 2.7 times higher than in New York!

Singapore isn’t more expensive in every category, though. Travelling foodies eager to visit the city’s famed Epicurean Market will be pleased to note that basic groceries are cheaper in Singapore than in its Asian neighbors (Seoul is 33% more expensive at the grocery store). Fair warning though: fine dining in the city-state is exorbitant due to high taxes on alcohol, rent pressures and the aforementioned sky-high transportation costs.

While Asia has three of the most expensive cities in the world, India has four of the least expensive, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai. The least expensive city on the 133-city survey is Lusaka, Zambia, meaning it might be time to start planning that safari.

World’s 10 most expensive cities in which to live in 2016

  • 1. Singapore
  • 2. Zurich, Switzerland/ Hong Kong
  • 4. Geneva, Switzerland
  • 5. Paris
  • 6. London
  • 7. New York
  • 8. Copenhagen, Denmark, Seoul, South Korea, Los Angeles
  • World’s 10 least expensive cities in which to live in 2016

  • 124. Damascus, Syria/ Caracas, Venezuela
  • 126. New Delhi
  • 127. Almaty, Kazakhstan/ Algiers, Algeria/ Chennai, India/ Karachi, Pakistan
  • 131. Mumbai, India
  • 132. Bangalore, India
  • 133. Lusaka, Zambia

Versace makes its debut in Ginza, Tokyo

Focusing its Asian presence in Japan, Versace has opened a new boutique in one of Tokyo’s most prominent shopping districts – Ginza.

Conceived by Donatella Versace in collaboration with English architect Jamie Fobert, this new 430 square meter space features a juxtaposition of the old and new.

Inside, you will see beautiful mosaic floors, inspired by Byzantine churches of the Ninth Century, matched with perspex walls and shelving that seem to float in mid-air to create a clash between the past and the future.

Versace Ginza_interior_2nd floor_HR

Both menswear and womenswear are given their own dedicated floors on the second and third level respectively. The menswear space features fior di bosco marble floor, while women’s section on the third level features fior di pesco marble floor creating an exclusive and unique environment.

Donatella says, “For me, the boutique suggests an uninterrupted dialogue between our past and our future, between me and Jamie Fobert and obviously between Versace and our clients.”

 

The new Versace boutique is located at 6-7-12 Ginza Chuo-Ku Tokyo. For more information visit www.versace.com.

8 Top Selling Artists 2015

Often anticapitalist by nature and sometimes offering scathing critiques of socio-economic systems, contemporary art is paradoxically highly sought-after for its commercial potential. While classics famously hold their value well enough to be considered an asset class, contemporary art  – where the artist is frequently alive and still working – is required to demonstrate its potential at auction regularly. Of course, the value of most contemporary art is nebulous but therein lies the excitement.

Our friends at Art Republik give us the low-down on eight living artists whose best-selling work combined nets more than USD150 million…

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Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons was born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania, United States of America. He received his B.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1976. Koons is known for his exploration of contemporary consumer culture in his oeuvre. His series of works include “Equilibrium” (1985), which feature ready-made basketballs floating in distilled water in tanks made of glass and steel,  “Banality” (1988), mostly sculptures of toys and popular icons rendered in porcelain and polychromed wood, and “Made in Heaven” (1989-1991), centered around photorealist paintings and sculptures of the artist engaged in sexual intercourse in varied positions with his ex-wife Ilona Staller, an adult film star.

Koons’ “Balloon Dog” sculptures in five color versions – blue, magenta, yellow, orange and red – are probably among his most well known works. These are from the “Celebration” series, which presents giant mirror-polished stainless steel sculptures with transparent color coating.

The artist has pioneered new techniques for the making of his artworks. For the “Celebration” series, for example, he collaborated with Arnold AG, a metalwork mill in Germany to make the sculptures’ high-shine surface. In addition, he used the CAT scan, typically used in hospitals, to get an all-round imaging of subjects so that the enlarged versions could be reproduced to perfection. He also has a unique way of working. Koons’ works are made in a studio that employs more than 100 assistants who fabricate his work.

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“Balloon Dog (Orange)”

2008 was a particularly productive year for Koons, with solo exhibitions at Château de Versailles, France, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. More recently, in 2014, “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective”, was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It has now traveled to the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and will be at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao later in the year.

Koons’ first million-dollar work sold was the “Pink Panther” (1988) from the “Banality” series, which transacted at Christie’s in 1999 for USD1.8 million (1988). In 2013, he became the most expensive living artist when “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sold for USD52 million at Christie’s. He holds the title to this date.

Koons lives and works in New York.

In Brief

  • Age: 60
  • Nationality: American
  • Gallery Representation: David Zwirner Gallery, Gagosian Gallery, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Galerie Max Hetzler
  • Big Break: Koons’ “Banality” series (1988), featuring the work, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”, exhibited at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York City in 1989.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Balloon Dog (Orange)”, 1994-2000, mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating, 307.3 x 363.2 x 114.3cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD58.4 million. Sold at Christie’s, New York, November 2013

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Zeng Fanzhi, Mask Series No. 5, 1994, oil on canvas, 180 x 150 cm. Sold at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, October 2010.

Zeng Fanzhi

Zeng Fanzhi was born in Wuhan, China in 1964. He graduated from Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in 1991, where he specialized in oil painting.

Before moving to Beijing in 1993, he began painting the “Hospital” series, showing tableaus from the hospital, and the “Meat” series that contrast human beings with butchered meat, inspired by the hospital and the butcher’s shop he lived next to. From these first works, the characters began to be drawn with disproportionately larger hands, which persisted into his “Mask” series.

Zeng Fanzhi is probably best known for his paintings in this series of figures standing in groups or alone, wearing white masks with big smiles. This was motivated by his interactions with people in the capital of China, whom he thought hid their true identities and feelings from others and perhaps from themselves as well, in a representation of the Chinese people’s feelings of isolation in the decade after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

An adventurous artist who has experimented with different styles, Zeng began drawing landscapes in 2004, mostly covered with bare intertwining branches, inspired by the unexpected beauty he saw in a pot of Chinese wisteria in his studio. He also painted portraits of luminaries in western culture such as Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol in 2010.

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“The Last Supper”, 2001, oil on canvas, 220 x 395 cm.

Zeng first set a new world auction record for Chinese contemporary art in May 2008, when his diptych Mask Series 1996 No. 6 sold for USD9.7 million at Christie’s in Hong Kong. This featured eight members of the Young Pioneers, the Communist Party’s youth movement, wearing their representative red scarves, and Zeng’s signature masks. In 2013, his painting, “The Last Supper” sold for USD23 million at Sotheby’s. He remains the most expensive living Asian artist.

In the same year, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris presented the first French retrospective of 40 paintings and sculptures from Zeng made between 1990 and 2012.

Zeng lives and works in Beijing.

In Brief

  • Age: 51
  • Nationality: Chinese
  • Gallery Representation: Gagosian Gallery, Acquavella Galleries, Gallery Hyundai, ShangArt, Hanart TZ Gallery
  • Big Break: Fresh out of art school, paintings from Zeng Fanzhi’s “Hospital” series were selected by Johnson Chang from Hanart TZ Gallery based in Hong Kong to be included in an exhibition at Hong Kong Arts Centre in 1993 titled “China’s New Art, Post-1989”. This introduced the artist to the art community, and at the same time gave Zeng tremendous encouragement to continue pursuing his career as an artist.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “The Last Supper”, 2001, oil on canvas, 220 x 395 cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD23.3 million, Sotheby’s Hong Kong, October 2013

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Installation view, Takashi Murakami’s exhibition, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, Gagosian Gallery, New York, 10 November – January 17 2015 © 2014 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever.

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, and received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo University of the Arts, formerly the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

A multi-hyphenate, Murakami is involved in many aspects of the art world, and works as an artist, a gallerist, a curator and an art theorist, among others. He founded the Hiropon factory in Tokyo in 1996 for the production of his works, which later evolved into Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., an art production and art management corporation. In addition to the production and marketing of Murakami’s art and related work, it manages and promotes emerging artists.

Murakami has organized several influential exhibitions based on the theory of a tradition of a pervasive superflat look in contemporary Japanese visual culture, typified by manga, which refer to comic books, and anime, which refer to animation, that tend towards two-dimensionality. The first exhibition, titled simply “Superflat”, was held at Parco Gallery in Tokyo and Nagoya. It subsequently traveled to MoCA gallery in the Pacific Design Centre in Los Angeles, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, in 2001. He has followed up with exhibitions such as “Coloriage” at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris in 2002 and “Little Boy: The Art of Japan’s Exploding Subcultures” at the Japan Society in New York in 2005.

A pioneer in art-fashion collaborations, Murakami began working with Louis Vuitton in 2003. He first created the “Monogram Multicolore”, which featured the “LV” monogram in 33 bright colors. Since then, he has made special prints for the luxury fashion house’s leather goods that incorporate motifs such as cherry blossoms and pandas. In 2008, the limited edition “Monogramouflage” collection, for all products from iPhone cases to luggage, featured a juxtaposition of the khaki and beige camouflage print and the Louis Vuitton monogram.

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Takashi Murakami, “Lionel Messi and a Universe of Flowers,” 2014, acrylic and platinum leaf on canvas laid down on board, 70 7/8 x 70 7/8 in

A notable recent exhibition is “Takashi in Superflat Wonderland” at the PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul Korea in late 2013, where some of the artist’s most iconic works were on display, including one of the artist’s “Superflat Flowers” sculptures made in 2010. Also in the exhibition was a fiberglass sculpture of “Miss Ko2”, a buxom character created by Murakami as a commentary on otaku culture, an obsession with anime and manga, and the resultant desire to have these unreal characters come to life.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Murakami is constantly innovating. In 2013, he released his first feature film, “Jellyfish Eyes”, which mixes live action with cartoon characters, with plans for a sequel.

Murakami lives and works in Tokyo.

In Brief

  • Age: 53
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • Gallery Representation: Gagosian Gallery, Blum & Poe, Galerie Perrotin, Kaikai Kiki Gallery
  • Big Break: Murakami had an international traveling retrospective, “©Murakami”, showing over 90 works by the artist that kicked off at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles in 2008. In an interview in W Magazine in April 2013, Murakami said that this exhibition was a turning point in his career, stating that he thought the conventional view before the exhibition was that he was merely an artist influenced by Japanese subculture. The exhibition was persuasive of the strength of his artworks to have a place in art history.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “My Lonesome Cowboy”, 1998, oil, acrylic, fiberglass, iron, 254 x 116.8 x 91.4cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD15.1 million, Sotheby’s, New York, May 2008

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Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998, mattress, linens, pillows, objects, 211 x 234 cm. World auction record for the artist at Christie’s, London, July 2014. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2014.

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin was born in London in 1963, and studied at Maidstone College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London, where she earned her Master’s degree in 1989.

Emin’s art is inspired by her personal life. Her artworks reflect universal emotions and are both relatable and confrontational. These are created in wide range of mediums, including, painting, photography, textile, video, installation and sculpture.

In 1999, Emin was shortlisted for the Turner Prize, an annual prize awarded to a British visual artist below the age of 50. This was for her provocative work, “My Bed”, an installation of the artist’s bed complete with liquor bottles, cigarette butts, worn underwear, condoms and rumpled stained bedsheets, the scene of a post-breakup breakdown.

Among other works by Emin are her “I’ve Got It All” photograph from 2000 showing the artist seated on the floor with ample cleavage, her legs wide open, bills and coins pressed against her crotch. She is also known for her neon light installations, which she has produced since the 1990s, featuring evocative messages such as “You Forgot to Kiss My Soul” (2001) and “You Loved Me Like a Distant Star” (2012).

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Tracey Emin

Emin has exhibited extensively. In 2007, she represented Britain at the 52nd Venice Biennale. The first major retrospective exhibition of Emin’s work opened at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2008, and traveled to Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain and the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland. In May 2011, Emin had a major survey exhibition, “Love is What You Want” at the Hayward Gallery in London.

Emin currently lives and works in London.

In Brief

  • Age 52
  • Nationality British
  • Gallery Representation Lehmann Maupin, White Cube
  • Big Break Charles Saatchi’s “Sensation” exhibition at the Royal Academy, London included Emin’s much-discussed work “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995”, which was a tent embroidered with over 100 names of people she had slept with, including 32 lovers, and 80 people she had only slept next to.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold “My Bed”, 1998, mattress, linens, pillows, objects, 79 x 211 x 234 cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD4.3 million, Christie’s, London, July 2014

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Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, 1986, oil on canvas, 300.6 x 250.5 cm. World auction record for the artist at Sotheby’s, London, February 2015. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany. He studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie, or the State Academy of Art, in Düsseldorf under the eminent German artist Karl Otto Götz from 1961 to 1964.

Richter has had an illustrious career spanning over half a century. Beginning in the 1960s, the author painted, in grey scale, renditions of blown-up blurred black-and-white photographs he had taken of still lifes, portraits and landscapes, such as “Kitchen Chair” (1965), “Helen” (1963) and possibly his most well-known work of the period, “Domplatz, Mailand” (1968), measuring nearly 3 meters by 3 meters, featuring the Cathedral Square in Milan. This iconic work appears to vibrate with Richter’s signature fuzzy blur in his photo-paintings, which had the capacity to soften or destabilize an image.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Richter created his “Colour Chart” and “Grey Paintings” series that were based on his exploration of color. “1024 Colours” was made in four unique editions, and feature neat ovoids of 1024 different colors painted in a grid at random. His “Grey Paintings” were inspired by the use of shades of the color in his photo-based paintings.

In the 1980s, Richter started to apply a squeegee across the canvas to scrape and smear freshly laid paint to create intuitive paintings that revealed hidden layers, and from the 1990s, the tool was applied both horizontally and vertically to create new possibilities in the final works.

Richter has exhibited all over the world. He had a major exhibition, “Abstract Paintings”, in 1978 at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, which traveled to the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. In 1988, the artist was given his first North American retrospective, jointly organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. The exhibition traveled to Washington and San Francisco. In 2002, a 40-year retrospective of Richter’s work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and in 2011, a major retrospective of the artist’s works opened at the Tate Modern, London and traveled to the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Richter has also participated in multiple editions of the Venice Biennale and the Documenta in Kassel since 1972.

In 2012, Richter became the most expensive living artist after his work, “Abstraktes Bild (809-4)” (1994), sold for USD33 million in London, a title he held until 2013. Most recently, in February 2015, another “Abstraktes Bild” work, this one painted in 1986, sold for USD37 million, which made him the most expensive living artist
in Europe.

Richter has lived and worked in Cologne since 1983.

In Brief

  • Age: 83
  • Nationality: German
  • Gallery Representation: Marian Goodman Gallery, Scott White Contemporary Art
  • Big Break: In 1968, Richter was commisioned by Siemens AG to make a work to hang in their Milan offices. The result was “Domplatz, Mailand” (1968), at the time the artist’s largest figurative painting, and probably the most accomplished
  • photo-painting by the artist.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Abstraktes Bild”, 1986, oil on canvas, 300.5 x 250.5cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD46.3 million, Sotheby’s, London, February 2015

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Exhibition view of Yayoi Kusama, Ota Fine Arts, Singapore. Photography by Quek Jia Liang. Image courtesy of Ota Fine Arts

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929. She moved to the United States in 1957 before moving back to Japan in 1973. Kusama has had a rich and varied career as an artist for over five decades. Her works are in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, performance and installation. Among her most well known works are the “Infinity Net” paintings she began making in the late 1950s, made by adding white arcs onto a darker background on a large canvas. The “Accumulation” sculptures came after, and feature soft-sculptures she made by stitching cotton-stuffed cloth into phallic shapes to attach to furniture and clothing, as well as her trademark polka dot designs in both two- and three-dimensional works. In her time in New York in the 1960s, she was also a performance artist who staged provocative happenings, such as painting people in the nude in her trademark polka dots.

Kusama has exhibited all over the world. In 1993, she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale, for which she created an installation with a mirror room and multiple yellow pumpkin sculptures, the beginnings of similar sculptures covered in uneven black dots. In 1998, a major retrospective of her work made in New York, opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of art before traveling to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

Notably, from 2011 to 2012, a touring exhibition of her works made its way to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Modern in London as well as the Whitney Museum in New York.

In 2012, Kusama collaborated with Louis Vuitton in an ambitious project that saw products such as leather goods and ready-to-wear fashion, in prints featuring Kusama’s signature polka dots – black polka dots against a yellow background, white against black and red against white, which took center stage in window displays of 460 Louis Vuitton stores in 64 countries, as well as seven special concept stores in Paris, London, and Tokyo.

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Yayoi Kusama, Shellfish, 1989, screenprint, 53.5 x 46 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Ota Fine Arts.

In the past decade, Kusama has created immersive installations of walk-in rooms that create disorienting experiences for the viewer. “Fireflies on the Water” (2002) features 150 lights and a pool of water in the center of a room, whose surfaces are all covered with mirrors that give multiple reflections. “Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” at the David Zwirner Gallery in late 2013 played on a similar concept with 75 colored LED lights that glimmered and pulsed in a small mirrored room. Another recent installation is “The Obliteration Room”, currently at the Queensland Art Gallery, where children add colorful dot stickers to white furniture, objects and surfaces.

Kusama lives and works in Tokyo.

In Brief

  • Age: 86
  • Nationality: Japanese
  • Gallery Representation: Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, David Zwirner Gallery
  • Big Break: Kusama has had a long and successful career, but probably became a global household name when she collaborated with Louis Vuitton in 2012, which included not only a full range of products carrying her signature polka dots, but also the window displays of the luxury fashion house’s stores in over 60 countries.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “White No. 28”, 1960, oil on canvas, 147.6 x 111.1cm. Price including buyer’s premium: USD7.1 million, Christie’s, New York, November 2014

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #463, 2007/2008, chromogenic color print, 174.2 x 182.9 cm, edition of 6. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures.

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman is an American artist born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. She graduated from State University College, Buffalo, New York, in 1976. Her photographs have seen her take on multiple roles since her first series, “Untitled Film Stills” in the late 1970s, and continuing with “Centrefolds” (1981), in which she was photographed in an intimate setting as a vulnerable character, and “Fashion” (1983-84), exploring the objectification of women in the still image. The artist is at the center of each photograph, but in different guises, as she plays with identity through dress, transforming her image through hair, make-up, costumes, props and prosthetics.

Sherman has continued to create chameleon-like transformations in performative photographic works, such as in her humorous interpretations of old master paintings as photographs between 1989 and 1990, where she became the portraits’ subjects. Another series of similar works, this time with society portraits in 2008, saw Sherman dressed as aging socialites against moneyed backgrounds. These works poked fun at the trappings of excessive wealth and the obsession with youth and on-the-surface perfection in contemporary society.

While she is most famous for her more light-hearted self-portraits in different roles, she has created a significant number of works that are darker in nature. Beginning in the mid-1980s, her body of work expanded to include the “Fairy Tales” and Disasters” series that show grotesque scenes from which the artist is mostly absent. Other dark series include “Sex and Death” in the late 19080s, photographed using disfigured mannequins, “Pure Horror” in the mid-1990s and “Clowns” in the mid-2000s.

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Cindy Sherman, “Untitled Film Stills”, gelatin silver print, 25.4 x 20.3 cm. World auction record for the artist at Christie’s, New York, November 2014. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Sherman has had numerous solo exhibitions at home and abroad since the 1980s. Of particular note is a survey at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2012, which showcased more than 170 photographs from the artist’s extensive body of work. The exhibition also included the debut of Sherman’s new photographic murals, which saw her image manipulated digitally against a decorative toile background.

Sherman lives and works in New York.

In Brief

  • Age: 61
  • Nationality: American
  • Gallery Representation: Metro Pictures, Galerie Sprüth Magers
  • Big Break: “Untitled Film Stills”, shown at the landmark performance and video space The Kitchen in New York in 1980, was Sherman’s breakthrough. In these black-and-white photos, the artist took on 69 stereotypical female roles in movies such as the housewife and the femme fatale.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Untitled Film Stills”, 1977, gelatin silver print, 25.4 x 20.3cm.
  • Price including buyer’s premium: USD6.8 million, Christie’s, New York, November 2014

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Andreas Gursky, Rhein II, 1999, chromogenic colour print face-mounted to plexiglass, 185.4 x 363.5 cm. World auction record for the artist at Christie’s, New York, November 2011. Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015.

Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1955. He first studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, formerly Folkwang Academy in Essen. He then attended the Staatliche Kunstakademie, or the State Academy of Art in Düsseldorf and studied under the influential German photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher from 1981 to 1987.

Gursky is known for his large-scale magnified photographs of varied scenes, which can measure up to 2 by 5 meters, reveal the conditions of contemporary times. Usually taken from an elevated vantage point, the artist’s photographic works are known for their stunning and often overwhelming clarity.

In the 1990s, Gursky began experimenting with digital manipulation through shooting the images on chromogenic prints, or c-prints using a large-format camera, then scanning the images for reworking on the computer to create his massive and precise photographs. One of the earliest works made this way was “Paris, Montparnasse” (1993), which showed an inhabited apartment building, and highlighted its uniformed structure and crowdedness in a commentary on the cookie-cutter mold of contemporary urban living. In “Rhein II”, Gursky merged photographs of different parts of the river together to exclude industrial activity, creating an imaginary serene landscape.

In 2011, this work became the most expensive photograph sold at auction.

A recurring theme in Gursky’s work is the effects of capitalism and globalization in contemporary society that put in place invisible systems. Perhaps his most recognizable images from the 1990s are of the Chicago Board of Trade from 1990, which, in contrast to “Rhein II”, shows a flurry of activity reflective of the trading floor’s organized chaos, with traders at the pit surrounded by circular rows of computers. In “99 Cent II Diptychon” (2001), which shows the interior of a 99 Cents Only store, the bright colors red, yellow and orange of rows of boxes were edited to jump out from the photograph, aided by the addition of a mirrored ceiling. The visually impressive work provided a stark reflection of an obsessive consumer culture in contemporary society.

From the mid-2000s, Gursky has worked on numerous projects in Asia, including Japan, Thailand, China and North Korea, among others. “Pyongyang”, a series of photographs of the annual Arirang Festival in North Korea in 2007 presented the heavily directed spectacle to the rest of the world. In taking the festival proceedings such as choreographed mass dances from a great distance, the resulting images look like colorful tapestries, and show the insignificance of the individual within the society.

Gursky has exhibited internationally. A 2001 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

In recent years, Gursky has also exhibited small photographs atypical to the rest of his oeuvre, such as in “Werke-Works 80-08,” which opened in Kunstmuseen Krefeld in Germany in 2008, and toured to Moderna Museet, Stockholm and Vancouver Art Gallery in 2009.

Gursky lives and works in Düsseldorf.

In Brief

  • Age: 60
  • Nationality: German
  • Gallery Representation: Galerie Sprüth Magers, Mai 36 Galerie, Matthew Marks Gallery
  • Big Break: Gursky acquired worldwide fame with his major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, in 2001.
  • Most Expensive Work Sold: “Rhein II”, 1999, chromogenic print, Plexiglass, 207 x 385.5 x 6.2cm.
  • Price including buyer’s premium: USD4.3 million, Christie’s, New York, November 2011

Story Credits

Text by Nadya Wang

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Bakery

Dominique Ansel is opening a colossal bakery in Tokyo

Dominique Ansel Tokyo Bakery

Dominique Ansel, who has been delighting New Yorkers with his cronuts since 2013, will open his first foreign outpost in Japan.

On June 20, a futuristic stand-alone tower in the business and fashion district of Shibuya will be dedicated exclusively to the bakery and all of the French chef’s latest creations.

The launch zone will be a stand-alone three-story tower, a rare find in Tokyo where many retail spaces are located in enormous shopping malls.

A tower of delicacies

Futuristic Dominique Ansel Tokyo Bakery

The ground floor, dedicated to retail, will be decorated in a design inspired by New York City and Paris subway stations. There, connoisseurs will be able to revel in Dominique Ansel’s creations, including the famous cronut.

At the rear of the first floor will be seating space beneath a custom work of art depicting a combination of the NYC subway and Paris metro lines.

On the second floor is a café with table service where waiters will offer a menu different from the one downstairs. The menu’s emphasis will be on eggs, in part because chef Ansel has been so impressed with the quality of the eggs in Japan.

The most curious will venture up to the third floor, where they will have the opportunity to see all of Ansel’s tasty treats being prepared behind glass walls. And based on the fervor of the Japanese for the work of Pierre Hermé and the chocolates of Pierre Marcolini, you can expect that third floor to be crawling with visitors at all times.

This Japanese outpost will join the French pastry chef’s growing network, which already includes the first store in New York’s Soho and a second one opening not far away in the West Village at the end of the month.

Noma tableware

Noma selling used forks and spoons from Tokyo pop-up

Noma tableware

Noma has opened an online store that will sell the Japanese-designed chopsticks, forks, bowls and plates used during its pop-up event in Tokyo.

Fans who couldn’t score a seat during the Danish restaurant’s five-week residency at the Mandarin Oriental this month can buy a piece of the experience from their newly opened online store.

In preparation for the temporary takeover of the hotel’s dining room, Noma chef René Redzepi commissioned 14 local Japanese artists, potters and chefs to create locally sourced tableware for his pop-up.

The result is a collection of artisanal and eye-wateringly pricey earthenware plates and bowls and organic lacquer forks and spoons.

A single pair of chopsticks is priced at $65 USD, while a single fork or spoon will set you back $200 USD.

The collection was co-curated by designer Sonya Park, also the creative director of design brand Arts & Science in Tokyo.

The pop-up event in Tokyo ends this week.

Christmas cake for Ducasse

Karl Lagerfeld creates Christmas cake for Alain Ducasse

Christmas cake for Ducasse

Chef ’s Tokyo-based eatery Beige has tapped Karl Lagerfeld to design a one-of-a kind Christmas cake for its 10th anniversary.

The creative director of Chanel, Lagerfeld chose to recreate an iconic lipstick shape combining rich flavors of caramel and dark chocolate.

STORY: ALAIN DUCASSE TO SEND FRENCH FOOD TO SPACE

Lagerfeld’s vision will become a reality in the capable hands of head pastry chef Julien Kientzler, who will take care to add the designer’s personal final touch: the interlocking Cs Chanel logo.

The limited edition pastry will be presented in an exclusive box featuring a sketch by Lagerfeld with only 100 cakes to be sold.

A representative indicated that at this point there are no plans in place to make the product available in Europe.

Collection Esprit Dior Tokyo

Raf Simons taking Dior pre-fall show to Tokyo

Collection Esprit Dior Tokyo

The  creative director will show the brand’s Pre-Fall 2015 collection in the Japanese capital in December.

After last week’s announcement that Chanel will be taking its Métiers d’Art show to Austria (Salzburg, to be precise), comes the news that Christian Dior will be heading to Japan for the same season.

According to a report by WWD, the French brand will be playing to the crowds in the Tokyo with a special show on December 11.

The brand is reportedly also readying a new store in the city’s Omotesando district, as well as an exhibition and photo book by French fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier.

The trend for international shows in between the main Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer fashion weeks is now well established.

Collection Esprit Dior Tokyo 2015

Alongside Chanel’s ventures to Dallas, Singapore and Edinburgh over the past few seasons, Dior has also travelled to Brooklyn and Monaco to show off its collections.