This once-every-three-years art jamboree includes major shows spread across the city. A visit to the festival is a wonderful way of engaging with the historic, vibrant and very friendly metropolis of Yokohama, fewer than 30 minutes by fast train from Tokyo. We take a look back at some of the highlights from the 2014 festival.
Mobile stage truck with artwork by Yanagi Miwa (2014) © Simon Richmond / Lonely Planet
Hidden behind a column on the way from the metro station exit at Minato Mirai to the Triennale’s main base at the Yokohama Museum of Art was the 2014 festival’s poster image: Bearlike Construction – 629 by South Korean artist Gimhongsok. Just like his 8 Breaths blue balloon sculptures, which intrigued and delighted both inside and outside the museum, the chubby bear seems to be made from stuffed plastic bags, but is in reality cast from bronze. Along with Wim Delvoye’s rusting, Gothic fantasy Flatbed Trailer, it was one of the ‘Unmonumental Monuments’ that formed the first introduction to the 2014 Triennale.
A Triennale in chapters
Artistic director Morimura Yasumasa organised the 2014 Triennale’s 400-plus artworks into 11 chapters with two introductions, the second of which dominated the lobby of the Yokohama Museum of Art. Every day during the festival, failed works of art were chucked into the giant, glass-sided Art Bin by Michael Landy, one of the best known artists of the iconoclastic YBAs (Young British Artists). The museum holds a mind-blowing range of pieces including the back-to-front printed books of the installation Fahrenheit 451 (1957) by Spanish artist Dora Garcia; and Kama Gei, the manifold creative expressions of Japan’s underclass living in Kamagasaki, Japan’s biggest slum.
Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall
Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (fukuokatriennale.ajibi.jp) had a tie-up exhibition with Yokohama of video works entitled Days After Deluge, at the Shinko Pier Exhibition Hall. Also here was Tsuchida Hiromi’s epic and moving photography series Hiroshima, documenting the A-bomb city between 1945 and 2005; the playful, cheeky glass art of American Elias Hansen; and the dramatic stage truck designed and decorated by Yanagi Miwa to be used for the play Wings of the Sun.
Prostitution was once rife in Koganechō. But since the local authorities cleaned up the red light district in 2005, this atmospheric area sandwiched between the train tracks connecting Hinoechō and Koganechō stations and the Ōka River, has sprouted galleries, art workspaces, cafes and boutiques. The annual art exhibition Koganechō Bazaar (koganecho.net) is held here. The 2014 edition, entitled Fictive Communities Asia, showcased works by around 40 young artists and groups from Japan and other (mainly) Asian countries.
Liar Ben street art collaboration with Keikyu Kids Land in Koganechō district (2014) © Simon Richmond / Lonely Planet
The Golden Tearoom
One of the most appealing things about Koganechō Bazaar is how eating, drinking and shopping can be combined with contemporary art browsing. Vietnamese street artist Liar Ben’s decorative Kogai Sugar Cane Super Machine was also a functioning sugarcane juice cart. You could experience a traditional tea ceremony in the very non-traditional Kogan-chashitsu, a gilded, geometric tearoom from which hung the cute fabric creations of Abe Taisuke.
BankART LifeIV: Dreams of East Asia
A key player in Yokohama’s inner city regeneration has been BankART1929 (bankart1929.com), which at its BankArt Studio NYK, in a former shipping warehouse, has a gallery, performance space, bookshop and cafe-bar. Its 10th anniversary show Dreams of East Asia was another cornerstone of the 2014 Triennale and included such installations as a gruesome pig’s eye dissection video by Yamashita Takuya, the poetic illuminations of British artists Anneke & Spencer, the hyperactivity of Takahashi Keisuke’s dancing projections resolving into a world map, and the mysterious stillness of Noriyuki Haraguchi’s 1200 litre pool of oil – not to mention a colony of ants beavering away as part of the artworks of Yanagi Yukinori.
Find Asia at the YCC
Further mining the rich seams of East Asian creativity was the Find Asia show at Yokohama Creativecity Center (YCC). Here were works by artists and designers from Japan, Korea and China, including Space Space, an installation by the design group NOSIGNER that recreated the view of Asia seen at night from space. Best of all was the wacky L Pack-designed Yokoso Cocowa Cafedesu, a cafe/art space occupying the grand columned hall of the former Kyu-Dai-Ichi Bank. Among the various exhibits here was a white-and-yellow ball python called Cheese-chan.
In the Zou-no-Hana Terrace cafe and exhibition hall at the waterside Zou-no-Hana Park, the Yokohama Paratriennale (paratriennale.net) brought together disabled and abled amateur and professional artists for a show covering a wide range of disciplines. Namiko Kitaura’s Revolution/Recurrence – Back to the Source, a beguiling video piece of cooking sago, was a beautiful but somewhat inscrutable piece representing that we are all the same on the inside. Other works were crafted in conjunction with Slow Label Lab (slowlabel.info), a local non-profit that creates innovative accessories, and included a series called Sing a Sewing – cloth embroidery made by residents of Yokohama’s Konan Welfare Centre.
Yokohama Triennale 2020
For tickets and full event and artist information for the next triennale in 2020, see the festival website yokohamatriennale.jp.