The 3rd Triennale of Kogei In Kanazawa, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan
Theme: Kogei as Contemporary Art: Future Evolution
Competition: 2017 Kogei World Competition in Kanazawa
Special Exhibition: Kogei Collections in Kanazawa
January 21 through to February 11, 2017
The 3rd Triennale of Kogei in Kanazawa was delivered in actuality from the middle of 2016. The triennale has been organized around the world competition, publicising the event globally. As emphasised in the title of the event, the word “kogei” is distinctively noticeable. Unlike other material-maker based events around the world Kanazawa, Japan, a city known for its tradition in making and handcrafting metal, glass, ceramics, textiles and more, decided to use the authentic Japanese term “kogei”, a term perhaps there is no substitute in the English language. The triennale first began in 2010, initiated much to the endeavor of Director Yuji Akimoto of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. He realized the importance of combining contemporary art with kogei, the city’s historic root. Each time a theme is given and this time it focused on the notion of “Kogei as Contemporary Art: Future Evolution”, a title most apt as it is the focus of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
The competition was publicised and promoted in the early part of 2016 and it received some 600 applicants from all around the world (UK, USA, Korea, Japan and more). Six judges were invited to conduct the screening (Ronald T. Labaco, independent curator and former curator of the Museum of Art and Design in New York, USA; Ohi Toyasai, Ceramic Artist and Recipient of the Order of Culture, a member of the Japan Art Academy; Nakagawa Mamoru an intangible cultural property in metal work; Karasawa Masahiro, Chief Curator of Craft, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan; Akimoto Yuji, Director, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa and myself). It underwent two screenings, the first was in August 2016 (online screening) and the final one was done on site in Kanazawa in November 2016.
There was one Grand Prize, one Merit Prize and six Special Recognition Awards selected in particular by the six judges. The Grand Prize was given to Igawa Takeshi, a lacquer artist; the Merit Prize to Nakamura Hiromine, a doll maker and the Special Recognition Awards went to Tsumori Hidenori (given by Ronald T. Labaco) using mixed materials, Kuroda Sachiko (given by Hyeyoung Cho) lacquer wearable objects, Ogi Takuya (Karasawa Masahiro) ceramics, Kise Hiroshi (given by Ohi Toyasai) working in metal, Omura Shunji (Nakagawa Mamoru) glass, and finally Nara Yuki (given by Akimoto Yuji) ceramics.
Having taken part in all the events organised for the triennale, it seemed that the competition proved to be an effective way of exposing hidden talents in particular in Japan. This time there were more international applicants than usual, with the participation of Ronald T. Labaco and myself. The competition is an effective way of gathering interesting pieces in one place at the same time as understanding the current tendency of the genre. The most interesting factor was to see that certain aspects of Kogei in Japan, remains true to its heritage and tradition as there is a distinctive Japanese sensibility that reflects on the lineage of Japan’s kogei history—the co-existence of tradition and modern is apparent. Furthermore, makers specializing in different materials are respected in Japan with a market for collection. This is something that is not so prominent in Korea.
Finally, the term “kogei” means more than making or production, in the Japanese sense. It is a way of life and aesthetics that can be found in paintings, ceramics and even tea ceremony. The term is rather complex, although initially it references to “artisan craft”, through centuries of practice it encompasses more than simply the notion of making and material embracing culture and aesthetics. Therefore, for the exhibition Future Forward, looking at craft and design in correlation to one another, the term “kogei” was used directly. This was discussed extensively at the symposium for the triennale, leaving the conclusion open for further discourses in the future.
It will be interesting to see how the triennale develops and progresses in the future as Japan is currently attempting to become more global with it authentic kogei traits. The special exhibition presenting the kogei collection of Kanazawa was inspiring. Again the exhibition embraced tradition with what is happening today, through the works of contemporary makers.
Definitely, lacquer and glass proved to be a strong point in contemporary Japanese kogei. Moreover Japan continues its tradition in doll making which is an important part of their everyday life.