AFAF2022 Why we focus on Arts of Asia? Changing a city through art.

Under the theme of "City x Asian Art," three supporters of ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA talked about their experiences of presenting art from cities, the insights and changes they have gained through their experiences, and the future of a city and art.


Cast.(honorifics omitted, in alphabetical order)


 Daisuke Miyatsu
 Collector, Special Advisor, ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA


 Shunichiro Morita


 Yuto Yabumoto
 General Producer, KINAN ART WEEK, Representative, Aura Contemporary Art Foundation
 Special Supporter, ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA 2022



Always looking toward Asia and the world, we want to use art to improve the "city" under our feet.


-First of all, please introduce yourselves.


Morita: In 2015, I launched Fukuoka's first art fair while running a gallery on Keyakidori Avenue in Chuo-ku, Fukuoka City. This year will be the seventh time. In this process, I am keenly aware of the importance of the global sense and internationality of art. Now that we have fallen far behind the rest of the world in the art market, I wonder how much we can spread awareness of the fair we are promoting to those around us.


Yabumoto: My name is Yabumoto, general producer of the KINAN ART WEEK.

Mr. Miyatsu gave me the opportunity to start an art project in Kinan, the southernmost part of Honshu in Wakayama Prefecture, last year. I have a law firm in various parts of Asia, and my interest in Asian folklore and mythology has led me to immerse myself in the world of contemporary art. Having lived in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and other countries for more than a dozen years, I wondered what I could do for Asia beyond business and economics, and established the Aura Contemporary Art Foundation to support art and culture in Asia. I have been collecting mainly Asian video works with the advice of my mentor, Mr. Miyatsu.


Miyatsu: My title is, first of all, collector. For example, I am a university professor, museum board member, artistic director of Mr. Yabumoto's KINAN ART WEEK last year, and chief director of this year's Fukuoka Art Next Week, among many other things. That is my identity.

I am 59 years old this year, and I don't know when I will be welcomed back, but I was raised by art, and I want to give back to art. The country is too big for me to handle. I honestly believe that Fukuoka is too big, but if there is something good that can be done through art from the "city," I would like to do my best to get involved without regard to profit or loss.

I met Mr. Morita when he came to Kaohsiung, Taiwan to ask for my help in picking up some people around the time ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA was being launched.

I met Mr. Yabumoto for the first time in Cambodia as a go-between for a local gallerist. Mr. Morita mentioned the word "global," and although we are a small company, our eyes are always on Asia and the world. That is why I want to improve the "city" from the feet up, and I hope that good things will happen to everyone through art. I am sorry, this is a bit like a closing introduction (laughs).


Morita: I wanted the Fukuoka Art Fair to be connected with the global art scene, not just a local fair. That's when Mr. Miyatsu, who is a world-class collector and has a great connection with the world, was the first person that came to mind. There were many reasons why I thought that among the many collectors, it had to be Mr. Daisuke Miyatsu.

I went to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to ask Mr. Miyatsu to help make Fukuoka one of the world's art fairs, even though the city is not as big as Tokyo or Osaka. I have good memories of the fact that it was difficult to find a good time to talk to Mr. Miyatsu because of his great popularity there.


Going Local Leads to the Global

©︎Khvay Samnang, Courtesy of Tomio Koyama Gallery
Source of photo: Aura Contemporary Art Foundation HP(


Miyatsu:When I first met Mr. Yabumoto, I thought I was the only person in Japan who was collecting contemporary art from Asia. Everyone had the misconception that Asia was behind the times, tacky and uncool.

Mr. Yabumoto is a bit of a dilettante (pardon the pun!) who ran off to Cambodia on his own after leaving university. But your courageous action led to success, and you have started a large scale collection of Asian art in the past few years.

He has also held collection exhibitions such as "Zomi-Trans-local Migrants on the water - Contemporary Art from the Mekong Region" in Osaka, "Anarco Animism" in Miyagi, and KINAN ART WEEK "Komoru Muro Hiraku Kinan" in his birthplace, hoping to improve the cities through art. He is also very motivated to improve a city through art.

Could you tell us a little about why you chose Asia and why you held your exhibition in Osaka?


Yabumoto: First of all, I was very much influenced by the work of Khvay Samnang in Cambodia. Until then, I had thought that the standard for overseas business was to invest in a growing market with a growing population, localize, mass produce, and introduce products and services to the expanding market, or to profit from the gap between supply and demand for labor costs. However, my thinking changed dramatically as I observed the activities of contemporary artists in Samnang, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and other countries. For example, in the contemporary art world in Cambodia, the domestic market is almost zero, and due to censorship issues, free expression is not allowed, visas are not easy to obtain, and it is not easy to move outside the country. In this sense, I was very interested in their ecology, wondering "how they survive. The works created in such an environment, risking their lives, coupled with their unique folklore, myths, stories, etc., are highly appreciated on a global level. I believe that it is because of its realistic place and action value with no alternative possibilities that it is exported with intensity all over the world. Looking at this structure, I was convinced that reexamining the history and culture unique to the region in depth again, that is, going deeper into the local, will lead to joining the global world (see here for details). In order to confirm this source and hypothesis, we began a collection of works, interviewing and talking directly with artists from various Asian countries as time permitted. We then developed the "KINAN ART WEEK" in order to successfully communicate this fact and what we learned there to the people of the "town".

What is even more interesting is that Cambodia has only a traditional art university, and there is almost no other art education system in the country. Artists who deviate from that world have not received, or have no way to receive, specialized education in the first place, so they can hardly paint or do anything else. As a result, they often express themselves through media and performances that do not require special painting or sculpting techniques. Herein lies the true appeal of contemporary Asian art.

In addition, because objects such as paintings may be confiscated, destroyed, or destroyed by censorship, media works and performances have been effective in this context. It is against this background that the Foundation's video collection is so large.

Regarding your question, "Why do we have the exhibition?", we want to convey the intensity of these Asian artists, whose backgrounds are completely different from those of Japan, and the different new principles and thoughts that they bring to the table. Also, and this overlaps with Mr. Miyatsu's, in our collection, we have relationships with special artists, our own research (I am currently studying Asian art and folklore academically in the doctoral process of a graduate school). ), the possibility of curation based on that research, and the fact that we have a complete set of video equipment for exhibitions, we have recently been receiving many opportunities to participate in exhibitions and art festivals in Japan.


Miyatsu: Morita-san has been running a gallery in Fukuoka for many years and has held exhibitions of Kyushu School and Singaporean artist Zai Kuning. How did you become attracted to their works and what was your inspiration?


Morita: I have known Zai since I organized the opening of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum with the late musician Toru Saito. He was a performer in the show "Ombak Hitam.

As for the "Kyushu School," doing the art fair had a huge impact on me, and in 2015 I learned the reality that many of the Japanese galleries that participated in the fair were leaving most of their sales to other countries. For me, Kyushu-ha was about art that could be accepted in the global art market. What Mr. Miyatsu and Mr. Yabumoto are saying is that if you push through the local, it will lead to the global. Looking at the current trends, I am convinced that my focus on the "Kyushu school" was not a mistake.


The Power of "Strangers" to Change


Miyatsu: As Fukuoka Mayor Soichiro Takashima says in his book, "It is the young, the foolish, and the strangers who change the world. I think the term "young people" refers to those who are daredevils because of their youth, "fools" are those who are outside the norm, and "strangers" refer to those who come from outside the community, whether it is an industry, a field, or a region.

Morita-san, you were initially an outsider in Fukuoka and now you are a person inside the community.


Morita: I have been in Fukuoka for half of my life, but from the perspective of the local people, I am a stranger. In reality, the government is involved in working with local people, but I think that the Japanese way of doing things and the way the government is structured make it very difficult to try new things.

I am good at following the rules that were established yesterday, but I feel that it is very difficult to try something new.

I happen to be focusing on the Kyushu-ha right now, and I think, destruction and creation, the Kyushu-ha was a group that continued to be such an avant-garde. I hope that by holding an art fair, which is a new experiment for Fukuoka, something like that kind of momentum will propagate.


Miyatsu: How about you, Mr. Yabumoto? You are a stranger in Asia, and I don't think you are a "stranger" in Kinan, but I think you want to come back and change your hometown.


Yabumoto: It is true that Kinan is my hometown, so it is easy for me to do some things, but at the stage of bringing contemporary art to the area, I may be seen as a kind of "stranger" (someone who does not know what they are thinking) by the local people (laughs). In terms of anthropology and folklore, which I study at university, it is said that folklore is the world seen from the inside, while anthropology is the world seen from the outside. And I think the most interesting thing is actually this "in-between" between inside and outside. Personally, I find it most interesting to look at both perspectives from the margin, or the edge, between anthropology and folklore. In other words, I am originally from Kinan, but half of my life since then has been Cambodian, so looking at things from that "margin" seems to bring up "values" and "history" that no one had noticed yet, and "stories" that had been erased. To answer your question, I would like to take these "small stories" as a starting point and take my time, without haste, rather than "change something.


Miyatsu: Indeed, I think that for people in Kinan, there is a point where they wonder whether Mr. Yabumoto is from Asia or from a big Japanese city like Osaka or Tokyo, or perhaps even from their hometown. On the other hand, what I have experienced firsthand is the high expectations for Mr. Yabumoto from the local people when he produced the KINAN ART WEEK. As Mr. Morita mentioned earlier, there is a tendency among Japanese people, regardless of the government, to want to change things, but to avoid change.

In terms of ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA, you say, "My half century has been here in Kyushu," but you are originally from Kanagawa Prefecture, aren't you?

From that point of view, there is now the question of what roots are and what acclimatization means, but I think that what is taken for granted when you are there is no longer taken for granted when you have a little bit of outside elements.

When I first became a university professor, I was often criticized with a kind of disdain, saying, "Because he is a collector," or "Because he is a salaryman. I was discriminated against in a certain way, but on the contrary, I am a KY, and I thought that was my good point. It's like, "That's my selling point.

I think that having a different element is very useful when changing something. I'm not saying that outsiders are all good, but I do believe that such an element is often necessary.

Especially since contemporary art is a raw material, I think it is better for those who handle raw materials to be a little different from others.


Yabumoto: It is precisely because of "power" and "systems" that the world is becoming smaller and smaller, and the edges of the world are being eroded. As Mr. Miyatsu said earlier, it is the "young," "outsiders," and "idiots" who can bring in different principles that can change things. I am neither a lawyer nor an art expert, but I am a "nobody," and I would like to continue to introduce different principles while redefining the world from this "in-between" point of view. This idea and contemporary art seem to go together very well. This is the source of my motivation for my current collection, exhibitions, and art projects.


Fukuoka and Kinan, "cities" have abundant "capital"

Miyatsu: Why did you decide to return to Kinan and organize the KINAN ART WEEK when you did not have to return to Kinan?


Yabumoto: There are many reasons, but like Kyushu, Kinan, Wakayama Prefecture is full of "capital" that is outside the framework of existing society and institutions. By the way, I am neither "degrowth" nor "anti-capitalism. I think that many people think of "capital" only in terms of industrialized and trivialized "capital," such as cash, real estate, and stock certificates.

I believe that "capital" is a concept with a very broad range. For example, plants, animals, and the human body are capital, as is a certain place, and the god on that place, I believe. I believe that we simply need to operate the "capital" in our daily lives and routines autonomously, in other words, we just need to do "capitalism" in the usual way.

From this perspective, the "Mikan Collective" is trying to shake things up by utilizing "oranges. The word "capitalism" is derived from the Latin word "caput," meaning "head" or "tip of the pistil (fruit). That's right. In today's world, everyone sees only the fruit. In this sense, we plan to hold the KINAN ART WEEK 2022 "Mikan Mandala" exhibition as a movement to rethink "fruit supremacy" and turn our attention to "trees" and "roots. And since "Kinan/Kumano" is the "land of roots," isn't it the best place to think beyond the fruit? Sorry. I got carried away (laughs).


Miyatsu: Thank you very much. I am looking forward to this year's exhibition. On the other hand, Morita-san, why did you dare to hold an art fair in Fukuoka?


Morita: Originally, it was not from such a big idea, but a hotel group in Fukuoka was looking for a new project. When I told them about the art fair, they suddenly asked me to do it in six months.

At that time, there were less than 30 galleries participating, but most of them were galleries that often exhibited at fairs in Japan and abroad. I was told by several gallerists that art fairs are something to participate in, not something to do. Now that I know how hard it is to run an art fair, those words are painfully familiar to me.

I also learned that most of the sales of major galleries in Tokyo and Osaka are from overseas. The more I ventured out of the galleries and the more I learned about the world, the more I felt the need for art for Japanese people. I sometimes felt that the meaning of art was somehow diminishing for us, but it was also true that something very rewarding was emerging.

Fukuoka is home to the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, which is highly acclaimed by the Asian community. If we could do it at the Hotel Okura next door, we could create a three-dimensional event that would attract more Asian visitors. Then there were times when I felt the connection between museums and fairs up close at fairs in Asia, and I was very envious. I had hoped to realize this in Fukuoka someday, and I am happy to say that this year the fair will be held simultaneously with the special exhibition "Emotional Asia: Miyatsu  Daisuke Collection x Fukuoka Asian Art Museum" (Fukuoka Asian Art Museum), in which Mr. Miyatsu is involved.

The sense of feeling art will surely help people clarify the feelings of happiness and other emotions in their hearts. Because their thoughts become clearer, they will develop the capacity to grasp their dreams. I have a strong feeling that the more such people increase, the more affluent and happy the environment will become, and that art can change the world. This is fun for me and gives me a certain sense of fulfillment.


We want to increase the thrill of art in the hearts of the ordinary people who gather in the town.

Miyatsu: You are planning to hold the second KINAN ART WEEK this year.


Yabumoto: Kinan has rich tourism resources, and some people in the region expect us to provide what they call "entertainment," so I have received comments such as "it's just too difficult" and "it's maniacal. I think that is just a different role, and that is fine, but on the other hand, some people who normally live in the "town" commented that they were waiting for a project with depth and were grateful for the opportunity to think deeply about it. This may still be the opinion of a few, but I would like to take the time to do something that will put air in the soil of the "town". This year, we will be asking the question, "Why have humans walked with oranges?" Why do we put oranges on top of Kagamimochi? I am very happy to receive more and more simple questions like these, and I would like to increase the number of such "town" associates.


Miyatsu: Mr. Morita, I believe that visitors have been coming to ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA from all over Japan and other Asian countries over the years.


Morita: Actually, at the first Art Fair, one of the most common questions from visitors was "Can I buy artworks here? Morita: Actually, at the first art fair, one of the most common questions from visitors was "Can I buy art here? Until now, for many Japanese people, art was something to be appreciated, not purchased. But at fairs held in Asian countries, visitors are filled with adrenaline. I am sure that if you were just looking at art, you would not get adrenaline. Art is supposed to be more exciting and exciting. You wonder how many of the artists in your collection are spreading their wings right now, or if you can visit a gallery and see a little bit of the prices. Or, if the price had gone up, even a little, at the venue, no one would feel bad. That alone would make one's heart skip a beat. I would like to do my best to make this fair a place where art becomes more accessible by increasing the sense of excitement about art.


I hope that experiencing real art at ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA will be a catalyst for change for each and every one of us


-Lastly, Mr. Miyatsu, could you tell us about your expectations for ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA and your vision for the future?


Miyatsu: To put it simply, I think the majority of Japanese people have a misunderstanding of Asian art. I think that most people who have not had a chance to see it properly think that it is behind that of the West. However, to borrow Mr. Yabumoto's words, although Samnang's works are not taken seriously at all in Japan, they are very valuable when they are shown to the rest of the world.

To put it bluntly, when you pursue the local, you become global. And excellent Asian contemporary art has the strength to be appreciated at a high price anywhere in the world. I believe that when you look at art with a blank mind, you will discover amazing excellence.

People talk about "city revitalization" and "town revitalization," but it is each and every citizen, each and every individual, that makes a city or town what it is. I think it is very meaningful if even just one or two individuals feel something or have a slight change in their hearts when they see an excellent work of art. It may sound a little bit like a cliché to say that knowing, seeing, and experiencing true art works that are not fake or "art-like" at ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA will enrich one's life, but I will be happy if it triggers a slight change in one's mind. I would be happy if it could be a trigger for a small change in your life.