• Tokyo
  • Japan
  • 2007-01-14

Imagine a sparse white room and in your mind fill it with art objects. Next replace the white room with an empty hotel room and multiply this by 39. Voila, you have Art@Agnes. Over last weekend the hotel ( Agnes Hotel in Kagurazaka, Tokyo) transformed itself into a buzzing hive of contemporaneous activity. Playing host to a plethora of hip Tokyo-based Galleries the art fair attracted the young (one foot high children toddled around) the bold and the beautiful. It was an occasion to experience intimate displays of selected art works in bedrooms and bathrooms throughout the hotel.

This is precisely what made the whole experience fascinating. Art as a response to a partiular situation has a long president within the artistic canon. From the first cave dwellers to the modern context driven installations people have responded to their surroundings and histories by creating images and objects. In this case though, the hotel provided a narrative neutrality. Instead of a white space there were identical white carpeted rooms making the whole experience less white cube than Ikea.

It was an occasion to experience intimate displays of selected art works in bedrooms and bathrooms throughout the hotel.

The white sheets and sparkling taps when viewed as a backdrop to a huge variety of mediums became hypnotic and slightly disconcerting. Rather like being in the film Groundhog Day it was easy to get the sense of dejavu. In Room 402 the Kodama Gallery exhibited large wooden layered sculptures filling up most of the room entirely. Room 303 (B.T.A.P x TOKYO Gallery) exhibited some delightful mi nature men by Francesco de Molfetta and Room 502’s Gallery koyanagi played host to Rei Naitos minimal fabric installation. However, the one piece which was a real contextual treat was found in Room 305. People queued outside not really knowing why. Once allowed in instead of a room filled with daylight and various artistic wares the curtains were closed and the neon bulb revealed the faces of a room full of staring people clothed in white hotel issue bathrobes. At this point the room was uncomfortably full and people held back wanting to leave a natural space between themselves and these eerie strangers. Apprehension and a sense of invaded space were brought to the fore as the performers remained motionless and staring. As the staring continued some viewers bowed their heads or laughed uncomfortably. Suddenly the main light was turned off: the side lamp revealed half of the performers had collapsed to the floor while a few remained standing miming some unknown action as if in a trance. I wanted to leave but I was trapped in the room like a sardine and couldn’t get away. The performance lasted maybe 10 minutes in total and made a very strong impression both silly and strange and weirdly alluring.

European artists such as Gerhardt Richter exhibiting some painted photos, Maya Hewitt’s wonderful anime paitings and Janaina Tschape with various Ophelia inspired video and bookworks were represented alongside Japanese Artists living abroad such as the talented Hiraki Sawa with a few of his technically brilliant and poignant films such as Migrations and Elsewhere. The latter was a treat in the midst of an overwhelming array of things. The work itself ranged in price from a mere 10,000 yen (around 50 pounds/25dollars) making the fair both affordable and enjoyable. “More please sir”, I am happy to say.

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