Art Review: The Mori Arts Center/Young Video Artists Initiative

Computer rendering of Mori Art Museum interior

Roppongi "culture" (wink wink, nudge nudge) is about to change. Don't worry, the hostess clubs and pick-up bars aren't going anywhere. But the Mori Arts Center is coming soon to the Mori Building Company's ¥260 billion Roppongi Hills development, currently under construction.

Mori's new Roppongi is already sporting an impressive trophy case of nearly complete shiny office towers, chic condos, Japanese gardens, and a grand hotel. And like Guggenheim, Getty and other moguls before him, real estate developer Minoru Mori is finally turning some of his riches into art. Opening October 2003, the new Mori Arts Center (MAC) will feature really "high" culture, occupying the top five floors of the 54-story Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed centerpiece of Roppongi Hills.

The MAM will sit atop the Roppongi Hills' centerpiece office tower
David Elliott, director of the Mori Art Museum

The top two of those floors will house the Mori Art Museum (MAM). Englishman David Elliott, appointed director last year following five years at Stockholm's state-owned Moderna Museet, sees the new, private art center becoming the cultural hub of not only Roppongi Hills but all of Tokyo.

Other urban renewal projects with museums and/or concert halls—Tokyo Opera City, Ebisu Garden Place, Ark Hills—have had mixed results. Elliott says Roppongi Hills/MAC is different because everything is conceptually integrated. And it emphasizes the importance of culture by placing it literally above business. "What we've got here is an art museum at the top of a huge 28 acre development. That says something about priority and economics." Mori could have easily rented the prestigious top floors. "But they decided, 'No, we are going to make this a public facility,'" says Elliott.

In addition to displaying contemporary visual and media art, design, and architecture, this new art beacon will commission artwork, organize art education programs, coordinate artist and curator exchanges, conduct research, publish and, in general, stimulate the Japanese contemporary art scene. "The fact that this amount of resources is going into contemporary culture is bound to have an impact," he says.

According to Elliott, Tokyo already has good museums, curators, and artists. But it lacks strong support, especially funding, and a center for cultural discourse. "This will be a very important role for the museum to take on ... to be a center for discussion, a focus for activity," he says. Rather than competing with contemporary art spaces like the Hara Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Elliott sees MAM/MAC providing mutual benefits. "It's an accreditation and consolidation of what already exists," he says.
Education is key to establishing an informed audience invested in the experience of contemporary art, according to Elliott. "People need the information and tools to appreciate their own culture better," he says. The MAC will allow people to participate in contemporary culture via exhibitions, lectures, discussions, continuing education programs, and public art.

The museum also wants to encourage young artists and designers. Young Video Artists Initiative, the MAM's first "pre-event," does that. Elliott selected eight prize-winners (¥300,000 each) and 14 runners-up from an open competition. The show—which opens May 23 and runs through the end of the year in the MAM's temporary exhibition venue, Think Zone—features animation, claymation, film, and pieces that will be projected onto the white floors.

Is this the first of other Mori-sponsored competitions? Will the museum collect? Many details of the MAM program still await decision. For now, Elliott is busy enough hiring curators, planning his first show, "Happiness," and relishing the challenge of building the new museum from the ground up.

Think Zone
Roppongi stn (Hibiya, Toei Oedo lines), exit 1. Zone Roppongi Bldg, Roppongi 6-2-31. Daily 6-10pm. Tel: 03-5770-8824. www.zoneroppongi.com. For information on Roppongi Hills, check www.mori.co.jp

Photo credit: Mori Art Museum

B u y  i t  o n l i n e !
The Prado Paintings

ART ARCHIVE:
449: Between Reality and Dreams: 19th Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum
448: Quobo: Art in Berlin 1989-99
447: Scandinavian Landscape Painting in the 19th Century
446: Peter Bellars: Par for the Course
445: Doug Aitken: New Ocean
444: Andrea Zittel: A-Z Garments Series
443: Sebastiao Salgado: Exodus
442: Dumb Type: Voyages
441: Tadanori Yokoo: All Things in the Universe
440: Jean-Marc Bustamante: Private Crossing
439: Joan Miro : 1918-1945
438: Modern Paintings of Mongolia
437: Manit Sriwanichpoom: Bangkok in Pink
436: French Drawings from the British Museum: From Fontainebleau to Versailles
435: Muneteru Ujino: Japan Series
434: Photography Today 2: Site/Sight
433: Rirkrit Tiravanija and Raymond Pettibon
432: Three Young Artists from Korea
431: Dynastic Heritage of Korea
430: Seoul Pop
429: Dreams & Goals
428: Since Godzilla
427: Yoshihiro Suda + Tetsuya Nakamura: Un Monde Revé de la Main
426: GA Houses Project 2002
425: Sesshu: 500th Anniversary
424: Luis Barragan: The Quiet Revolution
423: The Mori Arts Center/Young Video Artists Initiative
422: The Adventures of Tintin
421: Session - Super Eccentric of Japan's Warring States Period
420: Jorge Pardo
419: Artists Without Borders
418: Dennis Hollingsworth
417: Masterworks from the Prado Museum
416: JAM: Tokyo-London
415: Digital Beauties
414: Arika Someya
413: MOMAT
412: NW House
411: Mariko Mori
410: Sonia Delaunay
409: Buckminster Fuller
408: Wusheng Wang
407: Tokyo Architecture #2
406: Tokyo Architecture #1
405: The Art Ahead
404: Table Manners
403: Tom Sanford at Tomoya Saito Gallery
402: Nambanga: An Anthology of World Manga
401: Masterworks from MoMA
400: Spencer Tunick: Nude Adrift

Issues 500+
Issues 499-
Issues 399-

 

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