Art Review: The Mori Arts Center/Young Video Artists
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
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
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 hallsTokyo
Opera City, Ebisu Garden Place, Ark Hillshave 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 showwhich opens
May 23 and runs through the end of the year in the MAM's temporary
exhibition venue, Think Zonefeatures 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
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