Southeast Asian Contemporary Art Staged in Tokyo

When it comes to contemporary art, the spotlight is often put on Western art. Until recently, the attention is diverted by the rise of Southeast Asian art. The National Art Center, Tokyo, joins hands with Mori Art Museum to hold exhibition“SUNSHOWER: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now,” to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

Strange Fruit, the National Art Center, Tokyo

The curatorial team took two and a half years conducting research in the 10 ASEAN member countries – Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Myanmar and Laos, to select over 190 pieces from 86 contemporary artists. Among all the exhibits, Singaporean artist Lee Wen’s Strange Fruit is undoubtedly one of the highlights.

Lee Wen’s series of Journey of a Yellow Man

When you take a close look at the photo, you may notice a yellow-skinned man holding a dome of lanterns. That’s Lee Wen. The Singaporean artist started his performance art of the series Journey of a Yellow Man in 1992, covered himself with yellow paint all over the body only with his underwear on. Strange Fruit is one of the work from this series. Lee Wen thinks that, the colour yellow carries different meanings under different context. It can be associated with the Dragon Robe wore by Chinese emperors, temples, erotic culture, or fire engines. This series of work were aimed to explore its diverse symbolic meanings.

Navin Rawanchaikul’s A Tale of Two Homes, the National Art Center, Tokyo

Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul also took a bold move to make a replica of his father’s shop, located at Varorot Market in Chiang Mai, at the gallery together with the paintings of his family members, relatives and other shopkeepers from the market. His work displays a sense of localism.

FX Harsono’s Voice Without a Voice / Sign, the National Art Center, Tokyo

Indonesian artist FX Harsono created 9 panels of hand gesture, which altogether spell out the Indonesian word D-E-M-O-K-R-A-S-I in sign language, meaning “democracy”. A stool is put in front of each canvas with a rubber stamp of the corresponding letter and a piece of paper. Visitors are invited to stamp the word D-E-M-O-K-R-A-S-I.

Malaysian artist Liew Kung Yu’s City of Towering Columns, from the series Proposals for My Country, Mori Art Museum

Sunshower refers to the phenomenon of rain falling from clear skies and it somehow shares resemblance with ASEAN countries. After World War II, Southeast Asian countries called for decolonization and democracy while trying to make progress in economic development. Sunshower serves as a metaphor for the vicissitudes of the region.

The National Art Center, Tokyo and Mori Art Museum showcase different set of artwork for the exhibition. Visitors have to go to both places in order to see the complete collection. It should not be too much trouble as it takes only around 15 minutes to walk from one side to another. Besides, there are several subway stations to get off near both places. So visitors can also buy ticket for both venues offered for an easy access to the National Art Center, Tokyo and Mori Art Museum.


「SUNSHOWER: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now」

Date: 2017/7/5 - 10/23
Venue: The National Art Center, Tokyo and Mori Art Museum
Ticket for both venues: JPY 1,800
Student’s ticket for both venues (College / University): JPY 800
Ticket for single venue (either the National Art Center, Tokyo or Mori Art Museum): JPY 1,000
Student’s ticket for single venue (either the National Art Center, Tokyo or Mori Art Museum): JPY 500
Free admission: Students under 18 years old/ disabled persons plus one accompanied person (valid form of ID required)

The National Art Center, Tokyo

Opening hours:
Sunday to Thursday│10am - 6pm
Friday to Saturday│10am - 9pm
(Closed on Tuesday)
Address: 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8558
Enquiries: +81 3-5777-860

Mori Art Museum
Opening hours:
Sunday to Monday, Wednesday to Saturday│10am - 10pm
Tuesday│10am - 5pm
Address: 53F, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-6150
Enquiries: +81 3-6406-611