Due to the concerns over the outbreak of Covid-19, Roppongi Art Night 2021 scheduled for September 23–26 has been postponed. The future schedule is undecided at this time. Updates will be announced on the official website.

Takashi Murakami, the main program artist and curator of Roppongi Art Night 2021, says that this year’s festival will approach the perspective of overseas visitors, who so often see Japan as a technological amusement park. “I wonder how that will turn out?” he muses.

Murakami wants to work off of external perceptions of Japan. Citing his Uniqlo collaboration featuring Doraemon and his characteristic flowers, Murakami observes that while people in Asia showed excitement at the popular cartoon, Western reactions were more like general amusement. He describes the latter like this: “‘Oh, a crossover between Murakami’s usual flowers and some Japanese character. I’m not sure I get it, but nice!’”

Despite putting the likeness of national icon Doraemon at the center of the program, and recruiting mostly Japanese artists for the festival lineup, our curator’s aim is to consider such cultural differences in how we look at art, and what we look for in art. 

To be exhibited at Roppongi Hills Arena. ©Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Roppongi Art Night Returns after Two-year Absence

The 2020 iteration of Roppongi Art Night (RAN) was canceled due to coronavirus, making this year’s festival – titled “Magical Adventure: Find Your Art of Wonder in the Town!” – all the more anticipated.

After an online-only RAN spin-off event in February, the Roppongi area will transform into a physical exhibition this September. Or an alternate, “extreme” world. The central motif of the show will be Murakami’s new balloon sculptures of Doraemon, 10 meters tall and exhibited at Roppongi Hills Arena, Tokyo Midtown and the National Art Center, Tokyo.

The Doraemon are festooned with the artist’s signature smiling flowers – designed in collaboration with the satiric MADSAKI – with Nobita-kun and his robot companion cropping up in the pattern. 

Photo by RK (IG: @rkrkrk) ©MADSAKI/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Takashi Murakami’s Vision for Roppongi Art Night 2021

Murakami considers the new muse to be the “biggest Japanese pop icon of the 20th century.” As curator for the festival, he charged the participating artists with creating their own renditions of Doraemon.

The curator has enlisted a diverse group, and the works will range from installation to video and performance. As the pioneer of “Superflat theory,” a kind of neo-kitsch art approach that exalts anime and manga as the bases of a distinctly Japanese or non-Western perspective, it is only typical of him to push for “high-art” reimaginings of a kids’ cartoon.

Artist Lineup for Roppongi Art Night 2021

The lineup ranges from well-established figures like illustrator Aya Takano, ceramicist Otani Workshop, and MADSAKI himself; to fledgling “SNS-generation” creatives like Emi Kuraya and ob.

The participants seem to have at least one thing in common: like Murakami, they incorporate images of native pop culture or contemporary aesthetics into a unique practice.

The other participants are Kasing Lung, graphic artist and illustrator of children’s books; “neo-pop” visionary Mr.; graphic artist TENGAone; digital pioneer Chiho Aoshima; plastic artist and maker of monsters T9G; another maker of fantastical creatures, Shoko Nakazawa; ceramicist Shin Murata; and graphic designer and Kaikai Kiki newbie Yuta Hosokawa

Emi Kuraya. Photo by IKKI OGATA ©Emi Kuraya/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Roppongi Art Night Gives New Voice to Artists

In an age of reduced hours and diminished nightlife, the view of Roppongi may feel more disheartening than anything. But by revitalizing the district as a venue for contactless art appreciation, viewers will surely be left more appreciative of the city than ever.

Our perceptions of Roppongi may shift in other ways. In addition to giving voice to our artists, an aim of RAN is to give people a new way to navigate the urban sphere. How might a person unfamiliar with the area’s renown, as smart and stylish, highly commercial, fast-paced, stunning, etc., see it and Japanese culture altogether?

Essential Details

RAN will take place from September 23 to 26, at such venues as Roppongi Hills Arena; Tokyo Midtown; the National Art Center, Tokyo; 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT; the Suntory Museum of Art; Mori Art Museum, and Mori Hills. To minimize crowds, select works will be on view starting September 11. 

Feature image: ©Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.