‘Japanorama – A New Vision on Art since 1970’ marks the final exhibition in Centre Pompidou-Metz’s year-long Japanese season (September 2017 – May 2018). Curated by Yuko Hasegawa, Artistic Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, it’s the most extensive survey exhibition of contemporary Japanese art outside of Japan since Alexandra Munroe’s ‘Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky’ – which toured to The Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, The Guggenheim, New York, and San Francisco MoMA in 1994 – and Jonathan Watkins’ ‘Facts of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art’ at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2001. This exhibition, however, consciously follows on from Centre Pompidou’s own 1986 show ‘The Avant-Garde Arts of Japan 1910-70’, which examined Japanese modernity chiefly in relation to the Western avant-garde.
First the good news. “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” now appearing at the Guggenheim Museum in New York through January 7, samples China’s most fertile and challenging post-Mao period of art production in ways that are stimulating for specialists and general viewers alike. Organized by three experts intimately involved in the history they present—Alexandra Munroe, the Guggenheim’s senior curator of Asian art; Philip Tinari, director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing; and Hou Hanru, artistic director of MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Art, in Rome—the exhibition eschews a strict chronological format. Instead, it strives, through savvy and sometimes unexpected selections, creatively mixed, to convey the ferment of a time in China when liberation was in the air, anything seemed possible, and avant-garde artists, at first little appreciated (and sometimes persecuted) at home, sought to take their place in the global art system. The realization that those times have sadly changed is due in equal measure to a cultural revanchism in the People’s Republic of China and a resurgence of moral provincialism in the United States.