Sydney Contemporary 2017
What mystical elixir runs through the heart of Japanese culture that has so bewitched the Western world since 19th century Japonisme? Does ‘cool’ suffice to describe this phenomenon?
Coined by an American writer in 2002 and subsequently adopted by the Japanese government as policy in ‘Gross National Cool’, the phrase ‘Cool Japan’ represents the essence of Japan’s contemporary cultural leadership. Look at any international showing of contemporary art and see Japanese artists at the forefront. At a time when ‘the world is going to Japan’, Cool Japan is inspired by the reinvention of Japan through its urban culture. ‘Gross National Cool’ or ‘Urban Cool’ expresses the cultural dominance of Japan in multiple fields – food, fashion, graphics, architecture, anime- and questions the assumption that economic hegemony is the defining characteristic of artistic relevance. Cool Japan curates internationally acknowledged artists manifesting an enlightened original approach to their chosen genre. Defying the Western trend of denying mastery and elevating conceptual mystification, they manifest the traditional Japanese respect for material and technique through a contemporary lens. With the elegance so characteristic of Japanese art and design, these artists create work that speaks to an international contemporary spirit. Transcending ideas of national identity in art and its polarizing consequences, they challenge the definition of ‘art’ and the artificial distinction of the two and three-dimensional.
September 6 – 10