Three Art Festival to Visit in Japan in the 2nd Half of 2024

Japan’s numerous art festivals have proven to be an effective way of luring domestic and international tourists out of popular destinations and into rural parts of Japan they would have otherwise not visited. The poster child is perhaps the Setouchi Triennale, whose combination of art and island hopping has transformed an obscure region of Japan, into one of the country’s must-see destinations. Below, we present you with three lesser-known art festivals all kicking off later this year. If you have plans to visit Japan and are looking for destinations off the beaten path, consider this a sign.

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2024

(July 13 – November 10, 2024)

Established in 2000, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is considered one of the more established art festivals of Japan. And over the last 8 iterations, the festival has given birth to roughly 200 site-specific works of art. Notable works include the Yayoi Kusama’s Tsumari in Bloom, Palimpsest by Leandro Erlich, Kiyotsu Gorge’s Tunnel of Light, and The Last Classroom by Christian Boltanski and Jean Kalman (below, clockwise from top-left).

In addition to the vast portfolio of existing works, all scattered across rural Niigata, several new pieces are also joining the world’s largest open-air art festival:

Amidst a picturesque backdrop of traditional houses nestled in nature, an unexpected sight unfolds: a colossal “bubble” emerges from within the venue. Conceived by Ma Yansong, visitors are invited to step into the interior of the bubble, where they encounter a fleeting scenery that materializes exclusively during the festival.

With its walls removed, the structure of a house is laid bare. The sculptor Antony Gormley has installed 682 cords that cut through the pillars and beams of the space from walls, floor and ceiling, and condense around the volume of the artist’s body in a central polyhedral matrix.

Ilya Kabakov, who passed away last year, and his wife Emilia are ex-Soviet, American-based artists who collaborate on environments which fuse elements of the everyday with those of the conceptual. Their latest work The Rice Fields combines poetry, landscape and sculpture. The poetry describes the traditional agriculture, and sculptures of traditional rice farmers are placed on the opposite bank. Seen from a viewing platform, text and sculpture seem to form a single painting.

The large space and sheer number of artworks can make this festival feel a it intimidating. But seeing it all has never been an objective. Organizers will admit that the sprawling nature of the festival is an absolutely inefficient approach deliberately at odds with the rationalization and efficiency of modern society. The intention is to interact with the beauty and richness of the land, which serves as a canvas for art.

Northern Alps Art Festival 2024

(September 13 – November 4, 2024 )

Held every 3 year in Nagano’s Omachi City, the Northern Alps Art Festival, or NAAF for short, is nestled among the 3,000-meter-high peaks of the Northern Alps. Now in its 3rd iteration, the festival focuses on locally sourced materials and the cultural heritage of the region to create large-scale installations against the scenic alpine landscape.

This year’s theme is water, wood, earth, sky, which are both characteristics of the land and an important resource for the community. The area’s restaurants also participate in the festival, offering special menus made of local ingredients.

The festival has previously given birth to works by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett, who covered vacant houses and shops with a thin veil during the 2017 art festival, world-renowned origami artist Tomoko Fuse, Swiss artist Felice Varini, who paints on architectural structures, and the art collective Mé, who designed a space on top of Takagariyama to view the landscape of Shinano Omachi (below, clockwise from top-left).

This year the festival will invite Palestinian artist Dana Awartani to install geometric sculptures in the natural surroundings of Omachi, South-African artist Rudel Moe, who will exhibit sculptures made from local soil and bamboo in a tunnel, as well as 30 additional artists.

Forest Festival of the Arts Okayama

(September 28 – November 24, 2024)

The Forest Festival of the Arts Okayama is a newly established international art festival to be held for the first time in the fall of 2024. Inspired by the region’s lush forests, and its legacy of traditional architecture, crafts, and performing arts, festival organizers have tapped Yuko Hasegawa, curator of Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Art, as director to oversee the festival, which will reflect the diverse views of an international roster of artists.

Participating artists include Aki Inomata, whose work questions our relationships with living things, Korean conceptual artist Kimsooja, textile artist Paola Besana, and local artist Saburo Ota whose work with postage stamps reflects on memory, time and place (below, clockwise from top-left).

1 Comment

  1. The first array of four images, for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is not exactly clockwise. (The other two arrays of four images for the other two art festivals are correctly labeled, clockwise).

    The upper images are correctly labeled.
    Tunnel of Light is on the lower left. The Last Classroom is on the lower right.

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