An image from our inaugural issue of Oscar Aiwa's Black and Light, 2019, marker pen drawing on immersive balloon, Cadillac House Gallery, New York.
A Note of Appreciation from Kyoko Sato, Editor-in-Chief
By Kyoko Sato, January 10, 2024
What a journey this past year has been, and I'm truly thankful for your presence throughout. The idea of starting a publication dedicated to Japanese art had been on my mind for a while. Last July, I took the first step in making that idea a reality with Japan Contemporaries. Starting off with a simple PDF concept, we officially launched online in August, supported by a small and dedicated team. Despite commencing without funding, our initial goal was humble: to release a new article every 6 weeks. However, fate had other plans for us. Since August, we've blown past that goal, delivering 8 articles, two short films, and introducing an artist portfolio page that highlights the works of some of Japan's most talented individuals.
The roots of this project are deeply personal. Having navigated the challenges of the pandemic, I returned to Japan in the summer of 2022—a homecoming marked by a reunion with my mother, whom I hadn't seen since 2018. To my surprise, the passage of only four years had left a visible mark on her. I’ve been living in New York for the past 20 years and during that time I did not see my family as much as I wished I had. To bridge the gap I knew I had to return more often and decided I’d begin looking at artists in Japan as a way to bring me back.
Having lived in New York and aimed to navigate the global art scene, I had spent years collaborating with non-Japanese art professionals. However, this homecoming made me realize the importance of my Japanese roots. Despite the diverse influences in my artistic perspective, there was a unique connection to my homeland that I couldn't ignore.
Upon reacquainting myself with Tokyo, I found myself immersed in the world of art. It was eye-opening to witness the vibrant creativity of young artists in their 20s and 30s. What astonished me even more was the fact that their works were selling out rapidly, despite the lingering effects of the pandemic. The art scene in Japan was pulsating with life and energy, a stark contrast to the challenges we had collectively faced.
With this insight, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. Why not use my skills, experiences, and networks to contribute to the burgeoning art scene in Japan? It seemed like a natural progression, combining the lessons learned in the global arena with a desire to nurture the artistic spirit of my motherland.
From the moment I made the decision to work for Japan again, things began to fall into place in an extraordinary way. I've always believed that when I pray for something positive, especially for the people I care about, the universe responds. This belief was reinforced in the fall of 2022 when Motoichi Adachi, entered my life. With Adachi I decided to launch an online magazine dedicated to Japanese and Japanese inspired art. Japan Contemporaries was born!
For the inaugural issue, Adachi challenged me to conduct an interview with a top artist, and I knew just the person—my friend, the extraordinary Oscar Oiwa, (photographed by Joseph Fraia) whom I fondly call a superman for his abilities that transcend imagination. Since August, along with the 8 articles, we began a short film series on the artists we profile directed by Jake Price and have held multiple exhibits. Jonathan Goodman, a distinguished art critic specializing in Asian art, joined us in the summer with an article on "Japan’s Anime Sweeping the World" at the Nippon Club in New York. Yusuke Wakata designed our stand out logo. And to close out 2023, artist Masa Hosojima joined us to review the closing performance at Japan Society, "Cage Shock: Homage to John Cage’s First Japan Visit."
I express my deep appreciation to all contributors, including the artists who have shared their talents. Our innovative energy has been the driving force behind Japan Contemporaries, and as we step into 2024, I look forward to bringing on more great professionals and sponsors to contribute to our journey. Together, we aim to create waves that resonate across the global art scene, particularly in New York. Returning readers can expect to uncover the most exciting developments in the Japanese art scene, interwoven with the broader tapestry of the world art scene. It's a remarkable experience that I am privileged to share with countless people, and I look forward to the continued reach and impact of Japan Contemporaries.
Kyoko Sato, Editor-in-Chief, has written for Art Review City, Shukan NY Seikatsu, New York Standard on Gallery Tagboat and ONBEAT. She founded the Asian Programming at WhiteBox, and served as its director from 2018 to 2021.