Lecture: Reiko Tomii: Why 1960’s Japanese Art? Global Implications for Contemporary Art History
April 8, 2009

In 1994, the landmark exhibition Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky introduced a variety of vanguard practices to New York audiences. During this period, the study of postwar Japanese art history steadily progressed in a changing atmosphere, which was becoming increasingly globalized and receptive to the idea of “world art history” or “global art history,” whichever rubric one may adopt.

The “multiplicity” and “contemporaneity” that characterize today’s globalized contemporary art practices were already evident in the 1960s, albeit on a smaller scale. Japanese art from the 1960s figures prominently in this context. A new set of questions then arises: How do we understand the radicalism of 1960’s Japanese art on a broader scale and in a global context? How do we compare “similar but dissimilar” practices in Japan, Euro-America, Latin America, and other areas from the same time period? How do we reevaluate such modernist concepts as originality, derivativeness, and imitation? How do we construct a diasporic discourse for 1960’s Japan? In this lecture, independent scholar and curator Reiko Tomii addressed these and related issues in probing the global implications of 1960’s Japanese art on world art history.

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Reiko Tomii investigates post-1945 Japanese art in both global and local contexts. Her interests also encompass the historical birth of “contemporary art” and “critical biography” of artists. She has co-curated the exhibitions Global Conceptualism (Queens Museum of Art, 1999) and Century City (Tate Modern, 2001). She authored (with Eric C. Shiner) Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York (Japan Society, 2007), and contributed to Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art (Getty Research Institute, 2007), Cai Guo-Qiang (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2008), and Xu Bing (Cantz, 2009). She guest-edited “Art Outside the Box in 1960’s Japan” for Review of Japanese Culture and Society (Josai University, Japan, 2005), and “Collectivism in Art in 20th-Century Japan and Its Repercussions” for Positions (2006). She is the co-founder of PoNJA-GenKon, a listserv group for specialists interested in contemporary Japanese art.

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