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The struggle for a page in art history: the global and national ambitions of Japanese contemporary artists from the 1990s'

Abstract : Although an undifferentiated notion of "global art" in the 1990s and 2000s became the dominant reference point for the evaluation of artists' careers (Stallabrass 2004, Thornton 2008), it is striking how much a national reference still matters to the generation who emerged as the first wave of properly globalised Japanese contemporary art in the late 80s/early 90s. Even the most globally successful of all, Takashi Murakami, in the end apparently only really cares about securing his page in the Japanese art history textbooks. It is also striking how as yet undecided this struggle is from the point of view of Japanese art history and art criticism. With mention of six key mid-career male artists now at the height of their powers and each with a claim to this prize -- Murakami (b.1962), Yoshitomo Nara (b.1959), Masato Nakamura (b.1963), Yukinori Yanagi (b.1959), Makoto Aida (b.1965) and Tsuyoshi Ozawa (b.1965) -- I will compare and contrast the different role that internationalisation has played in their careers. Each of them has "gone home" in one way another, and each is creating his own "school". Will there continue to be the need, as Murakami has repeatedly argued in his writings, for the classic strategy of international mobility plus gaisen koen ("triumphant return performance"), to etch their name in history? Or will this prove in fact to be Murakami's biggest liability? Will market evaluation, curatorial discourse, critical prestige, academic influence, museum popularity, or social/community impact decide the contest? And how much of this art historical struggle is still contained within the internal national art system, and how much of it is truly global (or regional) in its dynamics?
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Adrian Favell. The struggle for a page in art history: the global and national ambitions of Japanese contemporary artists from the 1990s'. Asian Studies Conference, Jun 2012, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan. ⟨hal-00973038⟩

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