The Nippon Foundation DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS Exhibition – Museum of Together

The Nippon Foundation DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS Exhibition – Museum of Together opened at the Spiral building in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo, on October 13. The exhibition featured approximately 500 works by 22 artists, and ran until October 31. An opening reception was also held at the Spiral building on the evening of October 13.

Approximately 250 people, including participating artists, persons involved in the art world, and members of the mass media, attended the reception on October 13. Shingo Katori, who was a member of the popular vocal and dance group SMAP, also participated as an artist and attended the reception.

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A portion of the exhibition
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The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa

The reception began with welcoming remarks by The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa, who explained that the DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS project seeks to bring together persons with intellectual, mental, and physical disabilities, and persons without disabilities, through the creation of art. He added, “Please do not consider these works to be good because they were created by persons with disabilities; think of them as good works that happen to have been created by persons with disabilities.” Mr. Sasakawa also noted that The Nippon Foundation would be proactively engaged in artistic activities ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The next speaker was Toshiro Muto, director general of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, who noted that preparations for the Tokyo Olympics are on track, and that the Games are a cultural event as well as a sporting event. He stressed his hope that these types of cultural activities would create a nationwide movement, and commented that he would continue to work together closely with The Nippon Foundation.

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Curators Yuko Shiomi (left) and Roger McDonald (right)

Mr. Muto was followed on stage by the exhibition’s curators, Roger McDonald and Yuko Shiomi. Mr. McDonald explained that he had been traveling around Japan for one year to select works for the exhibition, and always started with the question, “What is art?” He noted that art has the power to arouse passion and the soul, and that this is the central theme around which the exhibition is organized. Ms. Shiomi added that the staff at Spiral involved in architecture, graphics, and event space came up with ideas that made the event possible, and expressed her hope that visitors would “use this opportunity to view things from a different perspective.”

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Group photo of artists, curators, and organizers, including Shingo Katori (seated, center)

Next, a video introducing the artists was shown, and was followed by the introduction of the “23rd participating artist,” Shingo Katori. Mr. Katori introduced himself as “the artist Katori,” and added with a smile, “I feel presumptuous referring to myself as an artist, but I am very excited to do so as well. This is my first time to exhibit a drawing, and I am very happy. I hope that many people will look at my drawing, and I plan to come back and look at the exhibit again. I hope many people will come to enjoy this art.

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Works were displayed for accessible viewing for as many visitors as possible

Mr. Katori submitted two works, “Hurry Up, We are Going to Be On Time” and “Fire Bird,” along with the comments, “For me, art is something that has no rules or goals. There is no correct beginning or ending, and you are able to decide everything using your own judgement. A work of art is truly unique.” In November 2015, Mr. Katori also drew the mural on the theme “i enjoy!” that is exhibited at the entrance to The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center on the 4th floor of the Nippon Zaidan Building in Akasaka, Tokyo.

Roughly 60 people were involved in this exhibition from the planning stages, including curators, architects, and designers. Improvements were made to the venue based on input from persons with disabilities who inspected the site. Special programs were incorporated to enhance its accessibility, including “quiet hours” to accommodate persons with intellectual disabilities. Workshops were also held on the themes of “Creating ‘dialogue’ together with people with hearing disabilities” and “Creating art-viewing experiences together with people with visual disabilities.”

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The artist Ryunosuke shows one of his newest works to Prime Minister Abe

More than 39,000 people attended Museum of Together. In addition to Mr. Katori, who came back to visit twice during the exhibition, visitors included Princess Akishino and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. During his visit, Mr. Abe met the exhibition’s youngest participating artist, Ryunosuke, who presented the prime minister with a portrait of him that he had drawn.

The Nippon Foundation DIVERSITY IN THE ARTS project aims to achieve a rich, inclusive society that embraces diversity and uniqueness, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Museum of Together is the first of various planned exhibitions that are not bound by conventional concepts and strive to convey the significance and value of diversity.

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