“Ukiyo-e = Japanese art” – is this an outdated notion?

  • ART
  • When it comes to “Japanese art”, what images pop up in your mind? For example, when you search on the Internet some keywords like “Japan, art”, most of the results will be of Hokusai’s ukiyo-e prints, folding screens, or the sliding screen paintings in the Edo period. It seems that foreigners equate “classical Japanese art” with “Japanese art”.

    But on the other hand, modern Japanese art is getting attention as well. Examples include artists like Takashi Murakami, who collaborated with Louis Vuitton, and Yayoi Kusama, whose works are regarded as a “new era” that is beyond the framework of modern art. There’s also the contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara, whose art was auctioned for $24.9 million in Hong Kong last year.

    Even though contemporary Japanese artists are receiving more attention, unfortunately, there are few opportunities for foreigners to get to know their works.

    Founded in 2018, TRiCERA, Inc. is a pioneer in providing artists with an e-commerce site and a global delivery network that helps them expand overseas. However, despite these efforts, they are still not enough.

    Indeed, old classical art is Japanese art. However, it is an art of the past and it doesn’t truly reflect the current art scene in Japan. Created by contemporary artists in a progressive way, modern art should faithfully represent one of the many faces of present-day Japan. The task at hand is to make this art known.

    Are there too few opportunities to see contemporary Japanese art?

    The number of famous Japanese artists known worldwide like Takashi Murakami or Yayoi Kusama is still small. To begin with, Japan accounts for less than 1% of the art market. In other words, it can’t be said that Japan’s position is large in terms of numbers alone.

    Then, does that mean that Japanese modern art has no value? Or maybe the issue lies with Japan not having a strong connection to the global market, and its weaker approach to larger markets. The root of the problem is not the art’s potential, but its distribution.

    First of all, there is the language barrier. Japan has no outbound art media written in English, making most of the information about Japanese modern art feel as if it were in a black box. Without spreading information like who the up and coming artists are, or what the current art scene in Japan is like, most Japanese modern artworks cannot reach the global market or the international art scene.

    What kind of young artists are there in Japan?

    What kind of contemporary artists are there in Japan? For example, TRiCERA Inc., which runs a marketplace supporting young Japanese artists’ global outreach, currently counts more than 600 artists with more than 3,000 artworks registered. One of their goals is to shed light on young Japanese artists and art trends that have remained unknown until now. These artists could become the future Takashi Murakami or Yoshitomo Nara! Here is just a glimpse of the artists on the platform:


    上床加奈 Kana Uwatoko

    TRiCERA page https://www.tricera.net/artist/8100247
    Instagram https://www.instagram.com/uwatokokana/

    A painter who creates works that incorporate Japanese painting techniques, and the decorative art of temples and shrines using motifs of youkai, fantastical creatures from Japanese folklore.

    京森康平 Kyomori Kohei

    TRiCERA page https://www.tricera.net/artist/8100161
    Instagram https://www.instagram.com/koheikyomori/

    An artist whose nickname is “Modern Decorator”, Kyomori Kohei sublimates decorations from all times and places into art. Incorporating elements of graphic design and fashion, he recently won the Grand Prize in a competition sponsored by Hermes. “Creating timeless works” is the cornerstone of his activities.

    城蛍 Hotaru Tachi

    TRiCERA page https://www.tricera.net/artist/8100287
    Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ya_shirokuma/

    An artist who explores the line between painting and sculpture, and who incorporates picture frames as a component of painting in a time when their use is greatly neglected in contemporary art. Although she only started in 2019, her unique style has received a lot of attention.

    丁子紅子 Beniko Choji

    TRiCERA page https://www.tricera.net/artist/8100169
    Instagram https://www.instagram.com/benikochoji/

    An artist who creates paintings with the motif of an expressionless woman. In addition to her exhibition activities, she collaborates with fashion brands and music artists, and is one of the most popular artists among younger people.

    ささきたくや Takuya Sasaki

    TRiCERA page https://www.tricera.net/artist/8100321
    Instagram https://www.instagram.com/takuya.momo/

    Graduating from Japan’s most famous art university, Sasaki draws fantasy worlds. His work is gaining more attention thanks to his unique worlds and his elaborate techniques.

    Japanese young artists in the future

    In addition to top names such as Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, and Yoshitomo Nara, there are many young artists active now who have potential in Japan. However, without much promotion abroad, their works have stayed exclusively in Japan. It is said that the things that are not known are as if they were non-existent, but with the emergence of services like TRiCERA that open the door to the world, young artists will surely establish their position on the global stage.