It was going to happen sooner or later. Japanese contemporary art mogul Takashi Murakami and his artist collective Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. would sweep in and claim their slice in the ever-burgeoning Berlin art scene. On June 22nd the flag was firmly planted in Kreuzberg on Dieffenbachstrasse 15. Although first previewed during Berlin’s Gallery Weekend with an all-day live Manga painting performance by artist Mahomi Kunikata, the fully renovated gallery officially opened to the public with a group show featuring works by three young artists: ob, JNTHED and Haruka Makita.
Kaikai Kiki’s third gallery and a Western counterpart to Hidari Zingaro Taipei, the German-based space Hidari Zingaro Berlin celebrates contemporary emerging artists pulled from Japan’s Internet illustration scene, where thousands of anonymous young artists submit works daily to social networking sites like Takahiro Kamitani’s Pixiv. More than a decade after Murakami first opened the world’s eyes to the new face of Japanese art, he is still searching to inform this aesthetic definition with an ever-growing arsenal of talent discovered on these online forums. They are then invited to and cultivated in “The Chamber”, his Saitama studio.
Installation view of ob, JNTHED, Haruka Makita, 2012; Courtesy of JNTHED (right), ob (left) and Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd © JNTHED/ ob/ Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved / Photo by Olle Holmberg.
Among the freshest talent is twenty-year-old painter ob. This Kyoto artator (artist-curator) first began organizing exhibitions in high school of like-minded artists under the name “wassyoi”. Now based at the Kaikai Kiki studio, she has suspended her curatorial practices and opted to focus exclusively on her artwork — landscapes of milky blues, purples, and pinks featuring evanescent wide-eyed sulky female characters. Artist JNTHED, originally a designer for Japanese gaming mega-corporation Konami, takes a very different aesthetic approach in his illustrations, melding an expressionistic, almost technological style with a dystopian, heavy sci-fi vision. Another Kyoto-born artist Haruka Makita is perhaps the most technically precise and tedious of the bunch. With a clear manga influence and a background in traditional Japanese painting, her delicate canvases and works-on-paper depict beautiful women in traditional garb donning classic hairstyles. A series of these works-on-paper depict renditions of the Japanese calendar where the carefully rendered women are paired with an array of beasts, also treated with exceptional attention to detail.
“Takashi has a love/hate relationship with young people,” says Bradley Plumb, Media Coordinator for Kaikai Kiki New York, LLC. “One thing he says a lot is that young people in Japan are very comfortable in their circles. Within these immediate circles they garner feedback and praise, and never feel they need to venture outside for fear of how they will be perceived.” The artists’ own personal grapple with social anxiety is gracefully apparent in this first group show, where many works subtly allude to the break from traditional art forms, their generation’s disassociation from reality, and references to the natural disasters of March 2011.
Opening Installation view, ob, JNTHED, Haruka Makita, 2012; © Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved / Photo by Olle Holmberg.
“[Takashi] is teaching [these artists] to venture beyond and learn how to be aware of other people — to take both praise and criticism. He wants to build the next generation, but always sees what’s missing and wants to fill in these gaps.” What’s missing might be an international loudspeaker for these young artists, a gap Hidari Zingaro Berlin is searching to fill with Asia-based artist exhibitions and the potential for German-Asian artist exchanges between spaces.
(Image on top: Installation view of ob, JNTHED, Haruka Makita, 2012; © JNTHED/ ob/ Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. / Courtesy of JNTHED (left), ob (right) and Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd All rights reserved / Photo by Olle Holmberg)