With candidate Japan IR operators universally touting their intention to incorporate Japanese cultural attractions into their future designs, local firm teamLab is demonstrating just how the country’s modern art scene can be incorporated into such large-scale developments.
TeamLab has been creating digital artwork since its establishment in 2001. While simultaneously running a mainstream art business selling the artwork they create to collectors through galleries, they also have many space works that are difficult to “own”, so they have been developing art museum exhibits and performance-type pieces using the world as their stage.
A recent success includes a permanent exhibit in Singapore and they have also produced large scale exhibitions in the United States. While busy with their international art activities, teamLab found itself wanting to set up “some sort of big, permanent exhibit in Tokyo”. The result was the “Mori Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: EPSON teamLab Borderless”.
teamLab Borderless is making waves as a brand new “Tokyo magnetic field” that is attracting people from all over the world. This is a world where you can wander, explore and make new discoveries, without a single border.
“At first we were fumbling around with no idea about the size of the space we wanted, or even what experience we were going to provide,” explains Akitae Matsumoto, representative of teamLab Kids and part of the project team that created the one-of-a-kind museum.
“We didn’t have any experience creating pieces for a massive 10,000 square-meter location and it was also our first time even trying to tie together a variety of individual works into a borderless form. Until this project, an individual piece of art has always been exhibited in its own space, but teamLab Borderless is created based on the concept of presenting all work, even new ones, together without borders, launching a single, comprehensive experience throughout the entire building.”
The concept looms as an intriguing one for Japan’s future IR operators who have already stated their desire to incorporate unique Japanese cultural and artistic elements into their IR designs. Likewise, IRs present a potential opportunity for teamLab to further explore such expansive spaces.
“It started off with brainstorming at teamLab about what we could do in a 10,000 square-meter space,” Matsumoto continues. “That was around three years ago. After that the details gradually came together a little at a time. The point is that it all started with searching for a 10,000 square-meter space. We just started with the idea that we wanted to exhibit something in a 10,000 square-meter space, then we discussed the cost required to make that a reality and what types of art pieces we would be able to incorporate.”
To make teamLab Borderless a reality, the company sought out the assistance of Taichi Tsuchihashi, manager of Yamashita PMC Inc. Headquarters for Promotion of Business Creation, 4th Division, to oversee project management.
Tsuchihashi’s first task was to locate a space big enough to house teamLab’s ideas – not only covering 10,000 square-meters but also with ceilings 10 to 15 meters high. That space ended up being in Odaiba and the result, Tsuchihashi says, is something completely unique to the local Japanese art scene.
“People may go to Barcelona to see Picasso, but you don’t see a lot of people coming to Japan for art,” he explains. “That is one of the reasons that teamLab art exhibitions have a strong Japanese presence and hopefully fulfill a role in Tokyo that never existed before. I think it can be accepted as work that gives an impression of Japan to visitors to Tokyo from overseas.”
Noting that teamLab Borderless had already reached 1 million visitors within the first five months of operations, Tsuchihashi says, “It’s possible that past teamLab art exhibitions were more highly regarded overseas than they were in Japan. I feel the social value of art has always been lower in Japan than in Europe and the US. With all of this in mind, this is the first time an artist – teamLab – has invested, assumed the risk of and operated a museum-like facility as a private business.
“So the fact that teamLab was able to make its idea into a reality and has been able to provide a new art museum to the people, as a private business, it’s possible that Japan’s values for viewing art will change dramatically. If we’re going to call for tourists to visit Tokyo, Japan, we need these kinds of appealing places.”
Published with permission of HOTERES