Exhibition view of GEISAI 10 at Tokyo Big Sight, Tokyo, 2006. Photo by Miget. Courtesy Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd.

Murakami’s GEISAI Festival Reemerges in Miami after Yearlong Hiatus

USA Japan

Japanese artist-entrepreneur Takashi Murakami continues his bid to galvanize new modes of artistic production with the transplant of Japan’s successful GEISAI arts festival to Miami for December’s PULSE Contemporary Art Fair. A twice-yearly juried fair for artists without gallery representation, GEISAI was launched in 2001 in an effort to spark a new wave of Japanese art. Prior editions of GEISAI—named for art festivals held in Japanese art schools—offered a platform for participating artists to display and sell their own work. GEISAI Miami follows a similar formula, allowing artists without gallery representation to apply for a space at the fair with a simple online application, artist statement and images of work.

However, at GEISAI Miami a high-powered jury—comprised of CCS Bard curator Tom Eccles, New Museum curator Massimiliano Gioni, artist and Artnet columnist Walter Robinson, Lin Lougheed, director of Miami’s outdoor exhibition space The Yard@CasaLin, and art critic Carol Kino—will select just 15 to 20 artists for display, a sharp reversion from last year’s open GEISAI 10 in Tokyo, which had over 1400 participants. The change is brought about by GEISAI’s new context: in Miami, PULSE coincides with Art Basel Miami Beach and a throng of gallery-driven events, and GEISAI’s role will be to present fresh talent to a preexisting market. Nevertheless, GEISAI Miami retains Murakami’s broader mission of elevating art “to the same level as the music industry.” Murakami tells ArtAsiaPacific: “I’m not afraid at all if it becomes a sort of ‘mass entertainment.’ Good artists understand their own path and create fantastic works regardless of environment. When industries pass through the sieve of the general public, nothing but the good stuff should remain.”

Murakami admits the decision to suspend the biannual event in Japan came about as certain “internal dogmas” developed and regular participants started to rely on “the GEISAI brand.” After Christie’s Hong Kong branch put on an unofficial sale of GEISAI artists, collectors and gallerists began to cruise GEISAI for up-and-coming talent. Murakami cynically views these predatory dealers as part of a “short-term, short-sighted art market,” which feeds on young artists who “lack immunity to honeyed words and promises.” GEISAI 11 is slated to return to Japan in 2008, although details remain scarce, and Murakami hopes that “since the art bubble looks like it’s about to burst, that sort of commercialism will disappear from GEISAI and we will see the emergence of an original cheap, accessible Japanese-model art market, as originally intended.”