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  • Mar 18, 2020

Europe Residing Japanese Artists Win Top Government Prizes

The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has announced winners for the 70th edition of the annual Art Encouragement Prize, which recognizes artists of Japanese heritage with innovative and outstanding achievements in a total of 11 categories. Cologne-based painter and sculptor Leiko Ikemura and Paris-based digital sound artist Ryoji Ikeda were selected for the Minister Awards of fine art and media art, respectively. The ceremony, usually scheduled for mid-March, has been postponed until further notice due to preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19. 

Leiko Ikemura, known for her examination of social and gender issues with her depictions of fantastical landscapes and female figures, was chosen for her 2019 solo exhibition “Our Planet: Earth and Stars,” at The National Art Center, Tokyo. The show, her largest yet, featured more than 200 installations, sculptures, paintings, and drawings, including a three-meter tall bronze sculpture Usagi Kannon II (2013/16), which reinterprets the female Buddhist deity of birth as a rabbit in response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and the resulting birth defects in surrounding regions. 

Ryoji Ikeda, a former member of the Japanese multimedia collective Dumb Type, was awarded for his large-scale immersive sonic installations, which, generated by algorithms evoke poetic perceptions of the universe. His ongoing projects such as spectra (2001–), datamatics (2006– ), and micro macro (2015– ) have been exhibited internationally in recent years, including at Paris’s Centre Pompidou in 2018 and Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 2019. The Minister Award for media art was previously mostly bestowed to manga artists and video game producers.

The Newcomer Awards for the fields of fine art and media art were conferred to artist Aiko Miyanaga and web manga artist Akiko Higashimura, respectively. Miyanaga’s sculptures and installations conceptualizes time by recording traces of its movement. Higashimura’s romantic manga series, Fake Affair (2017– ), serialized and popularized in both Japan and Korea, has helped revitalize the Japanese manga industry.

The Art Encouragement Prize was established in 1950, and also covers the categories of theatre, film, music, dance, literature, broadcasting, traditional performance, art development, and critical theory. Artists are recommended or nominated by members of the award selection committee, which consists of established leaders and specialists in each field, and in 2019 included Mami Kataoka, chief curator of Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Michiko Kasahara, associate director of Artizon Museum, Tokyo; Akihiro Kubota, professor at Tokyo’s Tama University of Arts; Masashi Koide, professor at Tokyo University of Sculpture, among others. 

Each winner of the Minister Award and the Newcomer Award will receive a cash prize of JPY 300,000 (USD 2,800) and JPY 200,000 (USD 1,900), respectively.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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