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  • Sep 13, 2017

Recipients of the 2017 Japan Foundation Awards Announced

The 2017 recipients of the Japan Foundation Awards have been announced. They include Alexandra Munroe, Samsung senior curator of Asian art and senior advisor for global arts at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; American writer, translator and interpreter Frederik L. Schodt; and professor emeritus of Japanese studies at the University of Ljubljana, Andrej Bekeš.

The annual awards, which were first established in 1973, are conferred by the Japan Foundation to individuals or groups that have made significant contributions toward establishing ties between Japan and other countries via academic, artistic and cultural pursuits.

Alexandra Munroe was named the first curator of Asian art at the Guggenheim Museum in 2006, and has been at the institution ever since. Earlier in her career, she was a guest curator at the Yokohama Museum of Art, where she contributed to the organization of the seminal “Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky” exhibition, which comprehensively covered Japanese postwar art movements and considered their input in the nation’s cultural and political context, as well as the international cultural dialogue that took place at the time. The show later toured in the United States in 1994 and 1995 and achieved critical acclaim. Munroe was also a curator or co-organizer for other high-profile exhibitions of Japanese contemporary art, including Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective at New York’s Center for International Contemporary Art in 1989; Daido Moriyama’s “Stray Dog” at the Japan Society Gallery, New York, in 1999; “Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture” by Takashi Murakami at the Japan Society in conjunction with the Public Art Fund in 2005; and “Gutai: Splendid Playground” at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 2013.

Another recipient of one of the awards, Frederik L. Schodt, was a university student in Japan in 1970. In 1977 and ’78, he translated part of Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix into English, priming what would become a 12-year relationship with the manga author’s works. Through his translations, Schodt played a key role in bringing manga to an English-reading audience, propelling the medium to a massive audience and laying the groundwork for its extensive following today. Schodt has also drawn attention to marginalized art forms in his writing, which includes Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe (2012), a book that traces the history and accomplishments of a Japanese acrobatic troupe formed by an American acrobat in 1867.

The third individual granted a Japan Foundation Award this year is Andrej Bekeš, who has been a prominent linguist and educator of the Japanese language in Slovenia for many years. He has been instrumental in establishing Europe-wide research networks for Japanese linguistics, and in 2014 served as the chairman of Slovenia’s organizing committee for the 14th International Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies. Bekeš’s connection to the East Asian island nation dates back to 1972, when he enrolled in the Special Course for International Students at Osaka University of Foreign Studies (now the Center for Japanese Language and Culture of Osaka University). He obtained his PhD in linguistics from the University of Tsukuba in 1986.

The awards ceremony will take place on October 16 at Hotel Okura Tokyo. At least one recipient will provide a commemorative lecture at a later date.

Other holders of the Japan Foundation Awards include Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang in 2016; Wang Yong, the director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at Zhejiang Gongshang University who received his award in 2015; and the butoh dance troupe Sankai Juku in 2013.

Brady Ng is ArtAsiaPacific’s reviews editor.

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