Vol.46 ART FAIR TOKYO, Japan’s largest art fair

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ART FAIR TOKYO is Japan’s largest art fair and one of the most important art events in Asia.
Attended by approximately 50,000 people each year, the fair is usually held annually in March at Tokyo International Forum, which is filled with dozens of booths showcasing an immense range of artworks from different galleries around the world.
Organized by Art Tokyo Association, the 2017 fair is open to the public from March 17th to March 19th.
Admission is ¥2,800 for a one-day pass.

【ART FAIR TOKYO2016 event venue】(Image) Photo:Munetoshi Iwashita


【Contemporary Art】(Image) Photo:Munetoshi Iwashita

In addition to being the biggest fair in Japan, ART FAIR TOKYO is also the oldest fair of its kind in Asia. It started as Nippon International Contemporary Art Fair (NICAF) in 1992. After NICAF disbanded in 2003, the organizers decided to change the nature of the fair and incorporate the full spectrum of the Japanese art market. The result was an event with a unique mix of antiques, contemporary art, crafts, and more.
The newly conceived ART FAIR TOKYO launched in 2005 and has now established itself as one of the major events in the Tokyo spring calendar.

As ART FAIR TOKYO’s executive producer, Naohiko Kishi, explains: “The fair provides the ideal sales opportunity for exhibiting galleries as a platform for developing the Japanese art market. Not only commercial galleries and art organizations, the fair also actively works with the media and the private sector to create chances for connecting art with people’s everyday lives. Through this, we want to make new and enriching connections based around art.”

Features of ART FAIR TOKYO

The exact number of booths and participating groups varies each year, but the fair always has a wide range of Japanese galleries and art organizations as well as many overseas galleries, especially from Asia.

The variety of art is certainly an aspect that distinguishes the fair from others. “At ART FAIR TOKYO,” Kishi explains, “you can come into contact with a wide range of art from different periods and styles all in one venue.” It is especially rare to encounter an art fair with both antiques and crafts alongside so much contemporary art on display.

This quality brings a particularly diverse spectrum of visitors, too. “The fair attracts attention from a broad range of people,” says Kishi, “not only collectors but also students, homemakers and senior citizens. As you can see over 100 galleries’ booths in one place, it is more convenient for people who do not ordinarily go to galleries. The opening day is also attended by members of government organizations, embassies, and many corporate VIPs.”

【Craft】Exhibitor: Nanaya         【Nabeshima Ware
17th century
D 14.7cm】

【event venue】(Image) Photo:Munetoshi Iwashita

The atmosphere is quite different to art fairs held in Europe and North America. Its organizers are keen to stress that it has a uniquely “Tokyo-esque” nature. “Recently many art fairs are being held around Asia,” says Kishi, “but it’s a waste if the fairs become standardized in spite of their differing locations. We want to disseminate what’s interesting about the city of Tokyo, where our fair is held.” For this reason, the fair works with art museums and other events in Tokyo and the surrounding area. “Through this, we hope visitors will see, hear and feel the vibrancy of Tokyo that isn’t limited to the fair itself.”

There are also special exhibitions and events held inside the main gallery booth area. These change each year but are usually showcases of individual artists, art movements and more.

An art fair is ostensibly about selling works of art. But ART FAIR TOKYO also prioritizes ways to spread information and education about art. As such, the fair always has a strong program of talks and symposia that run alongside the regular days when the gallery booths are open to the public.



ART FAIR TOKYO 2017 provides a comprehensive introduction to the art scene in Japan and also features galleries from Asia and Europe. Of the 1150participating galleries, 22 are appearing in the fair for the first time.

In addition to the main booths, one of the special sections at the fair is the latest in its Projects series. This includes the work of 12 emerging art galleries and their most representative artists.

The 2017 fair is also themed around “Art is Alive—Getting Closer to Art, Art Getting Closer.” As such, it has a separate selection of 60 artworks exhibited in the venue lobby, where entry is free of charge. These artworks are priced affordably to introduce visitors to the idea that owning art can be a part of everyday lifestyle. There is also an event produced in partnership with the fashion show Tokyo Girls Collection to encourage younger people to take an interest in art by taking photographs of visually striking artworks and sharing the images on social media.

As the weather gets warmer and spring finally arrives in Tokyo, now is the ideal time to feast yourself on the world of art waiting for you in this bustling city.

Updated: March 2, 2017