In a city so well known for being short of space, discovering large paintings and murals could seem an unlikely prospect. However, there are several contemporary artworks that can be seen without straying too far from central Tokyo. Whether they’re made by emerging or established artists, are indoor or outdoor, private or public, temporary or permanent, here’s a round-up of some large painted murals in, or near, Tokyo:
Sol Lewitt, ‘Wall Drawing’ (2003) Asahi TV HQ, Roppongi, Tokyo. (Private). Courtesy of Scai the Bathhouse.
As a private commission at Asahi TV, the Minimal and Conceptual artist Sol Lewitt’s “Wall Drawing” was organised by Scai the Bathhouse four years before the artist passed away. Occupying two floors, one above another, these technicolour rings align themselves with one another when viewed from the right location.
Mina Hamada & Zosen, ‘Spring Mural’ (2013) Yanasegawa, Saitama. Courtesy of the artists.
Produced to attract passersby to a skate park in Saitama, the Barcelona-based duo Mina Hamada and Zosen playfully decorated an enormous hoarding with brightly coloured abstract motifs. Sponsored by a paint manufacturer, “Spring Mural” took fours days to paint and looks almost edible.
MOT8, ‘Another World Possible’ (2013) Shimo-Kitazawa, Tokyo. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
Only visible when the shop is closed, MOT8’s “Another World Possible” is one of several shutter murals found in the bohemian enclave of Shimo-Kitazawa. Produced partly to deter local vandalism, a whole host of characters fills a surface that is usually a well-kept secret.
Couch, (Hiroki Miyazaki & Reiko Asao) ‘Pixel Works’ (2013) Koganecho Bazaar 2013, Yokohama. (Temporary).
Perhaps the subtlest of murals in the wider Tokyo area is Couch’s “Pixel Works”. Made as a temporary work for Koganecho Bazaar in 2013, this mural was part of a regeneration program that helped revitalise a neighbourhood associated with prostitution into a thriving community of artists and art studios.
Stephen Powers, ‘Now is Forever’ (2014) Harajuku, Tokyo. Photos: Nick West
In an area noted by its followers of fashion, this work by Stephen Powers asserts itself in triplicate at about three metres tall. Commissioned in conjunction with a local bookshop in April 2014, “Now is Forever” has since become a popular addition to the neighbourhood.
Takashi Murakami, ‘Hello Mr. DOB’ (1997). Kamiooka, Yokohama. Photo: Nick West
Curated by Fumio Nanjo, ‘Yumeooka’, a public art initiative in a shopping centre in Yokohama opened in 1997. Greeting shoppers with a grin on an acid yellow background, “Hello Mr. DOB” is about five metres wide and has a silhouette like Disney’s famous mouse.
Zio Ziegler, ‘Zio Ziegler x Vans x Beams’ (2014) in Harajuku, Tokyo. Photo: Nick West
A good example of how public murals can enhance public spaces while serving commercial interests, this detailed mural was produced in conjunction with a shoe designer and a fashion outlet. By incorporating the same pattern that adorns the shoes, the artist uses monochrome to striking effect.
Hitotzuki, ‘A Posted Scenery’ (2013) Yutengi, Tokyo. Photo: Nick West
Painted on a deep plum base, the collaborative duo Hitotzuki coloured a wall that borders a private property in Yutengi with their signature range of blues. Decorating this suburban neighbourhood with rolling waves, cloud puffs and floral crests, these artists have worked together since 1999.
Taro Okamoto, ‘Myth of Tomorrow’ (1969) Shibuya Station, Tokyo. Photo: Nick West
Originally commissioned for a hotel in Mexico City during the late sixties, “Myth of Tomorrow” was also painted in Mexico. Unfortunately, the hotelier suffered financial difficulties that prevented the hotel from being realised, and so all fourteen panels of the thirty-metre wide mural went into storage. Details of its whereabouts were mislaid for decades, but eventually it was recovered and arrived in Tokyo in 2008.
Remo Camerota, ‘Intuition’ (2014) Ogilvy & Mather, Ebisu, Tokyo. (Private). Photo: Nick West
Commissioned for a communal meeting space in the offices of Ogilvy & Mather, Remo Camerota produced an interactive sound wall. While the overall design makes a strong visual impact, the stencilled numbers correspond to separate sound pieces that play when activated by hand.
Imaone & Zed1, ‘Kawada Bldg’ (2015), Kichijoji, Tokyo. Photos: Nick West
Created on a tall wall that became available after a building was demolished, Tokyo-based Imaone collaborated with the Italian artist Zed1 earlier this year in Kichioji. Depicting a chequered creature and its accomplice perching on top of a Humpty Dumpty-like character, it’s a great example of how illustration is being applied to make sizeable works in a public context.
Masatake Kozaki, ‘Tougen, Anjin’ T-Site, (2011) Daikanyama, Tokyo. Courtesy of Tsutaya Books.
Masatake Kouzaki’s mural fits snugly into the surroundings of the Anjin lounge. Occupying every inch it was commissioned for, the result is a work that spans about nine metres wide. Consisting of two panels, it’s both a diptych and a set of byōbu, (folded screens). Both in form and content, it’s something of a hybrid that borrows from East and West.
©Nick West 2015