Ever-multiplying, contemporary art festivals have thrived throughout the developed world since the 1990s. And Japan is not exempt from this tendency. As a platform for art, the Biennale has become an established part of the art world cycle, with each festival serving a specific curatorial agenda to promote international contemporary artists.
Sometimes, festival directors even embrace the social history of a particular neighbourhood. In 2013, at the Aichi Triennale in Nagoya City, the clothing district became a major destination of the festival, with installations taking root among fabric stores and haberdasheries.
This year, biennales are planned in Gunma, Osaka and Kobe, while triennales will happen in Sapporo, Yokohama and Fukuoka. A short summary of each follows:

Nakanajo Biennale 2017

Couch (Hiroki Miyazaki & Reiko Asao) ‘Pixel Works’, (2013). Nakanojo Biennale 2013.

Nakanojo, Gunma Prefecture, 9th September – 9th October

Started in 2007 in a rural area north-west of Tokyo, the Nakanajo Biennale happens in a region known for hot springs. Featuring works by 130 artists, many are presented in abandoned wooden school buildings.
For more on Couch: Pixel Works

Dojima River Biennale 2017

Ryoji Ikeda, ‘data.texture [5SXGA+ version’ (2012) Dojima River Biennale 2015

Osaka, summer – dates to be confirmed

Begun in 2009 in Osaka, the Dojima River Biennale has previously incorporated themes like reflection, ecology and water. In the last edition, Ryoji Ikeda created a large-scale immersive installation which streamed data with sound.

Kobe Biennale 2017

Kazuhiro Ishigami, ‘Ox-drawn Carriage designed with the motif of Mount Fuji (2015). Kobe Biennale 2015

Kobe, autumn – dates to be confirmed

A regular feature on the contemporary art calendar since 2007, Kobe, a port city, resourcefully used shipping containers as gallery spaces for art installations in previous years.

Sapporo International Art Festival 2017

Fujiko Nakaya, Fog Sculpture #47636 ‘Memory of Wind’ (2013). Sapporo International Art Festival 2013

Sapporo, 6th August – 1st October

Titled “What is an art festival?” the second edition of this festival is on the most northerly island of Hokkaido. Entailing the participation of the citizens of Sapporo, SIAF is directed by Yoshihide Otomo this time.
For more on Fujiko Nakaya: In the Fog.

Yokohama Triennale 2017

Gim Hong-sok, ‘8 Breaths’ (2014) Yokohama Museum of Art. Photo: Nick West

Yokohama, 4th August – 5th November

“Islands, Constellations and Galapagos” is the title of the sixth edition of this festival. The title, together with the concept, has been conceived as a result of a series of discussions by the conception meeting members, consisting of various experts including artist Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2017

Anida Yoeu Ali, ‘White Mother’ (2014) Fukuoka Asia Art Triennale 2014

Fukuoka, autumn – dates to be confirmed

Founded in 1999, the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale happens in Kyushu, on the most southerly of the four main islands of Japan. Offering glimpses of the Asian contemporary art scene from an Asian curatorial perspective, details of this edition’s theme are to be announced soon.
©Nick West 2017