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BLOUIN ARTINFO is the preeminent global source for up-to-the-minute news, information, and expert commentary on art, artists, and the business and pleasure of making, buying, and understanding art. It provides daily news and developments from galleries, auction houses, and museums globally.

Reportage 2016 April

One Year Later: Photographer Shows “Endurance” of Nepal Earthquake Victims

by Robert Michael Poole

This April 25 will see the anniversary of one of the most traumatic events in the history of Nepal, an earthquake that measured 7.8 which resulted in the deaths of almost 9,000. “A colleague once told me, ‘If the story is not told, it does not exist’” says Omar Havana, who captured the aftermath in this series of images.

Travel 2015 August

Designing Future Hotels in a New York Lab of Luxury

by Robert Michael Poole

Imagine your dream vacation. A bustling city perhaps? A tropical island? Now imagine, sitting in your office daydreaming about the luxury hotel you’ll be staying in – then spending the rest of your day actually designing it.

Arts 2014 December

INTERVIEW: Tako Chkheidze on the Rise of Tbilisi Fashion Week

by Robert Michael Poole

The story of Tbilisi Fashion Week has very much become the story of modern Georgian fashion. It’s an industry on the rise, thanks to the power and personality of fashion week founder and model agency manager Tako Chkheidze. A former model herself, Chkheidze recently oversaw the 5th year and 10th edition of Tbilisi Fashion Week, which concluded with Georgia’s cultured class, celebrities and government ministers gathered together at Chateau Mukhrani Winery for a breathtaking midnight finale by star designer Avtandil Tskvitinidze.

Arts 2014 November

Takeshi Kitano Attacks Japanese Movie Industry at Tokyo International Film Festival

by Robert Michael Poole

Renowned film director Takeshi Kitano slammed the Japanese movie industry Saturday, moments after receiving the Samurai Award at the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival. “The studios are linked to movie theaters, that’s the worst thing,” Kitano said before surprising even admirers of his outspoken personality by claiming that the entire film industry in Japan is in crisis, reliant on anime and comic-book adaptations supported by TV companies.

Arts 2014 October

Koji Yakusho Wins Toshiro Mifune Award at Kyoto International Film & Art Festival

by Robert Michael Poole

The 1st Kyoto International Film and Art Festival closed Sunday, with its most prestigious award going to renowned actor Koji Yakusho. Held at the historic Yoshimoto Gion Kagetsu on the edge of Kyoto’s famed and still active geisha district, the closing ceremony of the inaugural event marked the end of four days of exhibitions and screenings spread across the city.

Arts 2014 July

REVIEW: Fuji Rock – Where the Bands Applaud the Crowd

by Robert Michael Poole

Fuji Rock 2014 had opened on Thursday night with its traditional pre-party, in which thousands gather in the Oasis of food and drink stalls to gear up for the 3-day festa – this year sans Kanye West, who mysteriously pulled out to leave the line-up looking a tad weak. Fortunately, Fuji Rock has never been just about the music. Warmth was the theme of this year’s event, with act after act sharing their appreciation for the Japanese crowd.

Travel 2014 May

British Chef Gary Rhodes Shares His Asian Experience

by Robert Michael Poole

In his home country of the UK, Gary Rhodes OBE is known as the “chef’s chef.” Rhodes Across Tokyo at Shangri-La Hotel” brought the chef back to Japan for the first time in 15 years, for a weeklong presentation of modern British cuisine. ARTINFO Japan caught up with him to discuss how Singapore inspired his marriage, eating snakes in Hong Kong, and the one thing that connects British with Japanese cuisine.

Arts 2014 April

Director Dong-Hyeuk Hwang Opens up on “Miss Granny”

by Robert Michael Poole

In hit Korean film “Miss Granny” an old lady finds herself transported back in to the body of her younger self. If that sounds surprising, then its even more so when considering that the man behind the heartwarming tale is none other than Hwang Dong-hyuk. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with the director at the Okinawa International Movie Festival, to discuss how the film came about, what he would do if he could go back I time, and the next direction of his career.

Arts 2014 March

All Laughs as 6th Okinawa International Movie Festival Winners Announced

by Robert Michael Poole

The 6th edition of the Okinawa International Movie Festival concluded with booming fireworks over the beaches of Ginowan on Monday March 24, five days after the sun-drenched event in southern Japan kicked off. Principally dedicated to comedy, the festival has gone from strength to strength since its inaugural edition, and while this year it lacked the Hollywood star-power of 2013, when director Joel Schumacher helmed the jury, the festival spread out further in to the local communities of Okinawa, and held two red carpets, the second of which took place on the main street of the prefecture capital of Naha, when it seemed all the islands stopped for a few hours to witness the parade.

Arts 2014 March

Lady Gaga to Help Reignite K-Pop Invasion with Crayon Pop

by Robert Michael Poole

It should have happened by now. Optimists in South Korea had expected K-Pop to invade the US even before Psy went supernova in November 2012 with Gangnam Style. But tours by the likes of the Wonder Girls, sold out shows in New York by Girls Generation and a Will.i.am collaboration with 2NE1 have all as yet failed to place K-Pop at the top of the charts – or in the popular consciousness of the American public. But now Crayon Pop, a five-piece girl group only formed in 2012 by Chrome Entertainment have achieved quite a coup. Late last week Lady Gaga announced via Twitter that the quintet will open her summer concerts in North America.

Arts 2014 February

Hokusai Sketches and Pan-Asian Works at Art Fair Tokyo 2014

by Robert Michael Poole

Art Fair Tokyo revealed its line-up for the 2014 edition at press conference on Monday at Palace Hotel Tokyo, presenting a broadening of its content in both art form and origins of the works on show. Japan’s biggest art event returns from March 7-9 at Tokyo International Forum, and as in previous editions, will feature selections of items of antiquity, ceramics and modern art.

Arts 2014 February

10 Must-See Dance Performances at Tokyo Performing Arts Market 2014

by Robert Michael Poole

Art Fair Tokyo revealed its line-up for the 2014 edition at press conference on Monday at Palace Hotel Tokyo, presenting a broadening of its content in both art form and origins of the works on show. Japan’s biggest art event returns from March 7-9 at Tokyo International Forum, and as in previous editions, will feature selections of items of antiquity, ceramics and modern art.

Arts 2014 February

siren eun young jung on Expanding the Feminist Artistic Language at TPAM

by Robert Michael Poole

TPAM’s eclectic line-up for 2014 is exemplified in its choices for the International Showcase section, and it’s there that fast-rising multimedia artist siren eun young jung from Korea is set to present her latest work “(Off) Stage / Masterclass.” ARTINFO Japan caught up with siren eun young jung ahead of the performance to discuss her desire to develop the feminist artistic language.

Arts 2014 February

How Hokusai’s Daughter Katsuhika Oi Outshone Her Father

by Robert Michael Poole

While the works of master ukiyo-e artist Hokusai are world famous, the talent of the daughter who followed in his footsteps has been difficult to evaluate. Many of the works by Katsuhika Oi have proven hard to identify or been lost with time, which makes the retrospective now on show in Harajuku all the more vital.

Arts 2014 January

Dragone Takes a Leaf from Walt Disney to Out-Circus Cirque du Soleil

by Robert Michael Poole

Few people have the vision to shape the kind of performing art that people choose to see. Theater, opera, and stage musicals have all developed over decades and centuries. But for one Belgian-Italian, there remained room for growth in grand, large-scale production shows that could combine the niche and much-maligned talents of circus acrobatics with postmodern dance, music, and narrative. This year, however, is set to be a breakthrough year for artistic director Franco Dragone. Dragone’s company, set up shortly after he left Cirque du Soleil, has gone on to produce even more elaborate, technically challenging, and spectacular shows than seen before.

Arts 2014 January

Masayoshi Haneda: Behind the Scenes with Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise

by Robert Michael Poole

Breaking in to Hollywood is tough at the best of times. But for Asian actors, the day when one is given a lead role still seems some way off. That hasn’t stopped actor Masayoshi Haneda from Japan, from making significant headway though. In spring, Haneda will be back on the big screen once again, alongside Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in the futuristic action movie, “Edge of Tomorrow.”

Arts 2013 December

Maki Horikita – The Role Model for Modern Japanese Women?

by Robert Michael Poole

Japan’s hardest working actress, Maki Horikita, is taking her career to new heights in her latest TV drama. The 24-year-old, who has had a busy year on stage, in movies, TV series and multiple commercials, is currently playing the lead in Fuji TV’s new drama “Miss Pilot,” airing in prime time at 9pm every Tuesday. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with Horikita at Fuji’s TV studios to discuss her recent high-profile roles as professional working women in a society which ranks 106 out of 136 in gender equality, according to the United Nations.

ArtsTravel 2013 December

Thailand’s Big Mountain Music Festival is the Wheel Deal

by Robert Michael Poole

Three hours north east of Bangkok, the traffic has ground to a halt. Surrounded by the evergreen forests and grasslands of Khao Yai National Park, the cars soon find themselves backtracking from an unexpected menace – wild elephants on the road. A few minutes away though, there is no stopping the momentum of Thailand’s biggest musical event, the Big Mountain Music Festival. Now in its fifth year, and held on Khao Yai’s Bonanza Racetrack in picturesque nature, it has grown into the largest festival in South East Asia, attracting 130,000 people over two days.

Arts 2013 December

BOMI Brings Japanese Indie-Pop to Bangkok & Beyond

by Robert Michael Poole

While the Japanese music charts are dominated by J-Pop, an alternative scene has been bubbling up in Kobe. Already spreading to Shibuya, Tokyo, the movement is best described as worldly indie-pop, and is led by artists shunning the local music and instead taking their cues from the likes of the xx, Cat Power and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. At the forefront of the movement is American-born artist BOMI, who in December 2013 took to the new artist stage at Thailand’s Big Mountain Music Festival. “People are free here, so they dance, scream and shout, with freedom,” the 26 year old told ARTINFO. “It’s not like this in Japan.”

Arts 2013 November

INTERVIEW: Perfume on Expressionless Pop, Gays Fans, and Falling in Love

by Robert Michael Poole

Ayaka Nishiwaki, Ayano Omoto and Yuka Kashino, better known as “A-chan,” “Nocchi” and “Kashiyuka” to their fans, make up J-Pop dance unit Perfume. All in their mid-twenties, the usually technicolor-dressed trio formed some 13 years ago in Hiroshima, starting life as an Akihabara idol group, but quickly emerging as an electronic dance unit, thanks to the knob-twiddling wizardry of producer Yasutaka Nakata. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with the group at NHK’s studios to discuss a burgeoning career that has seen them tour worldwide this year, encounter new fan bases, and release their first new studio album in two years through a recent worldwide deal on Universal Music.

Arts 2013 November

Japanese-British Model Angela on Cancer and the Real Meaning of Fashion

by Robert Michael Poole

Angela Reynolds began modeling in Tokyo at just 14, immediately standing out amongst the elite models, thanks to looks inherited from a Japanese mother and British father. One of the most recognizable figures in the Japanese fashion industry today ­– ­so much such so that only her first name is needed – Angela spoke with BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan about the effect talking publicly of her experience of cancer has had on her, and how it has reshaped her opinion of the meaning of fashion

Arts 2013 November

Masayoshi Haneda on why Japanese Directors Need to Address War History

by Robert Michael Poole

Earlier this summer, Japanese cinema goers got to savor a Hollywood-produced war movie. This one, titled “Emperor,” tackled a topic that virtually no Japanese director dares to touch — Japan’s own experience during World War II.

BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan sat down with Haneda to discuss his own views on the time period, and the need for the Japanese film industry to examine Japan’s history so that new generations can learn for themselves about the effect that their nation’s actions have on modern day relationships.

Arts 2013 November

The Accidental Actress: Eriko Hatsune on Becoming a Hollywood Leading Lady

by Robert Michael Poole

For most actresses, playing the female lead in a Hollywood movie is a pipe dream, achieved only by a tiny minority who were lucky enough to get their break, usually after years of auditions and hard work. Eriko Hatsune, though, wonders why she’s an actress at all.
 
BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan sat down with Hatsune in her native city to discuss how a shy, seemingly unambitious young lady, with next to no self-promotion, made her way to the big screen.

Travel 2013 November

Female Warriors Take on AKB48 at Shinjuku’s Robot Restaurant

by Robert Michael Poole

Tim Burton, J.J. Abrams, and Katy Perry are all renowned for creating widely different fantasy worlds in their films and music videos. And as customers of Tokyo’s most talked-about live show, it’s appropriate that what they would have witnessed is a hyper-performance art extravaganza that is best described as a mixture of the otherworldliness of each of them — plus all the quirkiness of a Japanese sensibility. The Robot Restaurant, located in Shinjuku’s red light district, wasn’t meant to be this way. In fact, it was launched with a view to rivaling the AKB48 shows on Tokyo’s east side…

Travel 2013 November

Living in the Ocean in Shikoku at Shu Uemura’s Utoco Spa

by Robert Michael Poole

Shikoku’s deep south might not seem like the obvious location for a luxury spa resort, given the easy access of hot springs in Hakone and Karuizawa. But Muroto, on the southern tip of Japan’s most rural island, houses a structure that takes the concept to luxurious new heights. The curvy lines of Utuco Auberge & Spa mimic the waves crashing against the volcanic rocks at its front, but the water in its pools has a far deeper source, some 1,200 feet below. Designed by world-renowned make-up range creator Shu Uemura, Utoco’s rejuvenating powers aren’t limited to its own pools and treatments, either.

Travel 2013 November

Reimagining Ryokan in Mt Fuji’s Shadows at KAI Hakone

by Robert Michael Poole

For residents of the world’s largest city, escape from the urban sprawl is a regular urge, and one location has for decades developed into, quite literally, the hot destination for day-trippers.
Hakone, a ragged terrain of valleys and peaks around Lake Ashi, is Japan’s prime hot-spring haven, renowned for its natural beauty protected by the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and the newly UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site of Mt.Fuji.

Arts 2013 September

Hokusai-inspired Tony Bennett on Jazz Bigotry and Lady Gaga

by Robert Michael Poole

Times gone by are often treasured in retrospect, but rarely as they were actually experienced. Tony Bennett grew up in the golden age of American popular music, listening to the standards as they were first being released, working with the icons of the early 20th century, and then joining their ranks during the 1950s pre-rock’n’roll era as he made his own name. Spending time with him now feels magical in the moment, partly due to the feeling of warmth, honesty, and star quality of a man who can tell tales of Billie Holiday first hand — but also because at the age of 87, it’s clear that his love for being onstage has not ebbed one bit.

Arts 2013 September

Jazz Singer Gregory Porter’s Heart Shines Like Bling Bling

by Robert Michael Poole

This month, Blue Note unveiled a new voice in jazz, a man whose pedigree on two independent label albums earned him consecutive Grammy nominations. Dubbed a “Soul Poet” for his lyrical tenacity in terms of social commentary, Gregory Porter sings in a booming baritone from the heart — a heart that he has already interpreted to be his very own “bling.” In Tokyo for a series of dates on what has become a non-stop round of international shows for the in-demand singer, Porter’s reputation as a spiritual thinker – words flowing from his mouth like a sonneteer – proves precise even during a morning encounter in classy Aoyama.

Arts 2013 August

REVIEW: Why Fuji Rock Festival Need Never Change

by Robert Michael Poole

Fuji Rock Festival has never been about just the music. For the army of campers who ascend the mountains to Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata, the songs are the soundtrack to days away from the claustrophobic city humidity, traded in for dips in rivers and waltzes through forests in the mists and rain around Yuzawa. Murmurs of discontent with the actual lineup seem to pervade the Thursday pre-party atmosphere each year, though if there’s anything that regular Fuji rockers know, it’s that the Monday morning descent back is always fuelled by tales of unexpected new musical discoveries, and stage sets that blew expectations away.

Arts 2013 August

Summer Sonic Founder Naoki Shimizu on Asian Expansion

by Robert Michael Poole

When the Summer Sonic music festival began in 2000 as promoter Creativeman’s flagship event, it stood in a field of just two international music events, alongside Fuji Rock. Despite the onslaught of domestic music festivals from Rock in Japan to the Rising Sun Rock Festival, Summer Sonic has since gone on to solidify its reputation thanks to headliners like Coldplay, Jay-Z, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Rihanna, as well as its proximity to downtown Tokyo. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with founder Naoki Shimizu at his Harajuku office to discuss how he is “donating” the Sonic brand for free, and why his competition isn’t coming from within Asia, but rather from Europe and America.

Arts 2013 August

Meisa Kuroki Returns as Female Samurai in “Tomoe Gozen”

by Robert Michael Poole

Ever since her onstage acting debut at the age of just 15, Okinawa-born Meisa Kuroki quickly went on to become one of Japan’s most sought-after entertainer and model. With striking good looks, athletic ability, and stage presence, she has juggled careers in TV, film and theater, and even singing. After taking some time off following the birth of her daughter in September 2012, Kuroki is making a comeback as the lead in the play “Tomoe Gozen,” which is loosely based on the historical 12th Centutry female samurai of the same name.

Arts 2013 August

Chara Finds her Funk Soul Brothers at Fuji Rock

by Robert Michael Poole

J-Pop singer Chara is really anything but. Originally the pioneer of high-pitched vocal gymnastics, the now 45-year-old songstress was a revelation when she debuted with her ultra-girly delivery, and within a year copycats acts were everywhere. She inspired a generation of imitators from Yuki all the way to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, but after just a few albums left pop behind and found her own voice, tackling soul, R&B and rock, reinventing her sound by listening and learning from everything around her. At this year’s Fuji Rock Festival, her latest unexpected unit came with the simple moniker Chara x Yusuke Kobayashi x KenKen, where ARTINFO sat down with the trio.

Arts 2013 August

INTERVIEW: Yoko Narahashi – Japan’s Gatekeeper to Hollywood

by Robert Michael Poole

When naming the most influential Japanese figure in Hollywood these days, only one person stands out – Yoko Narahashi. But her name may not be very familiar to industry outsiders. Ever since working on Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun,” the casting director is responsible for making the careers of dozens of actors from Japan over the years.

Arts 2013 August

REVIEW: Summer Sonic Says So Much in so Little Time

by Robert Michael Poole

Catching up on the year’s music in two days is easy. Just ask the 210,000 who attended Summer Sonic in Tokyo and Osaka this past weekend, making it the largest music festival in Asia. The self-proclaimed “city festival,” designed for the convenience of the largest potential audience possible, closed with its annual fireworks above Marine Stadium in Chiba on Sunday, August 11, capping its most successful event ever.

Arts 2013 August

INTERVIEW: Priscilla Ahn is Ready to Love

by Robert Michael Poole

Korean-American singer Priscilla Ahn may be an LA girl, but it’s in Japan that fans seemed to have warmed to her most. On her ninth visit to the country, she brought a band for the first time, presenting a new, fuller sound at Fuji Rock Festival that pits her crystalline voice against electronic beats and indie rock drums. Born in Georgia but raised in Pennsylvania, Ahn has spent the last ten years in Los Angeles. Yet despite her family on her mother’s side being Korean, she has been learning Japanese, even singing two songs in the language at Fuji Rock’s Red Marquee, where she presented her new sound to the Saturday morning crowd after just three rehearsals.

Arts 2013 July

Michael Mayer on a Palestinian-Israeli Male Love Affair in “Out in the Dark”

by Robert Michael Poole

Tokyo’s International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival returned for its 22nd edition in 2013, continuing its reign as the longest running festival of its kind in Asia. The star guest this year was director Michael Mayer, whose male love affair film set against the Arab-Israeli conflict, “Out in the Dark,” has become a sleeper hit, screened at festivals all around the world since 2012, when it was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with Mayer to discuss the motivations behind his first film, the challenges of shooting in Ramallah, and changing attitudes to gay cinema.

Arts 2013 July

Brazilian Singer Luan Santana Considers Global Career

by Robert Michael Poole

Tokyo celebrated “Festival Brazil” in July with thousands of revelers gathering in Yoyogi Park, many of whom were there to see headline performer Luan Santana perform his brand of sertanejo universitário – a genre new to many. Santana, who has become one of the most popular and successful performers in his homeland at the age of just 22, addressed the Brazilian and Japanese media before the show, expressing his admiration for the politeness of the Japanese on his first visit to the country.

Arts 2013 June

“Kiki’s Delivery Service” Live Action Movie Underway

by Robert Michael Poole

One of animator Hayao Miyazaki’s earlier works, the 1989 feature film “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” is set for a live-action adaptation with the first images being released this week. The story follows a 13-year-old witch and her talkative black cat Jiji, who has become one of the most popular characters ever developed by Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, which he co-founded with fellow animator and director Isao Takahata in 1985 following the success of the duos “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.”

Arts 2013 June

Tokyo’s Top 6 Concert Halls

by Robert Michael Poole

Tokyo, a city of 35 million, boasts a wealth of performance venues of all kinds, offering a plethora of concerts and events every month across a range of arts. BLOUIN ARTINFO recently took a look at some of the best places to catch contemporary dance, and now presents the top six concert halls to catch opera, ballet, theater, and classical music.  

Arts 2013 June

Freediver Ai Futaki’s Underwater Dance Dream

by Robert Michael Poole

“Underwater Harmonist and Guinness World Record Holder” Ai Futaki is looking to take performing arts to a whole new level. Below the ground. The Japanese free-diver has made a name for herself as a videographer, model, and documentary maker, recently discussing her experiences underwater at TEDxTokyo 2012. Now Futaki is training above ground again and looking for new partners to expand the possibilities of dance in the ocean, as she prepares to head to Sipadan Island, Malaysia. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with Futaki to discuss a possible new realm for performing arts.

Arts 2013 June

Sukiyaki: Japan’s Greatest Moment in Music, 50 Years On

by Robert Michael Poole

This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most extraordinary songs to reach the top of the U.S. Billboard charts, a song named after a hot-pot dish that changed the perception of an entire nation for many, and set a bar that no other Asian act has yet been able to achieve. That song is Kyu Sakamoto’s 1963 classic “Sukiyaki.”

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Arts 2013 May

Kii Arens Keeps Art in Rock Alive Through Poster Art

by Robert Michael Poole

When artist Storm Thorgerson, creator of iconic LP covers for Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, died earlier this year, it seemed like the age of art in rock had finally passed with him. While the need for cover art shrunk (quite literally) during the CD era, the digital age has created a musical landscape that does not require any cover art at all, arguably depriving a generation of listeners of the rich association that these visuals impart. Many of these are good enough to hang in galleries, and used to be as vital to a new release as the music itself. One artist though, Kii Arens, has found a niche in which he keeps this spirit alive.

Arts 2013 May

French-Japanese Violinist Akiko Yamada Returns From Teenage Illness

by Robert Michael Poole

Ten years ago, promising 16-year-old classical violinist Akiko Yamada, educated in France at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, was collecting trophies at international competitions for her talent. But then, following a series of severe health issues that began with a trapped nerve in her arm, she disappeared from public view. For a long time, it seemed to both her and her fans that Yamada’s fledgling career was already over. Ten years later though, the youngest ever winner of the first Grand Prix at the Concours International Long-Thibaud (2002) returned after what she calls “a long pause of reflection.”

Travel 2013 May

When in Kyoto: Top 5 Must See

by Robert Michael Poole

The 11th century book “The Tale of Genji,” written by Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shibiku about the life of the Japanese Emperor’s son, is often cited as the world’s oldest novel. Set in the northern hills surrounding Kyoto, the area of Arashiyama retains much of the scenery of the period in which the novel was set, with its traditional Togetsukyo (moon crossing) Bridge, rickshaws, and stores selling local wares such as tofu, sake, and beautiful lacquerware. It’s just one of the top five must-sees in the old Japanese capital.

Arts 2013 May

Bird Seeks New Homes for her Versatile Music

by Robert Michael Poole

Japanese singer Bird prefers not to be stereotyped. Though her name recalls the legendary Charlie Parker, she says there is no specific link (in fact it came from the fuzzy hair she once sported that producer Shinichi Osawa dubbed a “bird’s nest”). Real name Yuki Kitayama, Bird has established herself as one of the most genuine voices of Japan in the last ten years, while fads have come and gone, her versatile voice has adapted and resonated with new generations of listeners, from pop to jazz to R&B.

Arts 2013 May

Film Producer Kazuyoshi Okuyama Laments Japan’s “Weak Energy of Expression”

by Robert Michael Poole

Japanese cinema has become increasingly inward-looking of late. Last year, locally-made films accounted for 65.7% of revenue, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. This is the first time it has topped 60% since the late 1960s. But all is not healthy. Though total revenue was up 7.7% in 2011, to $2 billion, the failure of domestic product to attract audiences in other territories has led directors and producers to focus on the local audience, churning out big-screen adaptations of manga and short stories, with characters played by pop stars and idols rather than skilled actors. Producer Kazuyoshi Okuyama however, is attempting to buck the trend.

Arts 2013 May

Can the Tokyo International Film Festival Truly Find a New Heart and Soul?

by Robert Michael Poole

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) announced May 15 a new image and restructured content for its 26th edition due to take place October 17–25, suggesting a long overdue and thorough revamp. The film festival, often derided for its formality and deadpan seriousness, has apparently found a new heart in the shape of a camera, as it enters its second quarter century.

Arts 2013 May

Tobin Ohashi Gallery Discuss Tokyo’s Importance in the Japan Art Scene

by Robert Michael Poole

Located for the past three years in Tokyo’s up-and-coming Bakurocho gallery district, Tobin Ohashi Gallery is run by American Bob Tobin and Japanese Hitoshi Ohashi, an affable duo who have been making concerted efforts to inject some dynamic, freewheeling social life into what can be an overly closed gallery scene in the Japanese capital. Ohashi leads regular tours for collectors as part of his Tokyo Art Collectors Group, while Tobin often hosts informal mixers over wine and snacks at both the gallery and the couple’s art-filled residence in Roppongi, whenever visiting artists are in town.

Arts 2013 May

Shunsuke Kaneko Tackles Japan’s Lesbian Taboo in “Jellyfish”

by Robert Michael Poole

Homosexuality remains very much a taboo topic in Japanese society. Even if it does not necessarily suffer explicit prejudice, it is at the very least a subject that is rarely discussed in an open way, especially when it comes to women. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan caught up with director Shusuke Kaneko to discuss his latest work focusing on two young lesbians entitled “Jellyfish,” the influence of William Wyler’s “The Children’s Hour” (1961), and whether a male director can ever do justice to a topic that is very personal to women’s experience of life.

Arts 2013 May

Devo Team Up With Remo Camerota for DevoBots

by Robert Michael Poole

Visual artist Remo Camerota has always had a knack for adapting to new technologies. A fine arts graduate from Melbourne, he has worked in animation, cutting edge TV editing and special effects, and most recently made his name with urban painting and photography. Now Camerota has joined forces with animator Kiyoshi Kohatsu and programmer Pietro Zuco for a unique collaboration with the US new wave group Devo, creating a new edition of his Kit Robots series entitled “DevoBots.”

Arts 2013 April

Masi Oka Interview: Hollywood’s Visual Effects Teams Need Reality Check

by Robert Michael Poole

Known to most as the master of space and time in the sci-fi series “Heroes,” Masi Oka is indeed a master of many talents. He is a visual effects artist at ILM who worked on the Star Wars prequels, an actor currently to be seen in the rebooted “Hawaii Five-O”, a teacher of improvisational comedy trained at Chicago’s Second City, and increasingly, a producer in his own right. The Japanese-American Oka is renowned for his high IQ – he was once featured on the cover of TIME magazine as an “Asian American Whiz Kid” – and when he sits down with BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan in Okinawa, his knowledge and skills across a wide range of show business is immediately apparent.

Arts 2013 April

“Architecture 101” Director Lee Yong-joo Regrets Korea’s Fading Heritage

by Robert Michael Poole

Architecture and filmmaking are not the two most obvious artistic bedfellows. But for Lee Yong-joo, an architecture graduate from Yonsei University, the appeal of the latter tempted him away from his original path, and in 2009 he wrote and produced his first film, horror flick “Living Death”. A mild success, it convinced him to return to what he knew best for his next film, the nostalgic romance of “Architecture 101”. A surprise smash hit in South Korea, the story revolved around two students who meet at an introductory class on architecture in college, fall in love, but soon drift apart.

ARTINFO JAPAN caught up with Lee in Okinawa to discuss his thoughts on traditional Korean hanok, modern Korean architecture in Gangnam, and Korea’s fading architectural heritage.

Arts 2013 April

Rebecca Gibney on Her Greatest Acting Challenge in “Mental”

by Robert Michael Poole

New Zealand-born Rebecca Gibney has become so familiar to Australian audiences that even she considers herself Australian these days. “Except when the All-Blacks play” she says. Winner of multiple Golden Logie Awards for most popular personality on Australian Television, for her role as warm-hearted mother Julie Rafter in TV family drama “Packed to the Rafters,” Gibney has become an adopted national treasure. Gibney and producer Jocelyn Moorhouse sat down with ARTINFO JAPAN to discuss why the popular TV actress took on the most challenging role of her life.

Arts 2013 April

“Berlin Kaplani” Director Hakan Algül on Turks in Germany & Thriving Turkish Cinema

by Robert Michael Poole

Turkish filmmaker Hakan Algül doesn’t do art-house. In fact, unless his movies can reach the maximum possible audience, he won’t even listen to producer’s offers. “Festivals are for films with 10,000 viewers – mine are watched by 4 million” says the big man. “But this festival is about comedy and peace, and this is important for me,” he told ARTINFO Japan during an extended interview.

Arts 2013 April

Taiwanese Dancer Peijia Huang Performs Double Acting Leap

by Robert Michael Poole

When classically trained dancer Peijia Huang ventured into her first feature-film, she didn’t do it by half. In fact, she made a double leap. For Taiwanese director Yi-Chien Yang’s “Cha Cha for Twins”, the 24 year old played both the leads, identical twin sisters Mini and Poni. For Peijia Huang the opportunity to expand her repertoire was one she couldn’t turn down, and while attending as a guest at the Okinawa International Movie Festival, she told ARTINFO Japan she wants to try acting in English some time soon too.

Arts 2013 April

“Cha Cha for Twins” Director Yi-Chien Yang on the Search for Identity

by Robert Michael Poole

Taiwanese cinema is on the rise. According to the producer of “Cha Cha for Twins,” made on a locally-funded budget of USD$700,000, even new directors can find US$1 million fairly easily these days. For director Yi-Chien Yang, the opportunity afforded her a 45-day shoot for a story that is based on her own life as an identical twin. “Cha Cha for Twins” has already shown at film festivals in San Diego, Toronto, Hong Kong and Osaka. ARTINFO sat down with Yang at the Okinawa International Movie Festival to discuss the film’s conception.

Arts 2013 April

Fukiko Takase Dances with Thom Yorke in Ingenue by Atoms For Peace

by Robert Michael Poole

Dancer Fukiko Takase may well have played the ingénue a few times in her stage career. But never one as prominent as this. For the very first music video by Atoms For Peace, lead singer Thom Yorke teams up with The Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer Wayne McGregor CBE for an abstract performance of contemporary dance.

Arts 2013 April

Kaori Momoi on the Decline of Japanese Cinema

by Robert Michael Poole

Actress Kaori Momoi, 62, has become something of a legend in the acting world in Japan. In a wide-ranging interview with BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan, she is only too happy to share her frank opinions on the failings of Japanese actors at home and abroad, who might have a real shot at Hollywood, and the bitchiest actresses around. She even requests extra time to do so…

Arts 2013 April

Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke” Stage Production Begins

by Robert Michael Poole

Studio Ghibli, led by animation master Hayao Miyazaki, has crafted timeless stories of man’s complex relationship with nature since 1984’s “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”. Perhaps none of the studio’s works better depicted the affect of mankind’s desire to progress by using the natural world’s resources, whilst also depending on nature to survive, than in 1997’s “Princess Mononoke”. Now, the tale of Ashitaka of the Emishi tribe living in Japan’s Muromachi period, the industrialist Lady Eboshi of Iron Town and San, a girl raised by wolves to hate humans, is coming to a theater stage in a production by the Whole Hog Theatre.

Travel 2013 March

Sleep in a Souq at Qatar’s Boutique Hotels

by Robert Michael Poole

Meandering my way around the labyrinth of Doha’s souq, the scent of shisha lounges, spices and Arabic perfumes seem to linger from centuries old. The restored Souq Waqif dates back hundreds of years and today from the falcon souq where prized birds go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, to chic silk garments and local crafts, it is all housed in a charming maze of Qatari architecture, the only traditional souq remaining in the Gulf. But to the delight of travelers, they too can be housed within the complex in the heart of Qatar’s capital, thanks to a series of boutique hotels that have been created out of old town houses. BLOUIN ARTINFO went exploring to see what they have to offer.

Arts 2013 March

Interview: Crystal Kay Talks R&B’s Decline & Acting Ambitions

by Robert Michael Poole

Japanese R&B singer Crystal Kay has been expanding her horizons of late. From performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall, to collaborating with Far East Movement in Orlando, Florida, the 27-year-old singer has been spreading her wings internationally – most recently via “Dance Earth,”  in which she took to the stage for the first time as a character in a musical theater production. BLOUIN ARTINFO caught up with Kay to discuss her coming English-language album, and the decline of R&B in Japan.

Travel 2013 March

Chiang Mai Art and Cafe Culture

by Robert Michael Poole

Chiang Mai, Thailand’s green and pleasant northern city near the intersection of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand — Southeast Asia’s “Golden Triangle” — has been a hot spot for travelers for generations for its walled city of temples, massage parlors and mystical mountain basin setting. But it’s not all elephant rides and cooking classes anymore; a new influx of tourism has catalyzed the regional melting pot of cultures into a new and flourishing arts scene, with galleries and cafe culture blooming all over, from the Ping River in the east to Nimmanhaemin Road in the west. ARTINFO gives you the lowdown on six of the best, as well as essential intel for spending a few days immersed in Chiang Mai’s burgeoning art scene.

Arts 2013 March

Toyo Ito Wins Architecture’s “Nobel” – The Pritzker Prize

by Robert Michael Poole

Japanese architect Toyo Ito has been named the 2013 Laureate and Pritzker Architecture Prize winner at the age of 71. The prize is considered architecture’s “Nobel” and is given each year to a living architect who demonstrates talent, vision, and commitment consistently, while providing “significant contributions to humanity and the environment through the art of architecture.”

Arts 2013 March

“The Ring” Director Abandons AKB48’s Atsuko Maeda in “The Complex”

by Robert Michael Poole

It’s hard to judge if Hideo Nakata directing AKB48’s Atsuko Maeda is a match made in heaven or hell. Either way, admires of either are likely to be divided by horror film “The Complex,” set to open across Japan on May 18 2013. At its Asian premiere, Nakata, 51 – best known to western audiences for shock-horror movies “The Ring” (1998) and “Dark Water (2002) – exacerbated the multiple contradictions of the movie as he danced jovially besides Maeda and co-star Hiroki Narimiya.

Travel 2013 February

Light Your Own Room at Qatar’s High-Tech Hotel – “The Torch”

by Robert Michael Poole

Built originally for the 2006 Asian Games, the Torch Doha was designed by renowned architects Hadi Simaan and AREP in the shape of a torch with an actual flame alight at its top. Still Qatar’s tallest tower and an iconic landmark, its interior has recently been re-modeled to present a “new era of luxury” as a high-tech hotel in which each guest of 163 guest rooms are equipped with iPads that can control the actual color and mood of the space. BLOUIN ARTINFO went to explore the site, and discovered a tower of flying carpets, revolving restaurants and a swimming pool suspended in the air.

Arts 2013 February

Former Ultimate Fighter Turns to Salarymen to Create a New World Order

by Robert Michael Poole

When Genki Sudo, 34, announced his retirement from kickboxing in December 2006, after victory at a Japanese K-1 fight in front of 52,000 fans in Osaka Dome, he commented in his post-match interview that he planned to travel overseas to see how humans solve their problems. But few would have predicted that the devout buddhist known as the ‘Neo Samurai’ would 5 years hence be performing in front of thousands at Microsoft’s WPC 2011 conference in Los Angeles with his own YouTube sensation dance ensemble, World Order. ARTINFO spoke with him about World Order’s tech-era message.

Arts 2013 February

Q&A: Leslie Kee on his Arrest and the Boundaries of Art and Pornography

by Robert Michael Poole

When Leslie Kee attended the opening of his first gallery exhibition in November 2011, it was the culmination of years of work as a foreign photographer working in Japan. The series, titled Forever Young, featured glossy shots of full male nudes, stylized to match his commercial fashion work, but unretouched and presented as art. Last week though, he earned a combination of notoriety and heroism when he was arrested and thrown in jail on charges of obscenity for the second exhibition of the series, again at the Hiromi Yoshii Gallery, which featured similar full-frontal shots of men with erections. BLOUIN ARTINFO Japan sat down with him to discuss his story, and the boundaries of art and pornography.

Arts 2013 February

Q&A: Award-Winning Dancer Kaori Seki Talks Natural Scents and Formatted Feelings

by Robert Michael Poole

Dancer Kaori Seki smells good. It’s rare of course, that a dancer performing under bright lights should pay attention to odour. But Seki is not your usual contemporary dancer and since 2010 has won recognition for bringing scents – via aroma oils – into her performances in order to add another level for her audience to interpret. ARTINFO caught up with the performer to discuss her career and the current dance scene in Japan and Asia.

Travel 2013 February

Park Hyatt Seoul’s Frederic Boulin on the Real Impact of ‘Gangnam Style’

by Robert Michael Poole

Frederic Boulin knows his Hyatts. A graduate of Glion Hotel School in Switzerland, the well-kempt General Manager is effervescent when recalling tales of his times at the luxury hotel’s properties in Shanghai, Sao Paolo, La Manga, and Cairo. Not to mention his stints at the Intercontinental in Buenos Aires, Phnom Penh, Guatemala, and Athens. But perhaps never before has the globe-trotting hotelier been at the reigns of a city’s most prestigious and talked-about hotel at the same time as the city itself has become one of the most vibrant hotspots of international fashion, culture, and entertainment. ARTINFO talks with him about the rise of Gangnam.

Arts 2013 January

Dancer Miki Hoei to Push Beyond Free-Style with ‘Pendant’

by Robert Michael Poole

The 11th ‘Newcomer Series’ of the Dance Ga Mitai Festival comes to a close in Nippori, Tokyo, this Tuesday after a fortnight of performances by a wide range of performers that has seen variations of music and visual projections incorporated in to experimental solo and groups routines. Amongst the performances on the penultimate day will be 26-year-old Gyrokinesis trainer Miki Hoei, who studied ballet from an early age. ARTINFO caught up with her before the show.

Arts 2013 January

Thai Rock Band Potato Play the Fields at Big Mountain Music Festival

by Robert Michael Poole

The fields around Khao Yai, 3 hours north of Bangkok, are for the most part of the year, the playground of cows. Human visitors usually come here to stroll in Thai wineries, ride TGVs around the hills and taste fresh steak. But in early December the landscape is transformed for three days into the only place to be for music fans in Thailand. Now in its fourth year, the Big Mountain Music Festival has already grown in to the largest music event in South East Asia, hosting 60,000 revellers from Friday night December 7th through to its finale on December 9th. ARTINFO caught up with rock band Potato right after their main stage performance.

Arts 2013 January

One Direction Announce Japan Shows, Meet Kimono-clad Maki Horikita

by Robert Michael Poole

UK boy band One Direction arrived in Japan to hoards of fans at Narita Airport, and then faced the press, taking the opportunity to announce that the group would return to perform two concerts later in the year to promote their second album, ‘Take Me Home’. The five were presented with flowers from one of Japan’s most popular young actresses, Maki Horikita, 24, before addressing the ensembled media.

Arts 2013 January

Francois Curiel Celebrates 40th Anniversary for Christie’s in Japan

by Robert Michael Poole

Francois Curiel, Christie’s President in Asia, was in high spirits during his latest visit to Japan. And no wonder, the auction house had just announced 2012 sales of US$6.27 billion, up 10% on 2011, and its Japan office has recently moved to a prestigious new location in Marunouchi whilst celebrating its 40th anniversary. ArtInfo sat down with Mr. Curiel to discuss Christie’s strategy in North East Asia in 2013.

Arts 2013 January

Korean Actress Kim Tae Hee Picks her 5 Favorite Dramas

by Robert Michael Poole

A fashion design graduate with a reputation for perfection, Korean actress Kim Tae Hee has won plaudits for her roles in several high profile TV dramas, including “Stairway to Heaven”, “Iris” and “My Princess.” In an interview for ARTINFO, she reveals her top five personal favorite TV dramas from around the world.