Observer’s Guide to Tokyo’s Best Art Galleries

With the second edition of Tokyo Gendai opening for VIPs soon, we’ve compiled a list of the city's standout art galleries that should be on every art lover’s itinerary.

View of the architecture the Scai Piramide in Tokyo with glass.
Scai Piramide in Tokyo. Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Many people are deeply fascinated by Japan’s timeless culture, harmonious spirituality and delicious food. Fewer are fans of the country’s vibrant contemporary arts scene, if only because its evolving and increasingly international gallery scene is relatively young. After years of regional closure, Japan seems to finally be opening up and trying to catch up with the incredible development shown by the Korean art scene on the global stage. The second edition of Tokyo Gendai opens for VIPs on the fourth, and lately, more and more galleries have been opening in the Japanese capital, with a new international presence. Observer’s guide to Tokyo’s gallery clusters and art spaces can help you identify which of them you should keep on your radar.

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Piramide

3F Piramide Bldg., 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032

One of the city’s most important gallery clusters is in the luxury neighborhood of Roppongi Hills. Named after the architectural structure featuring a glass pyramid, this modern building houses some of the most compelling galleries, including the international powerhouse Perrotin and local established galleries Taka Ishii, SCAI the Piramide, KOTARO NUKAGA and OTA Fine Arts. Phillips Japanese location is also in the building.

Coinciding with Tokyo Gendai, Perrotin is opening a solo show of American painter Elizabeth Glaessner, “Heaad Gaames,” which draws from art history, mythology, memory and pop culture, the artist’s dream-like paintings create fluid imagined realms populated by amorphous landscapes where both person and surrounding area are in a seemingly constant state of metamorphoses. Glaessner’s is a very intuitive process that sees a repeated layering of oil over poured pigments, allowing something in the primordial subconscious to emerge. The show opens today (July 2) and will be up until August 31.

SCAI PIRAMIDE (Roppongi) is the gallery’s third exhibition venue, following SCAI THE BATHHOUSE (Yanaka) and SCAI PARK (Tennozu). As one of the most established galleries in the country, they represent important Japanese artists of the last decades, such as Lee Ufan or Mariko Mori, among others.  During the art week, the gallery in Roppongi will still have the show of historical Japanese painter Natsuyuki Nakanishi (1935-2016), while Mariko Mori, “Kojiki” is showing at the location opened just last month.

SEE ALSO: The World Trade Center Offers Case Studies in Making Space for Artists in Urban Centers

Gallery KOTARO NUKAGA is one of the main powers in Japan and also part of the Art Basel Committee. Founded in Tokyo in 2018, the gallery’s program takes particular interest in the avant-garde forefront of global art, exploring radical ideas set forth by both Japanese and international artists. Now the gallery has two spaces in Tokyo, one in the Piramide and one in Tennoz. The one in Roppogi is hosting “Materiality and Language: Explorations in Form and Meaning,” a group show curated by Esthella Provas featuring works by both local and international artists Amador, Stefan Brüggemann, Jose Dávila, Michael Rikio, Ming Hee Ho and Rirkrit Tiravanija (through July 31)

Just next door, at Complex665 Taka Ishii will still host the exhibition of conceptual Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres, “La Paradoja del Esfuerzo” which will be up until July 27. Being one of the main Japanese galleries participating regularly in international fairs, since its opening in 1994, the gallery has continued to introduce international contemporary artists within Japan and act as an international platform for emerging Japanese artists as well as contemporary masters.

Finally, OTA Fine Arts is showing “I died a hundred times”, Zai Kuning’s first solo exhibition in Japan in eight years, with a new body of works on paper as well as sculptural pieces.

Kaikai Kiki Gallery

Installation view of KaiKai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo with paintings and sculptures,
Installation view of “Healing x Healing,” Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo. © Takashi Murakami/ Mr./ MADSAKI/ TENGAone/ Yuji Ueda/ Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. © VERDY © Shoko Nakazawa, photo by Kozo Takayama

Japan, 〒106-0046 Tokyo, Minato City, Motoazabu, 2 Chome−3−30 クレストビル B1F

Walking from the Piramide, you can visit the legendary gallery that artist Takashi Murakami opened in 2008 as a place to introduce artists managed by Murakami in Japan. In addition to creating social value for art through the management and sales of artists’ work, it also contributes to the development of the Japanese art scene by providing prominent overseas artists with opportunities to exhibit in Tokyo. Major artists working with the gallery include Mr., Aya Takano, Chiho Aoshima, Ob, Emi Kuraya, Madsaki, Tengaone, Otani Workshop and Mori Murata. Guest artists include Futura, Kasing Lung, T9G, Shoko Nakazawa and Hideyasu Moto. The gallery regularly presents at fairs in the region and at international art fairs such as Art Basel and Frieze. The gallery will present works by Hideyasu Moto at the Tokyo Gendai art fair.

PARCEL

view of a whitecube architecture of PARCEL Gallery in Tokyo
PARCEL Gallery in Tokyo. Courtesy PARCEL

2 Chome-2-1 Nihonbashibakurocho, Chuo City, Tokyo 103-0002, Japan

Opening its doors in 2009 in a former parking lot at the DDD HOTEL on the East side of Tokyo, this distinctive space now also hosts a restaurant to enhance the visitor’s experience. In 2022, it opened as an annex on the second floor of the Maruka Building, a gallery complex located behind PARCEL, where it hosts more experimental art. The program is centered on Japan but also aims to transcend various cultures. Its focus is on contemporary art, and it introduces a wide range of artists from Japan and abroad. Taku Sato, the current gallery director, has been running the gallery for years. Sakie Takasu, a member of the art collective SIDE CORE, is the program advisor. At Tokyo Gendai, the gallery is presenting the work of Japanese sculptor Tomonari Hashimoto while the annex space is hosting Manbo Key, “Father’s Videotapes” until July 7.

TERRADA ART COMPLEX / Warehouse Terrada

Mural of a swirling water like form by Meguru Yamaguchi at Terrada Warehouse for Tennoz Art Festival 2024.
A mural by Meguru Yamaguchi at Terrada Warehouse for Tennoz Art Festival 2024. PHOTO BY YUSUKE SUZUKI (USKFOTO)

1 Chome-33-10 Higashishinagawa, Shinagawa City, Tokyo 140-0002, Japan

Conveniently housed in an art warehouse that hosts a series of leading galleries, this new cluster has turned Tennoz, a waterfront district in Tokyo, into a new hub for arts and culture. The first building, TERRADA ART COMPLEX I, opened in 2016, followed by TERRADA ART COMPLEX II in 2020. Additionally, the facility has some artists’studios, and despite being more remote, it’s a perfect day stroll. There’s even a chill cafe overlooking an expansive garden. Warehouse Terrada was actually founded back in 1950 in Tennozu, and in the ’70s launched a storage business for pleasure assets. In 2000, the company began developing a broad range of art-related business services related to the storage building, including art supply with Pigment Tokyo or insurance, shipping and restoration with Terrada Art Assist Co. This is a one-stop destination where one can buy, manage and protect art. Terrada also recently launched its art award (Terrada Art Ward) to support artists, and as an official partner of Tokyo Gendai, it will host an opening night event on Saturday, July 6.

BLUM

View of the BLUM gallery in tojyo with some ceramics on the floor and two abstract paiting on the wall.
BLUM’s gallery in Tokyo is conveniently located in a neighborhood of boutiques in Omotesando. BLUM Gallery

5F, 1 Chome-14-34 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

BLUM (without the Poe now after the split earlier this year) is originally from Los Angeles but has had a long-time presence in Japan. Tim Blum first visited Japan in 1984, returning several times before moving to Tokyo in 1989. He worked at several galleries and a private museum for the five years that followed, getting exposure to some of the most iconic artistic practices that emerged during this time and later informed the key exhibitions that shaped the gallery’s history. Notably, in 1991, Blum met Takashi Murakami at his first solo exhibition in the Ginza district of Tokyo (“Takashi, Tamiya,” Gallery Aires). The two became friends, each teaching the other about artists from their respective countries. From that moment, Blum confessed to having been transformed by his discovery of the postwar movements of Gutai and Mono-ha and by the work of contemporary artists such as Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara, as well as Yayoi Kusama and Yukinori Yanagi, who were regularly shown at Fuji Television Gallery in the early ‘90s. Blum then opened in Santa Monica in 1994, where he showed in the U.S. key Japanese and Asian movements such as the Dansaekhwa, Mono-ha and Superflat. For this year’s Tokyo Gendai art week, the gallery is opening the first exhibition in Japan of  Thomas Houseago “MOON,” on July 5.

Fergus McCaffrey

Anselm Kiefer, Opus Magnum on view at Fergus McCaffrey Tokyothrough July 13, 2024 - In the image some vetrine with sculptures and a watercolor by the artist on the wall.
Anselm Kiefer, “Opus Magnum,” is on view at Fergus McCaffrey Tokyo through July 13, 2024. Courtesy Fergus McCaffrey

3 Chome-5-9 Kita-Aoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0061, Japan

Founded in 2006, Fergus Mccaffrey is internationally recognized for its groundbreaking role in promoting the work of post-war Japanese artists, as well as a quality roster of select contemporary European and American artists. After opening its location in Tokyo in 2018,  the gallery has been instrumental in introducing post-war Japanese art to a Western market: Gutai artists Sadamasa Motonaga, Kazuo Shiraga and Toshio Yoshida; Hi-Red-Center members Jiro Takamatsu and Natsuyuki Nakanishi; and Noriyuki Haraguchi and Hitoshi Nomura from the Mono-Ha era. The gallery also exhibits the work of emerging and seminal Western artists to foster international exchange, including Barry X Ball, Anna Conway, Marcia Hafif, Martha Jungwirth, Birgit Jürgenssen, Richard Nonas, Sigmar Polke and Carol Rama. Currently, the Tokyo art gallery is showing “Opus Magnum,” Anselm Kiefer’s first show in Japan since 1998, featuring twenty vitrine sculptures and watercolors.

PACE Gallery

View of PACE gallery's new location in Tokyo.
View of PACE gallery’s new location in Tokyo. © DBOX for Mori Building Co., Ltd - Azabudai Hills

Azabudai Hills, Tokyo

Pace is the latest international gallery to open an outpost in the Japanese capital, with a preview coinciding this week. Located inside a Thomas Heatherwick building in Azabudai Hills and designed by world-known Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto, the gallery’s newest space will span three floors and a terrace with approximately 5,500 square feet in total. A special preview of the space is planned during Tokyo Gendai, which anticipates the grand opening in September with an exhibition by Los Angeles artist Maysha Mohamedi. Kyoko Hattori will head the new Tokyo gallery and introduce the gallery’s artists and clients to the fast-growing art scene in Japan.

In collaboration with Azabudai Hills Gallery, Pace will present “Calder: Un effet du japonais”, an ambitious presentation of approximately 100 artworks, a tribute and a gift Marc Glimtcher decided to offer to Japan’s timeless aesthetic, to celebrate the opening of this new location in its capital. Curated by Calder Foundation President Alexander S. C. Rower, this landmark presentation will be the first exhibition of Calder’s work to be mounted in Tokyo in nearly thirty-five years. As Rower put it in a press release, “The curatorial process was an intuitive one, guided by Calder’s lifelong admiration for Japanese aesthetics and culture—and how he worked with the freedom of disparity, asymmetry and a kind of approximation.” Renowned architect and longtime Calder Foundation collaborator Stephanie Goto has created a bespoke design for the exhibition rooted in the geometry of a 3:4:5 triangle that features elegant and modern references to Japanese architecture and materials.

Meanwhile, Pace’s booth at Tokyo Gendai will spotlight a selection of new and recent drawings and studies by Robert Longo, a key figure in the Pictures Generation of the 1970s and 1980s known for his ambitiously scaled and highly detailed hyper-realistic charcoal compositions.

Observer’s Guide to Tokyo’s Best Art Galleries