What the Tokyo Locals Do: The Bacon Prize and The Tokyo Prize Awards Night

In the second in our new semi-regular series “What The Tokyo Locals Do”, Mac describes a wonderful evening at the presentation of The Bacon and Tokyo Art Prizes. It wasn’t just the locals who enjoyed it though – we brought along Maction Planet Tokyo Private Tour guests!

Thursday 31 August 2017 was a busy day at Maction Planet. It began with a full-day nine-hour tour with Jason and family. On holiday from Toronto, they had based themselves in Osaka and had come to Tokyo for a day trip. I met them off their Shinkansen in Shinagawa and so began a great day of ramen, anime, electronics, shrines, some very specific shopping requests and ninjas (!), amongst other things. After they were safely on the return bullet train, I then met Jonathan and Mina, and together we went to the United Nations University to enjoy a unique evening of art, drinks and Japanese rapping!

We arrived at the UNU and were greeted by a dog sat in front of a car! The dog was Bogie, an Australian-born vegetarian Rhodesian Ridgeback and current mascot of the Tokyo Art World. The car was a Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 4MATIC Coupé Sports, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Japan Art Car. The car has been decorated with an amazing photo of the aforementioned hound by Peter M Cook and christened “the Bogiemobile”. For those who missed it last night, the car is on exhibition at Tsutaya’s T-site on 2 and 3 September from 10:00 to 19:00. Well worth seeing.

The United Nations University, established by UN General Assembly approval in December 1972 , is housed in a spectacular building, the sort of structure one might find in Gotham City. It is only 14 stories high, but its unique design always diverts heads as you are walking along Aoyama-dori. Designed by world-renowned architect Kenzo Tange, the handover of the building by the Japanese Government took place on 30 June 1992. A truly fantastic piece of Tokyo architecture.

Just before the entrance were computers set up by SPACEVISION, a Tokyo-based company which specialises in 3D Body Scanning. Guests were invited to get a head scan using a 3D camera. The results were incredible, and resultant life-like heads were broadcast onto the big screen in the venue throughout the evening!

3D Headscan of Mac, Founder of Maction Planet

As we headed inside, we were greeted by some moody lighting and Minimalist and Deep House from DJ AMIGA, one of Japan’s top DJs.

We went to the bar and enjoyed the free-flow champagne, La Cuvee provided by event sponsors Laurent Perrier. Further refreshment could be had in the form of Red Bull, Stolichnaya Vodka, San Pellegrino and Solan de Cabras water.

The award ceremony began around 9pm. First of all was the presentation of the 7th Annual Tokyo Prize. This is given to an individual for their extraordinary support of the The Japanese Contemporary Arts. It is sponsored by Citizens’ League for the Arts (CLA), Japan’s first Non-Profit Organisation.  Last year’s winner was architect Shigeru Ban. The prize itself is an amazing sculpture of a Tokyo Crow by Hiroki Tashiro using the technique of ichiboku-zukuri (一木造), in which sculptures are carved from a single piece of wood!

This year the award went to Kazuko Aso, director of DANDANS art collective, for her sterling work championing contemporary art.

Onto the 10th Annual Bacon Prize. Joni Waka, the Tokyo legend known as “Johnnie Walker,” director of the A.R.T. foundation, created the juried prize in order to honour and support a specially selected artist. It is named after Francis Bacon, the Irish-born artist and in memory of Tokyo’s previous art world mascot, a Budapest born vegetarian Irish Wolfhound a.k.a. “Bacon”.

The prize itself is a sculpture of the dog Bacon by Fumi Ito, an in-house textile artist from “Nuno”, along with ¥500,000. It was announced previously that the award would be given to an artist showing in the Yokohama Triennale 2017.

The winner was Zhao Zhao from China. Born in 1982 in Xinjiang, Zhao Zhao graduated from the Xinjiang Institute of the Arts in 2003 with a BFA from the department of Oil Painting and later attended the Beijing Film Academy. A former assistant to Ai Weiwei, he is very much a key figure in contemporary Chinese art in his own right. Rather like his mentor, his multidisciplinary body of work critiques China’s socio-political fabric, with many of his pieces looking at the consequences of actions within, and against the state.

Zhao Zhao’s piece exhibited at the Yokohama Triennale is ‘Project Taklamakan’, a 23-day ‘event’ which required immense human and financial resources. He and a thirty-strong team traveled 4,000km from Beijing, with a 100km 4 core cable and a double-door refrigerator, to the town of Luntai at the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert. Zhao Zhao negotiated with a rural Uighur family to connect to their electricity supply. Then, he followed the edges of the desert highway heading south. Using a refitted Pathfinder and 10 transformers, he laid the 100km cable until he reached the center of the Taklamakan Desert. The end of the cable was connected to the refrigerator, which was full of Sinkiang Beer. The appliance was on for 24 hours. One week later, the cable, transformers and refrigerator were all sent back to Beijing. The cable was cut into sections measuring 1.86m – the height of the refrigerator. A truly epic project.

The award was accepted on his behalf by Annabelle James from the Mizuma Gallery.

After the formalities, we were treated to a special performance by N.O.B a.k.a. COCOSPIN. He was joined by human beat boxer AFRA as well as Chino Braidz, FUSE, Maya Hatch and NARITA.

Seeing, hearing and tasting were not the only senses that were activated that night. Air Aroma Japan provides a special ‘scent-led performance’, which the smell inside the venue changing from an ‘entrance aroma’ to a ‘performance aroma’.  

When we left the venue, we saw that Bogie had been joined in front of his Bogiemobile by some friends (see featured image).

After the event, we continued into the night, checking out some of Shibuya’s finest craft beer and cocktail bars before heading to a tiny ‘snack’ bar to continue partying and karaoke with the locals!

It was an honour to be invited. Thanks go to Joni Waka and all at the The A.R.T. Foundation for a great show. And thank you to Jonathan, Mina, Jason and family and all our guests from Maction Planet.

More than just a tour company, Maction Planet’s unique and unparalleled access into so many aspects of the fabric of Tokyo is opening up The World’s Greatest Metropolis to guests in ways previously unimaginable. See the city differently on our Tokyo Private Tours. Join us: info@mactionplanet.com  

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