The programming of an informal and inclusive arts festival at night encapsulates both Roppongi’s ingrained identity as a nightlife destination, and its more recently developed high-end culture and leisure offering. A vibrant temporary festival, Roppongi Art Night has:
- Complemented new permanent cultural institutions
- Involved 130 artists and creative practitioners (2013)
- Presented free events, from music, theatre, dance, art and public installation.
Tokyo already has a highly developed network of museums and art galleries, with the number of visits to Tokyo’s top museums and galleries in a calendar year reaching almost 10 million. Roppongi Art Night stemmed from Tokyo city’s desire to complement this permanent infrastructure with a series of temporary, project-based activities.
In response, a new Tokyo Culture Creation Project developed a series of festivals and workshops, including festivals focused on traditional culture, theatre, music, art, and film. Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions 2014, for example, was a 15-day programme of exhibitions, screenings, live performances, and other events combining art and visual expression by 85 artists from around the world.
In addition to complementing the work of Tokyo’s cultural institutions, these programmes aim to encourage wider public participation and strengthen the identity of Tokyo’s districts. They also help government, non-profit organisations and arts cultural organisations to work more closely together, and provide a different sort of platform for Tokyo’s artists and creative practitioners.
Roppongi Art Night is an all-night festival held in Tokyo’s Roppongi district. Roppongi, part of Minato district on Tokyo’s eastern coast, is home to most of Tokyo’s embassies and a considerable section of Tokyo’s foreign-born population. Since the 1960s Roppongi has been the centre of Tokyo nightlife. However large high-end property developments built from 2000 onwards have begun to change the area’s character. The opening of the Mori Art Museum in 2003, the National Art Center, Tokyo in 2007, and the relocation of the Suntory Art Museum to the area in 2007 have together created an ‘Art Triangle’ to substantiate the area’s cultural offering.
Roppongi Art Night 2013 involved 130 artists and creative practitioners and offered free music, theatrical and dance performances, as well as displays of art and design, a large public installation and a special parade in cooperation with local schools. Beginning at 10am on a Saturday morning and running all the way through to 6pm the following Sunday, the Art Night extended across six different venues and into public and semi-public spaces such as restaurants, parks and shops. Late opening was extended across Roppongi’s ‘Art Triangle’ venues, and a discount joint entrance ticket scheme rolled out especially for the event. For Roppongi Art Night 2014, the festival’s Artistic Director Katsuhiko Hibino, festival artists, curators and project staff, have put together three free Roppongi Art Night School sessions, exploring the creative process, themes and programmes behind the 2014 festival.
Roppongi Art Night has gathered considerable momentum since it was established in 2008, with the number of people enjoying the festivities rising from 550,000 to 830,000. The programming of an informal and inclusive arts festival at night also encapsulates Roppongi’s ingrained identity as a nightlife destination and its more recently developed high-end culture and leisure offering.