Ming Tiampo's Gutai: Splendid Playground Exhibition Receives Art Critics Award

Ming Tiampo's Gutai: Splendid Playground Exhibition Receives Art Critics Award

It received international attention from the likes of the New York Times, which called it "a mind-shifting exhibition about Japan's best-known postwar art movement." And now Ming Tiampo's Gutai: Splendid Playground exhibition, an exploration of the Japan's Gutai art movement held in early 2013 at New York's Guggenheim Museum, is being recognized by the International Art Critics Association (AICA-USA) for exceptional aesthetic and scholarly accomplishments in the visual arts. The exhibition was named Best Thematic Museum Show in New York.

"It's incredibly exciting," said Tiampo. "This award speaks to how the exhibition has been received as central to the field, and to how non-Western modernisms are reshaping the way that we think about 20th century art transnationally. It is no longer possible to think of modernism as purely a Euro-American phenomenon."

Tiampo is an art history professor at Carleton University who specializes in Japanese art after 1945. She collaborated on the exhibition with the Guggenheim's senior curator of Asian art, Alexandra Munroe.

Though the Gutai movement has been featured in other exhibitions, Splendid Playground was among the first devoted solely to the subject. The exhibition featured 100 works across a variety of media, including sculpture, installation art, painting, drawing, film, participatory art and performance. The show traced the Gutai Art Association from its inception in 1954 until its dissolution in 1972, and 27 of the group's 59 members were represented.

Patrons of Splendid Playground were greeted with a work called Please Draw Freely, a participatory work by Gutai founder Jiro Yoshihara in which the public was invited to contribute to a collective public drawing. Further into the exhibition, viewers were invited to disturb other patrons by triggering a line of jangling bells in a 1955 work by Atsuko Tanaka. Even the elevators and bathrooms were transformed by Shuji Mukai into installations, inspiring an entire subgenre of #Gutai selfies on social media.

"One of the keys to the show's success was that we designed an exhibition that could speak on multiple levels," said Tiampo. "It was engaging for children and resonated with the general public, but also excited art historians and critics, who saw the importance of the work as well as the fundamental paradigm shift that we were proposing."

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