This coming Friday evening, I will do a talk event with Katsuhiko Hibino. His standing in Japan is as follows: The artist who represented the blooming Bubble Economy in the 1980s and defined an era, he is also a media celebrity. Today he remains active, overseeing events at the Mori Art Museum and holding workshops with people with disabilities. He is a multi-tasking genius, at once the Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts—the creme de la creme of Japanese art universities—and the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu. This is how he is viewed in Japan in any case.
This time, however, I am hoping to put him in a different light. He is the very person who, for a time, choked the life out of the contemporary art industry after Mono-ha. He is the one who worked to his absolute capacity during the six years of Bubble Economy from 1986 to 1991, entirely shifting the direction of Japanese art itself. Hibino himself, however, hadn’t intended any of it.
When the Bubble Economy was blooming, cultural programs led by Seibu Saison (Sezon) Group, a postwar corporate conglomerate that developed railroad, real estate, hotel, and department store businesses, swallowed Japan whole. Hibino himself benefited from his relationship with PARCO, the said group's commercial facility. The wave these cultural programs kept generating were so enormous that ultimately, like a tsunami, they engulfed the contemporary art industry and washed it away. (Seibu Saison (Sezon) Group remains today in name but I understand that it is run under another company.)
After the burst of the Bubble Economy in 1991, Japan entered the so-called “lost decade,” its period of reflection; the cultural situation of this time has never really been re-evaulated since. The Japanese contemporary art industry around the time I made my debut really had nothing to offer in the aftermath of the burst Bubble Economy. So I gave it a name, Superflat, and came up with a theory about it. The Superflat movement was truly grassroots in the sense that it embodied weeds slowly creeping back into a vacant lot after a building collapse. →to be continued