Interview & Report

Yuko Hasegawa

Yuko Hasegawa

Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo / Professor, Tama Art University

After graduating from Kyoto University with a major in law and Tokyo University of the Arts graduate school, she worked at Art Tower Mito, Setagaya Art Museum, and trained at the Whitney Museum of American Art before helping to found the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa starting in 1999 and directed its architecture and collections. She curated its opening exhibition Encounters in the 21st Century: Polyphony –Emerging Resonances and Matthew Barney: Drawing Restratint9 among others. She also served as the curator for the 2001 Istanbul Biennial, co-curator for the 2002 Shanghai Biennial, 2005 Media City Seoul, and 2010 Sao Paulo Art Biennial as well as the artistic advisor to the 12th Architecture Biennale in Venice and as the curator of the 2013 11th Sharjah Biennial. She is also currently working on Tokyo Art Meeting, a joint project with specialists from other fields, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. In 2011, she collaborated with SANAA for Tokyo Art Meeting (II) Architectural Environments for Tomorrow- New Spatial Practices in Architecture and Art. She has held her current position since 2006. Publications include Onnanoko no Tame no Gendai Art Nyumon (Introduction to Modern Art for Girls) (Tankosha Publishing) and Naze? Kara Hajimeru Gendai Art (Why? Introducing Modern Art) (NHK Publishing Shinsho).

“You need curators even in fashion.”
So says Yuko Hasegawa, the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.
She has curated fashion exhibitions in the past such as Luxury in Fashion Reconsidered and Hussein Chalayan- from fashion and back. In July, Future Beauty 30 Years of Japanese Fashion will be held with several new pieces added to the London and Munich exhibit. We asked Ms. Hasegawa, with her expertise in art and deep knowledge of fashion, what she thinks about current fashion, the future of fashion, and the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week TOKYO.

First, what did you think about the collections presented during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week TOKYO?

I was unable to actually visit the venues, so my comments will be based on the collection magazine, but I had the impression that because clothes are created based on the human form, it’s not really about presenting a completely new worldview, but developing something wearable with diversity in levels of sophistication and sensibilities. So I did not feel that there was an overpowering, completely different worldview, or a new clothing platform or a paradigm that emerged, rather that each designer was reflecting the current situation in various ways.
There is no “mainstream” in fashion today. Individuals’ preferences are scattered in multiple directions, so it is virtually impossible to analyze. I imagine it to be like miniscule water veins flowing in different directions. Even if you look at the collection magazine, it’s just a list of names of brands and photos. Only those familiar with it will understand. We no longer have a clear signal like Christian Dior; it’s a complex reality with intricate, multiple intersections between creations and brands that branched out. That’s why no matter who you show it to, they will think “The details were different, but what was the difference?” So it’s important to curate information on the difference in the detail, and necessary to provide and to map out a perspective so that those differences will become clear.

Collection presentations such as runway shows and installations were originally focused mainly on BtoB business for industry personnel such as buyers and media. However, since the middle of the 2000s, it has become a fashion event including consumer BtoC events with the aim to energize the fashion industry in general and to enhance the clout of Tokyo as a city. I believe that it is critical to communicate the collections (fashion) in an understandable manner in order to spark interest in more people.

I believe that fashion is a field that anyone involved in information or creative industries have interest in including product designers, graphic designers, and book editors (though from the brands’ point-of-view, I’m sure buyers are the main interest). Since a large event like the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week TOKYO is being held, holding the event would be more meaningful if information was developed properly and if such information were made accessible to various types of people.
Feel and Think : A New Era of Tokyo Fashion was very creative and an interesting attempt with designers developing artistic presentations and installations. I heard from the curator that many of the visitors were from the fashion industry, so I think it would be beneficial to think a little more about what type of access points or entry points you need to build into fashion itself.
In other words, how information is designed becomes important. It’s that little added extra. Japanese fashion is said to be reputed highly, but it still lags behind Paris, Milan, and New York. The issue here is presentation. Fashion Week is also the gateway to Japanese fashion, so there should be creativity in providing information in a different form, with a more interesting concept, one that you can find nowhere else.

I think artists struggle with the same issues as fashion designers in Japan. What are your thoughts on this problem of how to break out into the international scene?

It comes down to one’s own stance; what position one takes.
Some artists are living alone in China to work on their art, others are doing it while going to business school and acquiring practical training at university. Some are selling their work at Art Fair and others were discovered and emerged through YouTube. There are different ways to go about it, but the key is to not think that the market is only Japan. There will always be somebody that will understand your work out in the world, so you should at least develop your presentations bilingually with English, and post information through your website or on Facebook. In other words, the key point is how to leverage communication to the masses and how that information is spread through people. We are in an age where you do not know who may be watching from where. Cultural elements are not always connected linearly, it is increasingly communicated from one point to another. It’s becoming an incredible network. What’s even more crucial is who the first person is to say “this is interesting.” Who are you going to trust to navigate you, that’s key.

There are no curators in fashion. It seems that we would have to start by developing human resources that would be able to analyze and direct fashion.

Fashion, as a field, also needs curators.
Art needs to be accessible both diachronically (from past to future) and synchronically (present); that’s where curators come into the picture. It would be better if there was someone with that perspective in fashion as well. People who have studied the history of fashion have a diachronic perspective and seem to talk with little emphasis on the “now”, but you also need to have comprehensive observation and analysis on how far it’s committed to the present. I think that is segregated for people who specialize in fashion.
The structure of information is complex now, and many elements are interacting with one another, so it no longer holds true to say conventionally like ” this method in this section”. This is because fashion is only born when a person wears it, but people are continually changing. It’s highly fluid. That’s why you need to be flexible in thinking about fashion with all the connections and multitude of layers even more.

Do we also need creative ways to communicate and spread information?

I have heard that there is a design office that works from a local city with one or two staff and has an on-demand business based on orders. How do they receive orders? They may go out to the site and show them; they may rent out space at a public building for an exhibition rather than in a department store; they may share information over their website, and there’s probably word-of-mouth as well. This is a new way to work that’s out there where you work within the local area that you feel is compatible with you. It’s a way that is truly “pinpoint to pinpoint” where you provide something you really want to make to people who really want to have it.
It’s necessary to read into it that some people may say that fashion is the crystallization of a collection of comprehensive information. If not, the information will be like a patchwork quilt. Patched information becomes the same once you have 1, 2, 3 down. The viewers get tired of it, and it leaves no impression on them. They won’t understand and you won’t be able to reach the world unless you clearly say what kind of heart and soul is behind that clothing. The collections in Tokyo gets an A+ for its beauty, but what I feel is missing is that it doesn’t leave any lasting impression.

What ways of presentations would “leave lasting impressions”?

One way is to conceptually include the theme or vision into the exhibition. The Art Fair has already used conceptual presentation. For example in Japan, you can document people working outside of Tokyo, create a video installation of it, then develop a way to access this documentary in real time. That would be a simple and stylish way to do it.
Or may what is created is vernacular, but you’re able to obtain information in a variety of ways. For example, if you can decide on a time for an appointment and use Skype, you’ll be able to feel the atmosphere of the venue, but you won’t have to actually be there. When you provide such opportunities, you can understand what type of creations is created in what type of culture. And it can be accomplished remotely. We are in the global age, so it’s not enough to put together and present a package of what you love in order to break out, you have to be creative in how you communicate that information as much as you are about your design.

Future Beauty 30 Years of Japanese Fashion

The ‘Future Beauty’ exhibition focuses on Japanese fashion, its creativity and the cultural background of its powerful design.
With the development of the Japanese economy during the latter half of the twentieth century, Japanese fashion entered the world stage, where it was recognized for its uniqueness. Starting with Kenzo Takada in 1970 and Issey Miyake, then followed in the eighties by Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, the activities of these designers were to enlarge the possibilities presented by fashion, throwing open the door of creativity to the world, in a field that had previously been confined to the framework of Western aesthetics.
They continued to create a free, imaginative style, drawing the eyes of the world towards Japan as a ‘cool place’ that offered new interpretations of the meaning of clothing. What is the essence and strength of Japanese fashion and how will our relationship with clothes change? These are the issues that we would like to look at afresh in 2012.
This exhibition was originally held at the Barbican Art Gallery (London) in 2010, then the Haus der Kunst (Munich) in 2011, where it was extremely well received. In addition to the work shown overseas, the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo will also include a section entitled ‘Virtuality and Reality’, presenting the work of young fashion designers to provide a hint of the future direction of fashion. From the ‘deconstruction and innovation’ of the eighties, through the ‘expressions of the nineties generation, who considered “attitude” a life concept’, to the ‘”sympathetic” generation’ of the first decade of the new century ‘whose designs were based on daily “behavior”‘, such as eating, sleeping and talking with friends. By looking back over the last thirty years of change, we hope to catch a glimpse of the futurity of Japanese fashion.

Period& Hours

July 28 (Sat) – October 8 (Mon), 2012
Tuesday to Sunday (Closed* Mondays and 5/1, 7/17, 9/18)
10:00 am – 6:00 pm (Last admittance 30 minutes before closing)


Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo , Exhibition Gallery 3F

Brands & Designers

COMME des GARÇONS / JUNYA WATANABE / tao COMME des GARÇONS / ISSEY MIYAKE / Yohji Yamamoto / sacai / Eatable of Many Orders / SHINICHIRO ARAKAWA / ohta / ZUCCA / OH! YA? / mintdesigns / S/STERE / KENZO / UNDERCOVER / KOJI TATSUNO / ASEEDONCLÖ UD / FINAL HOME / AKIRA NAKA / hatra / SOMARTA / TARO HORIUCHI / matohu / minä perhonen / ANREALAGE…

Rei Kawakubo(COMME des GARÇONS) 1983 A/W
Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute,
gift of Gift of Comme des Garçons Co., Ltd.,
Photo by Masayuki Hayashi

Yohji Yamamoto
1983 S/S
Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute,
gift of Ms. Sumiyo Koyama,
photo by Taishi Hirokawa

“Archivse dress”
© mintdesigns

sacai / Chitose Abe
2012 S/S
© sacai


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