The spectacular Roppongi Art Night is happening this month – here are the highlights

Tokyo’s premier all-night arts festival will feature local and international artists as well as a street theatre show

Emma Steen
Lim Chee Wah
Written by
Emma Steen
Lim Chee Wah
Roppongi Art Night
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima Close Act Theatre's 'White Wings'

Get ready to experience the vibrancy and creativity of Tokyo's art scene at Roppongi Art Night. This awe-inspiring after-dark festival, now in its 12th year, will run from May 27 to 28 2023 to celebrate local and international talents. Roppongi Art Night is one of Tokyo's most eagerly anticipated festivals, as it brings together the neighbourhood's museums, galleries, shops and public spaces for a unique and extensive event that runs well into the night. 

With the theme ‘An Illustrated Book of Urban Creatures’, the festival is set to showcase a wide variety of art forms, including installations, theatre and performance art, that truly capture the diversity of Tokyo's artistic community. The lineup will feature 45 established and up-and-coming artists, creating a whopping total of 70 programmes and events. Here are some of this year’s highlights. 

Roppongi Art Night
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima100 Colors No.43 '100 Colors of Memory' (2023)

A scattering of public art across multiple venues in Roppongi 

Roppongi Art Night 2023 takes art out of the confines of traditional spaces and into the public sphere, offering a transient explosion of free art installations scattered across various venues. This year's edition features an eclectic mix of pieces, each distinctly embedded within the urban fabric of Roppongi.

Roppongi Art Night
Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaMakoto Egashira 'DX Fluffy Blanket Dream House'

One of the standout installations is Emmanuelle Moreaux's abstract piece titled '100 Colours', which symbolises the passage of time through a gradation of one hundred colours. Another intriguing installation, Makoto Egashira's 'Dx Fluffy Blanket Dream House', utilises Rococo-style flower pattern blankets that enjoyed immense popularity in Japan circa 1968. Once considered the height of luxury, these blankets have faded into obscurity, dismissed by the current generation as antiquated and unfashionable. 

Roppongi Art Night 2023
Photo: Zhang Xu Zhan 'Compound Eyes of Tropical'

Also on display is Zhang Xu Zhan's showcase 'Compound Eyes of Tropical'. On from 10am on May 27 to 6pm on May 28 at Roppongi Hills North Tower, this captivating film sequence highlights Zhan's 'Animal Story' series. Inspired by the vibrant costumes of Taiwan's folk dances and ceremonial festivals, the installation weaves a rich cultural narrative into the festival's broader canvas.

Roppongi Art Night
Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaTomoko Konoike 'Wolf Bench' (2022)

Public art at Roppongi Art Night 2023 is not confined to one area. It spills into places like the subterranean levels of Tokyo Midtown and even the courtyard of the National Art Centre, Tokyo, where Tomoko Konoike has installed her 'Wolf Bench' sculpture. This artistic bench invites interaction, welcoming visitors to rest upon its intricate form. 

Photo: Timothy Schenck, courtesy Heatherwick Studio'Little Island' (2021), New York

All-night exhibitions and a concert at dawn

Roppongi Art Night 2023 beckons you to revel in its nocturnal allure, with art installations, performances, and exhibitions continuing well into the twilight hours. From evening until dawn, a ceaseless parade of artistic endeavours turns Roppongi into an enchanting wonderland, a haven for art enthusiasts and night owls alike.

Collaborating museums and artists have devised special programmes to keep the city's art lovers entertained. For example, Tokyo City View gallery, usually closing at 10pm on weekends, is extending its hours on Saturday, May 27. It will remain open until 6am on Sunday, offering an extraordinary chance to view architect Thomas Heatherwick's exhibition through the night.

But the unusual hours don't merely pertain to visual art. In a beautiful twist, the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra is set to perform a free half-hour concert at the Roppongi Hills Arena at 5.30am on May 28. In this peculiar juncture, as the orchestra's melodies usher in the dawn, the city's night owls and early birds may find themselves in a rare moment of overlap, bound together by a love for art and music.

The Tanker Project by Takashi Kuribayashi + Cinema Caravan
Photo: Roppongi Art NightThe Tanker Project by Takashi Kuribayashi + Cinema Caravan

Featured artist 1: Takashi Kuribayashi + Cinema Caravan

With a career that began in Germany, Takashi Kuribayashi often produces large-scale installations that explore the theme of boundaries. For Roppongi Art Night 2023, he is collaborating with Cinema Caravan, a multi-disciplinary collective of photographers, carpenters and chefs, to create a version of his experiential installation Tanker Project, which looks like a ship. You’ll find it docked at the Roppongi Hills Arena. 

Roppongi Art Night
Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaTomoko Konike 'Musashino Black Kite' (2021)

Feature artist 2: multimedia artist Tomoko Konoike

Tomoko Konoike works across various mediums, from paintings and sculptures to performance art and site-specific installations. For this all-night art festival, you can expect works from her Black Kite series (images of animals painted on cow skin and suspended in the air) as well as other animal-inspired creations displayed at Tokyo Midtown and The National Art Center, Tokyo. 

Roppongi Art Night
Photo: Kisa ToyoshimaClose Act Theatre's 'White Wings'

Special performance: Close-Act Theatre

This will quite possibly be the most spellbinding show at this year’s Roppongi Art Night. International performance outfit Close-Act Theatre are known for their non-verbal, interactive street theatre that utilises universal imagery and visual language as a way to engage and communicate with the audience.

Over the weekend, you’ll be able to catch their fantastical White Wings performance, with characters donning expansive white wings and engaging in movements in tandem with music and special lighting. There will be three 20-minute shows a day at Roppongi Hills Arena and Tokyo Midtown Plaza.

Whether you're an art lover or just looking for a unique cultural experience, the Roppongi Art Night festival is not to be missed. While the festival is scheduled to run from Saturday May 27 10am to Sunday May 28 6pm non-stop, the core programmes will happen between May 27 6pm and May 28 6am.

You can check the full Roppongi Art Night 2023 programme here.

This article was originally published on March 7 and updated on May 26.

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