“Atami Blues” Brings Together UAE-Based and Japanese Artists in HOTEL ACAO ANNEX
By Global Art Daily’s Editorial Board
Published on October 14, 2022
Updated November 11th, 2022
This November 3rd, the fifth edition of the “East-East: UAE meets Japan” series, curated by Sophie Mayuko Arni, opened in the seaside town of Atami, in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. The exhibition will be held from November 3rd to 27th at HOTEL ACAO ANNEX, as part of ATAMI ART GRANT 2022, an art festival organized by PROJECT ATAMI, supported by the City of Atami, Atami Tourism Association, Shizuoka Prefectural Cultural Foundation, amongst other governmental and corporate sponsors. Last year’s ATAMI ART GRANT 2021 welcomed more than 10,000 visitors to various venues throughout the city of Atami.
The exhibition marks a rare opportunity for Arab artists, many from the United Arab Emirates, to exhibit new site-specific works alongside Japanese artists in the historical resort town of Atami, a famous destination for onsen hot springs located just south of Tokyo. Two participating artists, Bady Dalloul and Shaikha Al Ketbi, as well as the curator, are currently taking part in ACAO OPEN RESIDENCE artist residency program, producing new works on-site of the exhibition venue.
The exhibition is held at HOTEL ACAO ANNEX, inside the 700,000 square meters ACAO SPA & RESORT complex, which first opened to the public in 1973 and stands today as one of Atami’s most recognizable hotel resorts. Its extravagant interiors blend baroque style and Japanese traditional ryokan. As a time capsule of bubble-era Japanese taste, they interestingly mirror the taste of rococo-style hotels and palaces built in the UAE from the 1980s to today.
Middle left: H.E. Shihab AlFaheem, Ambassador of the UAE to Japan, at the opening reception of ATAMI ART GRANT 2022, November 4 2022. Photo by Muramatsu. Image courtesy of ATAMI ART GRANT.
Middle right: Curator Sophie Mayuko Arni at the opening reception of ATAMI ART GRANT 2022, November 4 2022. Photo by Muramatsu, image courtesy of ATAMI ART GRANT.
Bottom: ATAMI ART GRANT 2022 Opening day at HOTEL ACAO ANNEX, Atami, Japan. Photo courtesy of ATAMI ART GRANT
Stepping into this hotel reminded me instantly of the United Arab Emirates, a place I had called home for many years.
- Sophie Mayuko Arni
About the venue, Arni comments: “Walking through the halls of HOTEL ACAO ANNEX made me reflect on the afterlife of luxury resorts. Materiality in all its grandeur – we are in the afterlife of man-made ornaments decorating an 18-floor hotel, an architectural wonder built off the cliff of Atami, Japan. Stepping into this hotel reminded me instantly of the United Arab Emirates, a place I had called home for many years. Atami’s resort construction mirrors the development of the Gulf’s seashores today, with the UAE currently accepting an influx of tourists to large hotel structures built on environments that have developed naturally over thousands of years. I would like this exhibition to reflect on the choices artists and architects from the UAE and Japan have made when interacting with their coastal environments.”
I would like this exhibition to reflect on the choices artists and architects from the UAE and Japan have made when interacting with their coastal environments.
- Sophie Mayuko Arni
Inspired by the name of the 1962 Donald Richie’s short film, Atami Blues sets forward a cinematic scene, with site-specific installations spanning eight rooms of the hotel, from onsen baths to royal suites to grand dining halls. The exhibition features newly-commissioned as well as site-specific installations by artists and architect collectives, including by Bady Dalloul, Rintaro Fuse, Lamya Gargash, GROUP, Shaikha Al Ketbi, Hashel Al Lamki, Nimyu, and waiwai research and design agency.
As part of an effort to decentralize West-centric art narratives and create meaningful dialogues between the Arab World and East Asia, many works in this exhibition will explore the histories of migration, exchange, and architectural innovation taking place on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the Arabian Gulf. One example is the pearl trading industry, which the UAE dominated before Japan took over as one of the world’s leading pearl exporters. The history of pearl diving will be the subject of Lucy, a new painting and sound installation by Hashel Al Lamki.
Detailed artwork view: Hashel Al Lamki, Lucy, 2022. Oil, natural pigment, oil pastels, ink, on linen. Part of Lucy, painting and sound installation. Courtesy of the artist.
The other is Abu Dhabi’s sabkhas environments, saline wetlands between land and sea, which serve today as inspiration for new construction material innovation for Dubai and Tokyo-based waiwai research and design agency.
Bottom: Artwork by Farah Al Qasimi, presented as part of Wetland by waiwai research and design agency. Image courtesy of National Pavilion UAE – La Biennale di Venezia.
On the same floor as waiwai research and design agency, Japanese architecture collective GROUP presents a new research project and video entitled 浴室の手入れ / Repair of a Bathroom, in which the collective celebrated an abandoned onsen bath found in the hills of Atami. After researching the onsen bath’s history, GROUP discovered it belonged to the maid of the house property. Retracing the floor plan of the site by cutting wild grass, they collaborated with acclaimed videographer Yui Kiyohara and composer Yuya Haryu to direct a short film in which we see an actress, playing the housemaid, go about her day cleaning and cooking on the abandoned site. Focusing on sustainability and vernacular, site-responsive architecture is at the core of GROUP’s practice. 浴室の手入れ / Repair of a Bathroom is thus projected inside HOTEL ACAO ANNEX’s abandoned onsen.
Photographs by Emirati artist Lamya Gargash are presented in a new site-specific installation at the HOTEL ACAO ANNEX’s Grand Dining Hall, exploring the similarities in interior furnishings between the Japanese rococo hotel interiors and traditional majlis sitting areas from 2000s UAE.
Bottom: Lamya Gargash, Grand Majlis, as part of Majlis series, 2009. Courtesy of the artist.
Other rooms feature new site-specific video, photography, and painting installations by Shaikha Al Ketbi and Nimyu. While Shaikha Al Ketbi explores notions of play and self-identity, creating a wormhole portal within the empty rooms of HOTEL ACAO ANNEX, Nimyu celebrates Atami’s hotel resort culture, creating a site-specific installation using chairs from HOTEL ACAO ANNEX, investigating the relationship between lived-in and abandoned environments, human figures and their furnishing.
Reactivating the hotel’s past glory and romance, Rintaro Fuse presents a new site-specific installation of his When To Kiss Names video (2021), with a new video work and Retina paintings created on-site, exploring the themes of loneliness and romance in the digital age. 名前たちのキス(ロイヤル・スイート・エディション) When To Kiss Names (Royal Suite Edition) is based on a audio-visual poem in collaboration between Fuse musician Yusaku Arai. Fuse initially wrote a poem entitled When To Kiss Names, to which Arai then created the music and voice accompaniment, to which Fuse added the video. The result is a 20-minutes video and sound exploration, a complex web of voices, superimposed texts, and collages of videos that simultaneously emits a certain eerie and uncanny feeling of romance in the Internet Age.
East - East UAE meets Japan, Vol. 5: Atami Blues
Curator: Sophie Mayuko Arni
Artists: Bady Dalloul, Rintaro Fuse, Lamya Gargash, GROUP, Shaikha Al Ketbi, Hashel Al Lamki, Nimyu, waiwai research and design agency
November 3 - 27, 2022
11: 00-18: 00 (Last entry at 17:00); Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays depending on the venue.
Venue: HOTEL ACAO ANNEX, 1993-250 Atami, Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture 413-855, Japan. Google Maps link.
Access: About 10min drive from Atami Station, which is 40min Shinkansen (High-speed bullet train) train ride from Tokyo Station. Taxis and buses to ACAO Hotel are available at Atami Station.
To learn more information and purchase advance tickets, please visit this link.
Supported by: ATAMI ART GRANT 2022, part of PROJECT ATAMI
Endorsement: Official Recognition by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Commemorative Event for the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
About PROJECT ATAMI
PROJECT ATAMI, launched in 2021, is an initiative to aimed to “rediscover the charm of Atami with contemporary art”. Project ATAMI has two pillars: the ACAO OPEN RESIDENCE, an artist residency project, and the ATAMI ART GRANT, an initiative to support young artists. PROJECT ATAMI is supported by the City of Atami, Atami Tourism Association, Atami Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Shizuoka Prefectural Cultural Foundation, Shizuoka Toyota, Tysons & Company, Startbahn Inc., Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd., and the Eastern Culture Foundation.
To learn more, visit their website.
About ATAMI ART GRANT 2022
ATAMI ART GRANT 2022 is an art festival held throughout the city of Atami, from Thursday, November 3rd, to Sunday, November 27th, 2022, in Atami’s ACAO area, station area, and Ginza-cho area. Held under this year’s theme of “渦 Spiral ATAMI”, ATAMI ART GRANT 2022 is organized by PROJECT ATAMI. Atami is a historical seaside resort town, famous for its onsen hot springs, appreciated by many for over a thousand years. The art festival gives opportunities for artists to express and transmit the charm of Atami from various angles, through collaboration and exchange. This year, 30 artists and art collectives were selected by the ATAMI ART GRANT 2022 Jury, including acclaimed architect Kengo Kuma and curator Fumio Nanjo, to exhibit new site-specific installations throughout different venues in Atami.
To learn more, visit their website.
Follow ATAMI ART GRANT on Instagram.
About HOTEL ACAO ANNEX (part of ACAO SPA & RESORT)
ACAO SPA & RESORT, founded almost 60 years ago, was renewed on October 20th, 2021 as an integrated resort that takes root in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. The vast 700,000 square meters complex includes HOTEL ACAO with ocean view from all rooms, managing ACAO FOREST which takes advantage of the terrain woven by scenic nature, and other real estate activating this vast land. HOTEL ACAO also conducts contemporary art exhibitions and organizes events aimed at reviving the charm of Atami, known as the Monaco of the Orient, and its surrounding region through the implementation and dissemination of support programs for young artists’ creative activities, as well as fostering a new cultural sphere where culture and art grow.
Visit their website.
About “East-East: UAE meets Japan” exhibition series
"East-East: UAE meets Japan" is an exhibition series started by curator Sophie Mayuko Arni in 2016 at NYU Abu Dhabi Project Space. These exhibitions stem from an intention to decentralize Eurocentric art historical approaches by showcasing a new generation of artists who engage in cross-cultural dialogues between the Arabian Gulf and East Asia. The first volume of “East-East: UAE meets Japan” was held at the NYU Abu Dhabi Project Space (Abu Dhabi, 2016), followed by a second and third volume at CHI-KA Space (Dubai, 2016-2017), and a fourth volume at HB.Nezu and BLOCK HOUSE (Tokyo, 2021). The fifth edition will take part in Atami, Japan, as part of ATAMI ART GRANT 2022.
About Sophie Mayuko Arni
Sophie Mayuko Arni (b.1995, Geneva, Switzerland; based in Tokyo) is a curator and editor whose work centers on the globalization of contemporary art practices. She is the curator of the "East-East: UAE meets Japan" exhibition series, which she has brought to NYU Abu Dhabi Project Space (Abu Dhabi, 2016), CHI-KA Space (Dubai, 2016-17), HB Nezu (Tokyo, 2021), ILY Hub (Tokyo, 2021), and BLOCK HOUSE (Tokyo, 2021). As Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Global Art Daily, she oversees the publication of digital publications on the art scenes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, New York, and Istanbul, amongst other cities. Sophie graduated with a B.A. in Art & Art History from New York University Abu Dhabi and graduated with an MPhil in Arts Studies and Curatorial Practices from the Graduate School of Global Arts at Tokyo University of the Arts.
Follow her on Instagram.