Special Story: “Art Fairs in Japan and World: How Are They Different and How Do We Enjoy Them?” Tomio Koyama + Yuko Yamamoto + Misako Rosen

An interview with an up-and-coming gallerist on art and markets

From left: Misako Rosen of MISAKO & ROSEN, Tomio Koyama of Tomio Koyama Gallery, and Yuko Yamamoto of ANOMALY

In this special edition of the article series introducing up-and-coming gallerists, Tomio Koyama of Tomio Koyama Gallery, Yuko Yamamoto of ANOMALY, and Misako Rosen of MISAKO & ROSEN discuss the current state of the art markets. Let’s find out what is happening with the art markets considered noteworthy by the three gallerists who travel overseas frequently.

Text: Takashi Shinkawa

Photo: Yuta Hinohara

Translation: Erica Sawaguchi


Differences Between Art Markets in Japan and Other Asian Countries

Rosen: In terms of international art fairs, the two biggest ones in Asia today are Art Basel Hong Kong and Frieze Seoul.

Koyama: Yes. The two are vibrant, with many European galleries attending. The other one is Taipei. It has many, many collectors.

Yamamoto: I may be jumping to the conclusion of today’s conversation, but Hong Kong and South Korea offer a tax break for artworks. You benefit a lot from collecting art.*

*Editor’s note: In South Korea, artworks are taxable only if the transaction value is 60 million won or higher. The system makes it easy for taxpayers to avoid income and gift taxes.

Koyama: There are no tariffs, either, so importing and exporting are easy. No wonder why art markets in Hong Kong and South Korea are thriving. On top of that, Frieze Seoul invites artists like BTS. Why don’t Japanese art fairs also invite pop stars?*

*Editor’s note: Artworks with specific usage, such as ceramic bowls, may be subject to a tariff.

Rosen: It doesn’t have to be pop stars, but bringing globally-known Japanese artists will help liven up art fairs here.

Frieze Seoul was held for the first time on September 2, 2022. It reportedly achieved sales of over several million dollars on the first day.
From https://www.frieze.com

Yamamoto: When we participated in Frieze Seoul, which started last year, we received a lot of inquiries in advance. Collectors in South Korea were very supportive of the event, and I could feel the whole country was welcoming.

Koyama: I have the impression that, in South Korea, the contemporary art market accounts for 80% of the overall art market. In Japan, I would say it’s about 20%.

Rosen: That speaks of how deeply rooted contemporary art is over there.

Yamamoto: In South Korea, the system allows art collections to be passed on as property. This has motivated, for example, financial conglomerates to acquire artworks. In this respect, Japan has no foundation for such collections because of the post-war dissolution of zaibatsu, and there is also an inheritance tax on private collections.

Rosen: In Japan, in addition to the tax system, the customs system is not well prepared for art. Once, when we were transporting a piece of artwork from overseas to Japan, the customs official looked up the artist’s auction price and demanded a penalty tax based on that amount. Auction prices are temporary amounts and not the usual prices.*

*Editor’s note: In Japan, there is no legally established body for calculating the taxable value of artworks. In the U.S., the calculation is conducted by the Appraisers Association of America and the American Society of Appraisers. Similarly, in the U.K., it is done by a judging panel consisting of curators, art dealers, and other experts, and in France, by a nationally licensed auctioneer.

Koyama: What a terrible story. I would like to emphasize that this is a social issue.

Rosen: Our taxation systems related to art need proper organization. This is the biggest issue causing the Japanese art market to lag behind.

Japan’s Art Scenes Offer Attractive Sightseeing and Dining

Rosen: How do overseas gallerists view the Japanese art scenes?

Yamamoto: There are several art fairs in Japan, although on a smaller scale. The first one is ART FAIR TOKYO, held annually in March. The more recent one is Art Collaboration Kyoto in the fall.

Rosen: The latest international art fair is Tokyo Gendai, which will be held in Yokohama this July. The event is talked about among gallerists, and everyone seems to have high expectations.

Koyama: But, it is globally known that Japan has no art market.

Rosen: On the other hand, they all know that we have many great artists.

Koyama: That’s right. Japan has more internationally famous artists than other countries in Asia. There are at least ten such artists, including Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Yayoi Kusama.

Yamamoto: The Japanese art market is complex, and it is hard to see what is going on compared to other countries. There are many wealthy people in Japan, but it is unclear what they spend their money on. If an appropriate tax system were in place, we might be able to keep some of Japan’s best-known artists’ works within the country.

Rosen: For example, in the U.S., some people donate large sums of money to art museums every year or buy artworks through consultants. This custom does not yet exist in Japan.

Yamamoto: As I have reiterated, people don’t donate to museums because of the tax system. We don’t get much of a tax break for donating. How on earth are we supposed to benefit from tax payment “deferment”?*

*Editor’s note: As a special exception for inheritance tax on artworks, the “deferral system for inheritance tax on certain works of art” was developed in 2008 to defer payment of inheritance tax corresponding to 80% of the taxable value under certain conditions with a long-term deposit agreement.

Rosen: Let’s go back to our discussion. Foreign art professionals certainly look forward to visiting Japan for other reasons.

Koyama: You’re right. The main attraction is the food.

Rosen: Many foreign galleries have their branches in Tokyo, too. This is partly because Japan is considered a hub in Asia, but also because of cheap rent, good food, and rich culture. And the city is safe.

Yamamoto: Yes. The infrastructure is in place, and there are talented people.

Rosen: Last year, MISAKO & ROSEN and XYZ Collective organized Onsen Confidential 2022. Other galleries joined and volunteered to hold the event in Atami. It was such a fun event. We visited the hot spring town with gallerists and artists of different generations from different cities and held a conference. Afterward, we enjoyed the hot spring and had a big party wearing yukata. Some gallerists even brought their collectors.

Yamamoto: Yes. It was a lot of fun!

Rosen: The purpose was to dine and go sightseeing together and exchange information.


Yamamoto: The places that hold art fairs are also attractive as cities.

Koyama: I agree. Taipei, Seoul, and Hong Kong are all fun cities to visit. That’s why we go back there again and again.

Rosen: Kyoto, too! It is important to be able to enjoy sightseeing when visiting an art fair. To learn about the current state of the art market, I recommend visiting art fairs. They take place all year round in various cities around the world, so whether you want to learn about art or collect art, you should go to art fairs in conjunction with sightseeing.

Notable Art Fairs to Visit in 2023

Below is MISAKO & ROSEN’s guide to the world’s art fairs (in order of the fair dates). There are many art fairs that could not be included here, so please use the list as a reference for your travel plans. Fairs marked with a star ★ are highly recommended.

The venue for Art Basel, Switzerland (2021)

Liste Art Fair Basel (Switzerland), June 10–16, 2024
Notably, recent Liste Art Fair Basel participants include not only young artists but also mid-career and established artists. It is the best fair for finding exciting galleries. The galleries that have outgrown Liste Art Fair Basel also donate to the fair, and it is beginning to function as an association like NADA.

Art Basel (Switzerland), June 13–16, 2024
Art Basel is the world’s most famous art fair. At the end of 2022, its long-time director, Mark Spiegler, stepped down, and Nora Horowitz took over the position.

★ JUNE ART FAIR (Switzerland), June 10–16, 2024
June is an invitation-only fair established in 2019 by long-time Liste participants VI, VII, a gallery from Oslo, and Christian Andersson, a gallery from Copenhagen. It is housed in a building designed by leading Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron near the convention center where Art Basel is held.

Tokyo Gendai (Yokohama), July 5–7, 2024
A foreign-funded art fair founded by Magnus Renfrew. We are curious to find out what the significance of the event will be in Japan, whose art market is small. Despite its name, “Tokyo” Gendai, it is held at PACIFICO Yokohama.

The Armory Show (New York), September 6–8, 2024
The art fair began in New York in 1994 as the Gramercy International Art Fair. It was founded by gallerists, and its current members consist of renowned gallerists Matthew Marks, Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Lisa Spellman, and Paul Morris. Many of the world’s best galleries still participate in the fair.

★ Frieze Seoul (Seoul), September 4–7, 2024
Originally, the leading art fair in Seoul, South Korea, was Kiaf SEOUL, organized by the Galleries Association of Korea. In 2022, Frieze came to Asia for the first time, and it was Frieze Seoul. The fair has a main gallery section as well as a Focus Asia solo section. Frieze Master is held during the same period.

Frieze London (London), October 9–13, 2024
Frieze Master (London), October 9–13, 2024
Frieze Art Fairs now take place in four cities, with the original Frieze starting in London in 2003. Based on the art magazine Frieze, the fair was founded by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover. The fair is highly regarded as an early adopter of architectural and cultural trends and is held annually in a tent in Regent’s Park.

Paris+ Par Art Basel (Paris), October 19–22, 2024 (tentative)
A fair in Paris initiated by Art Basel in 2022. The initial organizational structure included Jennifer Flay, the director of Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC), as an advisory board member. Clément Delépine, then director of Paris Internationale, took the position of director.

★ Paris Internationale (Paris), October 16–20, 2024
Paris Internationale was founded by European gallerists in 2015. Galleries’ participation is by invitation only. The fair is known for its fresh atmosphere, distinct from both Basel and FIAC. Each year, it takes place at ruins or vacant properties that offer a glimpse into the history of Paris.

★ ACK (Art Collaboration Kyoto) (Kyoto), November 1–3, 2024
The first event was scheduled to be held in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed to 2021. It is organized by Kyoto Prefecture. CADAN participates as part of the executive committee.

Art Cologne (Cologne), November 7–10, 2024
Art Cologne began in 1967 as an international art fair. It is considered the world’s first modern and contemporary art fair. Today, mainstream galleries worldwide participate in the event, but the presence of more established European galleries still seems stronger.

Art Basel Miami Beach (Miami), December 6–8, 2024
The fair was started by Art Basel in 2012 in Miami, Florida. Known for its mild winters, Miami attracts wealthy Americans to spend their holidays and retirement and many collectors to do business, which is why the art fair was established there.

NADA (Miami), December 3–December 7, 2024 https://www.newartdealers.org/
NADA stands for New Art Dealers Alliance. Known for its art fair, the art association consists of many galleries from New York and others. The fair originates from Miami and sometimes held at the same time and in the same city as Basel Miami. For this reason, NADA in Miami is a more major event than NADANY.

Location: complex665 2F, 6-5-24 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 a.m.-19:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday, Monday and National Holiday

Location: 1-33-10-4F, Higashi-shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 12:00 a.m.-18:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday, Monday and National Holiday

Location: Kita-Otsuka, 3-27-6, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Hours: Wednesday - Saturday 12:00 a.m.-18:00 p.m.  / Sunday 12:00 a.m.-17:00 p.m.
Closed: Monday, Tuesday and National Holidays