JAPAN: Gunma / Nakanojo Biennale (中之条ビエンナーレ)

Approximately two hours by train north of Tokyo, in the northern region of Gunma Prefecture is a town called Nakanojo.  Surrounded by magnificent nature and dotted with onsens (hot springs), rustic buildings and old farm houses, the town is host to an art festival which takes place once every two years.

The event known as the Nakanojo Biennale was the brain child of six artists who were participating in a project called Agatsuma Bigakko (Agatsuma Art School) back in 2006.  At that time, they conceived of an idea to turn the entire town of Nakanojo into an art gallery. Their dream was realized in 2007 with the support of the townspeople and featured the works of 58 artists exhibiting their work across 11 venues.  The event originally drew 48,000 visitors.

Today, the event features 132 artists and runs for an entire month from September through October. The artists are primarily from the Kanto Region and their works are available for viewing between the hours of 9:30 AM and 5:00 PM.  There are paintings, photographs and sculptures displayed in empty school houses, homes and even old lumberyards.  The town of Nakanojo has been suffering from depopulation for the past 30 years so it isn’t difficult to find unused exhibition space. In addition to the artwork, there are various workshops and performances featured throughout the month.

In order to sufficiently see all the works, you will need approximately three days. You can easily traverse the town on foot or rent a bicycle to get around. There are infrequent town buses to help you reach the more distant locations and rental cars are not uncommon. The cost of admission is ¥1,000.

The event helps breathe life into this rural town and offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with art in a natural setting, away from the swanky, stuffy galleries of Tokyo.  Further, it is an excellent opportunity to support local artists and see some very unique pieces.

Web page:                   http://nakanojo-biennale.com/

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