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Any discussion of Japanese contemporary art inevitably leads to the pop-culture fantasies of Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara and the other artists of the Superflat movement. But Japan as a whole has changed dramatically after stumbling through a series of economic, social and ecological crises since the collapse of its "bubble" economy in the early 1990s. How did Murakami, Nara and Superflat become the dominant artistic vision of the Japan of today? What lies behind their imagery of a childish and decadent society unable to face up to reality? Written by a sociologist with an eye for sharp observation and clear reportage, Before and After Superflat offers the first comprehensive history in English of the Japanese art world from 1990 up to the tsunami of March 2011, and its struggle to find a voice amidst Japan's economic decline and China's economic ascent.
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This book was written for me -- or those like me who wish they better knew the ins and outs of the Japanese art world of the last 20 years. The surprise, however, is that it's written by an English sociologist who lives and teaches in France. Adrian Favell sees his profession as an advantage. He notes in the acknowledgments section, for example, that his five-year research project was nonhierarchical: he interviewed everyone from gallery assistants to museum directors. His emphasis is on context, although art objects themselves are not overlooked. That's an interesting approach, since most Japanese insiders have been relatively close-mouthed. Either there has been a change in recent-years or Favell is particularly adept at drawing people out -- or at reading between the lines. (Janet Koplos Art in America 2012-11-01)
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