Have you ever wished to live in a gingerbread house?

Osamu Watanabe’s solo exhibition ‘Museum of Sweets’

Installation View, Osamu Watanabe ‘Museum of Sweets’, 2019 ©️Osamu Watanabe
Courtesy of ODAKYU department store Shinjuku

Have you ever read a fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’? before we think about it story and characters, we automatically think of a sweet cookie house which made of gingerbread and sweets. Have you ever wished to live in the house? It is hard to define what brings us happiness, but it is rather easy to say, sweets must have brought us happiness in our childhood.

Osamu Watanabe, a contemporary artist brings this happiness from his art made of a form of sweets. From 31st July to 14th August, he presents his solo show ‘Museum of Sweets’ to ODAKYU department store in Shinjuku, where a center of Tokyo.

Osamu Watanabe was raised by a pastry chef mother, and due to the background, he started to associate sweets with happiness from childhood memories. If you see his work at a glance, you might be confused art works with authentic dessert due to its realistic-looking work. The secret of the realistic-looking creams is resin. In the process, he uses a piping bag to make a resin look like cream. He creates various shapes with fake cream such as animals, fishes, historical statues and paintings in Art history. In the exhibition there were some homage works for examples, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, “Thinker” from Rodin and else. The interesting feature of his works is the gap between a light, bright atmosphere from sweets decoration and heavy atmosphere from art history. This hilarious contrast makes us giggle.

Installation View, Osamu Watanabe ‘Museum of Sweets’, 2019 ©️Osamu Watanabe
Courtesy of ODAKYU department store Shinjuku

In the exhibition ‘Museum of Sweets’, his works were divided into several section. Entrance was full of the large scale works such as animals and a long banquet table, and then there were some flat works look like a painting, and also three-dimensional works. When you follow the hallway, you can encounter a section of homage works not only about Western art history but also Japanese art history such as Ukiyo-e. A huge scale of traditional Japanese painting homage work is also welcome audience which made of chocolate, candies and popcorn’s shapes. Then it connected to the ocean theme section where the wall decorated with full of marine life. As Watanabe puts humor in his works, Taiyaki a Japanese fish-shaped cake was spotted along with the fishes. Also, not only the exhibited works, there are some works made for photo zone. The exhibition seemed to be curated audience-friendly way.

Installation View, Osamu Watanabe ‘Museum of Sweets’, 2019 ©️Osamu Watanabe
Courtesy of ODAKYU department store Shinjuku
Detail View, Osamu Watanabe ‘Museum of Sweets’, 2019 ©️Osamu Watanabe
Courtesy of ODAKYU department store Shinjuku
Installation View, Osamu Watanabe ‘Museum of Sweets’, 2019 ©️Osamu Watanabe
Courtesy of ODAKYU department store Shinjuku
Installation View, Osamu Watanabe ‘Museum of Sweets’, 2019 ©️Osamu Watanabe
Courtesy of ODAKYU department store Shinjuku

According to an art historian Shuji Takashina, Watanabe creates a new genre of contemporary art “Fake sweets art” and describes him as “The King of sweets”. He points out that Watanabe’s works are connected to Japanese philosophy about human senses. There are words in Japanese old philosophy “See the temperature of bathwater with your hands” and “see the taste with your tongue.” Some Japanese cultures such as traditional tea ceremony and kaiseki cuisine, a traditional Japanese dinner course are known as reflecting this philosophy. Takashina evaluates Watanabe’s works are have a close parallel to these. He might want to say we can see the happiness from his works with our eyes.

Osamu Watanabe, whose work he brings us happiness while making distinctive trace in Japanese contemporary art scene is internationally acclaimed. He is also having exhibitions in abroad such as China, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. At the same time, his works are collected in museums as permanent collection at Ohara Museum of Art, Kiyosu City Haruhi Art Museum, Takasaki Museum of Art, and the World Children’s Museum in Okazaki. In spite of his reputation, his solo exhibition ‘Museum of Sweets’ is held in a department store in Tokyo where the location is easily accessible to people who are not so much familiar with contemporary art and the exhibition itself is also curated in audience- friendly way.

From this exhibition, Osamu Watanabe leaves a message to audience

“I guess everyone keep happy memories about cookies and sweets. I hope everyone who see my work to bring up happy memories and feelings. I would love to be an artist who continues to make a work which bring those kinds of a pleasant memories on sweets. I wish the exhibition to be one of enjoyable memories of you.” 

For more information about the exhibition ‘Museum of Sweets’ is link below: http://www.odakyu-dept.co.jp/shinjuku/special/sweets/index.html

Article written by Jeongeun Jo
Jeongeun Jo is from Korea now living in Japan. She is one of the member of TRiCERA who graduated from Graduate School of Fine Arts at Tokyo University of the Arts (TUA/ Geidai). She is also working as an artist herself .

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