Greek mythology inspires a Dries Van Noten-curated exhibition in Tokyo

Exhibition of A dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon
A dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon, by Gérard De Lairesse. Photography: Kiruke Watanabe
(Image credit: Kiruke Watanabe)

Dries Van Noten, the Antwerp-based fashion designer known for his exquisite prints and bold colors, harbors another talent: art curation. His eclectic universe, a sort of curation in itself, was celebrated in the exhibition Dries van Noten  Inspirations, held at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 2014. There, a number of his favorite paintings, photographs, films and costumes from spanning periods, places and styles were gathered. 

Now, the designer has cut the ribbon on a new three day exhibition at Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. The show is, according to him, ‘a dialogue' between art pieces from different eras and origins. Among three groups, the protagonist is a pair of Flemish paintings by the 17th century master Gérard De Lairesse, taken from Van Noten’s personal collection. In 2009 these three-metre-high masterpieces were transferred from the designer’s Antwerp headquarters to his Tokyo flagship.

Greek mythology inspired artwork

Untitled (2009), by Mika Ninagawa. Photography: Kiruke Watanabe

(Image credit: Kiruke Watanabe)

For the store’s inauguration a decade ago, Noten wanted to find something to juxtapose with the baroque works which point to his Flemish origin. His light bulb moment came with commissioning Japanese artists to ‘interpret' the paintings. In spite of the dramatic Greek mythological scenes seen in De Lairesse’s work, interestingly, Tokyoite artists expressed themselves in an opposite manner. The result was an oil painting by Yuumi Domoto as well as a photograph by Mika Ninagawa, both coincidentally abstract and monochromatic. Eventually a pair of acrylic paintings of geometric motifs by Daisuke Ohba joined them. All of these art works, either contemporary or baroque, have been sharing the roof since then, and are also featured in the ‘Interpretations, Tokyo' show.

Now, the Store’s tenth anniversary sees new ‘interpretations' by three more artists: Masaho Anotani expresses the cycle of life and death and two sides of the same coin in two paintings. A pair of blood-coloured pieces by Naho Ishii focus on the epic side of a Greek odyssey. While Ataru Sato imagines the sequel to the story of Achilles in four pieces using different mediums.

For Van Noten, commissioning artwork for the exhibition meant a total ‘carte blanche' approach, with zero indications for size, style nor medium. After the exhibition, the pieces will be displayed at the Dries Van Noten Tokyo store. New decade, new curation.

Greek mythology inspired artwork

Clinamen 02, by Naho Ishii, 2019

(Image credit: TBC)

A dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon artwork

A dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon, by Ataru Sato, 2019

(Image credit: TBC)

Greek mythology inspired artwork

Blossoms in Bud, by Masaho Anotani, 2019

(Image credit: TBC)

"Goddess" Greek mythology inspired artworkartwork

Goddess, by Ataru Sato, 2019

(Image credit: TBC)

"Void Galaxy" artwork

Void Galaxy, by Masaho Anotani, 2019

(Image credit: TBC)


‘Interpretations, Tokyo’ is on view until 31 March. For more information, visit the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art website


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Minako Norimatsu is a Japanese journalist and consultant based in Paris. Extremely curious about everything creative, her field ranges from fashion to art, dance, hospitality and travel. She has interviewed many Japanese fashion designers and artists for Wallpaper*, as well as non-Japanese creatives whose inspirations are drawn from Japan.