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What is AIT?

AIT stands for Arts Initiative Tokyo.


TOKYO 2001

AIT was begun by six art curators and organisers in 2001 in Tokyo. At that time we felt that Tokyo lacked spaces in which to think about, learn and discuss art. Non-profit laws had also just been passed, and we decided to apply for official non-profit status from The City of Tokyo in 2002.


To further our interests in creating discursive spaces for art in Tokyo we began MAD, an independent contemporary art school in 2001. This is essentially something like evening classes that take place from 7pm to 9pm on weekdays, for anyone interested in contemporary art and its discourses. Our students have consistently been working people in their twenties and thirties, some of who may have studied art at college, but many who simply have a keen interest to learn. There is no examination to participate, and the youngest student thus far has been a high school student age eighteen and the oldest has been an artist in his mid eighties.

At its start, we began with two courses, including a curatorial class - the first of its kind in Japan. As of 2010 we offer 4 basic courses, CURATORIAL STUDIES (1 year), ART + COMMUNICATION (3 months) introduction to basic, modern, and contemporary art, MAGAZINE (3 months) reading and discussing english language art news and media via magazines and the web, and ARTIST (3 months) for practising artists to brush up on presentaion and discussion skills via crits.

Besies the above, we have SPECIAL LECTURES(1-2 days) and E-MAD, on online program which covers 1. Art History since the 1900s, and 2. Latest news from the international art scene.


AIT began partnerships with various funding bodies in 2004 to host artists in Tokyo for three month research-type residencies. Again, at this time Tokyo surprisingly did not have any formalised residency program, so this was one strong motivation for us to start one. Artists usually stay for three months, living in our residence house in Yukigaya, a reformed traditional Japanese storehouse. We have official partnerships with IASPIS (Sweden), FRAME (Finland), Fonds BKV (Holland), and have had partnerships with The Ishibashi Foundation (Japan) and The Toyota Foundation (Japan). We have an ongoing partnership with The Backers Foundation (Japan) which enables us to invite two artists and one curator from countries not normally covered by grant structures.


We work and hold most events and classes in AIT Room, in Daikanyama. It is  a multi-purpose space with a library/meeting room were students can gather for meetings. MAD lectures, artist/curator talks, small exhibitions and irregular bar lounge nights called Minglius are also held there.


AIT does not receive any regular funding from public or private bodies. Indeed, in Japan it is the case that alternative art spaces do not have access to infrastructural support. To keep going, we developed a business model from the outset which enables us to sustain our initiatives. MAD provides a core income, as does the residency program. Additional annual funding comes from project grants and revenue from our talks, events and bar nights. In this regard AIT is rather unique in the non-profit arts sector in Japan, covering fees for AIT Room and four core staff. In May 2010 we initiated E-MAD, an online lecture schooling program, which we hope to develop into another sustainable income model.


Over the past ten years we have worked with many individuals and organisations both in Japan and abroad. We have always tried to maintain an international outlook while being located in Japan. Some of the organisations we have worked with include:  Akiyoshidai International Art Village, Yamaguchi / ASEF (The Asia-Europe Foundation), Singapore / Asia Link, Australia / Autonomous Culture Center, Weimar / California College of the Arts, USA / DaimlerChrysler Foundation in Japan, Tokyo / FRAME, Finland Gallery Koyanagi, Tokyo / Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo / IASPIS(International Artists Studio Program in Sweden), Sweden / The Ishibashi Foundation, Tokyo / The Japan Foundation, Tokyo / Kobe Art Village Center, Kobe / Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto / Maejima Art Center, Okinawa / Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Tokyo / Metronome Press, Paris / Mitaka City Gallery of Art, Tokyo / Mizuma Art Gallery, Tokyo / NICAF(Nippon International Contemporary Art Festival), Tokyo / POLA Art Foundation, Tokyo / Singapore Biennale 2006, Singapore / SSamzie Space, Korea / Super Deluxe, Tokyo / Tama Art University, Tokyo / The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo / Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo / The Toyota Foundation, Tokyo / Wako Works of Art, Tokyo, and more...



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