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Valentova, Nicole (2023) Centralisation and Manipulation of the Art Scene: Development of the Government-Sponsored Juried Art Exhibition Kanten in Japan 1907-1923, and in Choson in the 1920s. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis is the first critical examination of the Kanten as an institution. Mirroring the national French salon, it differed from the large-scale export-driven national expositions or small exhibitions of the private art associations, creating an unprecedented space for everyone. The judges, selected by the Minister of Education and high-ranking bureaucrats, were meant to choose artworks that would set the national standard and among these elevate outstanding works that would form the national canon. In this way the modern art scene was being built in an extremely controlled environment tainted by kanten’s undeniable political affiliation, with judges being the gate keepers. The research conducted so far focuses solely on individual artists or art groups. My thesis maps the development of the framework and the platform itself in Japan from its establishment in 1907 through its structural reorganisation in 1919 until the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 when the flow was disrupted. I also analyse the 1922 transplantation of the kanten into the colonial environment of Chosŏn. I treat the Imperial Decree promulgated by the Emperor establishing the basic structure of the exhibition and the regulations passed by the Ministers of Education or the Governor-General Office as a political footprint, a building block that shaped the exhibition. Ultimately, I suggest that the extensive involvement of the Ministry of Education secured the art world a direct channel with the political realm allowing the ideological tendencies steep through the bureaucratic layers, and consequently the displayed art reflected the political discourse and was aligned with the official narrative. I also argue that the kanten served as a national forum for the artists aiding the building process of national identity of the modern Japanese citizen but also of the Chosŏn people under the colonial rule.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Crispin Branfoot and Timon Screech
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2023 11:45

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