Interview with sculptor Kan Yasuda. Works of art at Sapporo Station loved by many people, the impressive outdoor park “Arte Piazza Bibai”
April 21, 2014
Sapporo Station, the gateway to Sapporo. “Myomu”, created by world-renowned sculptor Kan Yasuda, is installed in this place where several hundred thousand people come and go each day. He talked to us about sculptures and the city, and about the outdoor sculpture park “Arte Piazza Bibai” in his hometown—the city of Bibai.
“Myomu” is loved by many people as a symbol of Sapporo Station
Get off at Sapporo Station, and walk into the atrium connecting to Ekimae-dori, which runs through the city from north to south, and you are greeted by a sculpture with smooth curves illuminated by natural light. This sculpture named “Myomu” by Kan Yasuda is a symbol of the station, and there are always people gathered around it.
“There are hardly any other examples in the world of a marble sculpture of such size and weight being placed indoors, and right in the center of a station where hundreds of thousands of commuters pass through each day. But I was adamant that my sculpture would not hinder the flow of people. Nowadays, the area around ‘Myomu’ is always bustling with people waiting for someone or taking a rest. It surely makes them want to ‘touch’ it. People naturally reach out and touch it, and children pass through its hole for fun. The children in particular are straightforward—when they see the sculpture, they run towards it and give it a hug. I have exhibited it in many parts of the world, but the reactions of the children are always the same.”
Continuing to create his life's work—“Arte Piazza Bibai”
Arte Piazza Bibai, which opened in 1992, also echoes daily with the joyful voices of children. There are over 40 of Kan Yasuda’s works positioned all over the vast 70,000 m2 site. As for the distance between one sculpture and the next, they are said to be kept just far enough apart for you to forget the last sculpture you saw. Pass around looking at all the sculptures scattered around the site, and before you know it, you will be looking into yourself, or deep in conversation.
“When I held an exhibition in Rome in 2007, a woman came up to talk to me with her two daughters. I had been heavily impressed when I saw an exhibition of the sculptor Henry Moore’s works in Florence in 1972. The woman told me that she had also seen the same exhibition and that, in times of sadness and distress, she had been supported by the impression she got at that time. She also told me that ‘The impression your exhibition has made on my daughters will surely be remembered by them in years to come.’ In the same way, I hope that Arte Piazza Bibai will remain in the memories of the people who visit it, and serve as a place to inspire them in a way which will support them throughout their lives. Because of this, since its opening, I have been uncompromising as I continue to this day to create this space as my life’s work.”
The time to take a look at oneself, granted by the space recreated through art
“In Trajan’s Market, which retains the look of ancient times, a work called ‘Ishinki’ is permanently installed. The Italians receive messages from things built over 2000 years ago, and this sculpture was placed in the town with a thought for those who will be living there 1,000 years from now. The site of the coal mine residential area and the old elementary school building, which remain as the memory of a city which once flourished as one of Hokkaido’s leading coal mining cities, has been reborn through art as Arte Piazza Bibai. It makes you remember the bygone age it inherits and is a space that gives you the time to take a good long look at oneself. I believe places such as this are what is most lacking in Japan today. That’s why I believe Arte Piazza Bibai should remain for hundreds of years to come.”
Sculptures remain in a place for far longer that a human lifespan, witnessing the lives of its countless observers. What kind of message will the sculptures of Kan Yasuda in Sapporo Station, Sosei River Park, Sapporo Concert Hall Kitara, the Hokkaido Governor's Official Residence, Sapporo Art Park, and the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art convey to people 100 years from now? After you have been around and seen these works, we hope you will pay a visit to Arte Piazza Bibai. In this space, where nature and the sculptures are in perfect harmony, the moment of “coming back to one’s sense of self” is an experience hard to find.
Born in Bibai city, Hokkaido, in 1945. He received a master’s degree in sculpture from Tokyo University of the Arts, and moved to Italy in 1970 on a fellowship from the Italian Government. He studied under Professor Pericle Fazzini at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. Afterwards he set up his studio in Pietrasanta in northern Italy, a place famous for its superior marble. He continues to live and work today, creating sculptures from marble and bronze.