World-famous musician and DJ Steve Aoki has always had a passion for art, from his younger days designing t-shirts to his college years producing “do-it-yourself” records. Now, when he’s not commanding crowds in sold-out stadium shows, he spends his time curating the art on display in his Las Vegas home.
“I’m a pretty recent collector of art, because you need to spend money to do that,” says Aoki. “But before that, I was just into collecting things in general.”
First, it was baseball cards and comics as a kid. Then, it was vinyl records, many of which were gifted to Aoki by friends. And finally, after his career took off, Aoki began to collect all kinds of art, from small trinkets to large pieces.
Full Japanese, Aoki is a frequent traveler to Japan. He first began acquiring art there with the purchase of a toy — a pair of collectable bear-shaped statuettes called Bearbricks, made to look like the electronic music duo Daft Punk. (The toymaker Mediacom even made a Bearbrick of him in 2016, which he calls “a dream come true.”)
Today, Aoki keeps close tabs on the Japanese art scene, citing pop artists Takashi Murakami (“you see his art and you just get happy”) and Keiichi Tanaami (“his work is so funky and bright”) as favorites, along with KAWS toys from Mediacom.
You can tap into Aoki’s art obsession by checking out a few of his top Tokyo art destinations on your next trip to Japan.
A contemporary art space in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood, this white box of a gallery was founded by Shinji Nanzuka. “The gallery is so connected to Japanese artists and also brings so many international artists to Japan,” says Aoki. “It’s where I first learned about Tanaami and as how more recently with work by Hajime Sorayama.” Check out the newest exhibit on your next Japan trip to tap into what’s hot in the Tokyo art world.
Something only Aoki superfans may know is that in college he was a member of the anime club, which he calls “the ultimate geek place.” (A Japanese cartoon animation style, anime was a key influence in the creation of Aoki’s new comic book series, “Neon Future,” released earlier this year.)
During trips to Tokyo, Aoki likes to check out the video arcades and shops in Akihabara, a neighborhood that has grown to become an offbeat center for anime and manga, the Japanese comic book style. Visit Mandarake, the world’s largest manga and anime store, and visit the Suginami Animation Museum to learn about the history of the art form.
An epic 10,000–square–meter labyrinth dedicated to 3D digital art, the teamLab Borderless exhibition is an Aoki favorite. Inside the massive space at the Mori Building Digital Art Museum, larger-than-life images, patterns, lights and colors follow guests in and out of rooms and corridors. “Psychedelic whales are swimming by you, then you walk into a room filled with glowing blue balls. Then another filled with red lanterns. It’s a trip to be in there,” says Aoki.
“All the artists [who created teamLab] are anonymous. One of them was guiding us through a tour of the exhibition and he explained, ‘There are over 100 artists that make up all these rooms and we’re part of this anonymous group that does it.’ I’m like, wow. There’s no one taking the credit.”
You can tap into more of the DJ’s top Japan recommendations by tuning into his Spotify podcast, devoted to his passion for Japanese art, music, fashion and more.