In the spring of 2021, the Executive Committee for the Culture City of East Asia in Kitakyushu 2020 (Chair: Kenji Kitahashi, Mayor of Kitakyushu City) will hold ART for SDGs: Kitakyushu Art Festival Imagining Our Future in the Higashida district of Kitakyushu's Yahatahigashi Ward. The festival will run for eleven days, from April 29 to May 9, 2021.

ART for SDGs: Kitakyushu Art Festival Imagining Our Future is built on the idea that art can attract attention to a sustainable future society and propose a better future through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Kitakyushu prospered as a gateway to Asia and a hub for international exchange thanks to its prime geographical location, producing many important cultural figures throughout Japan's history. Today the city is home to several cultural facilities and museums, and the local government has presented a city-wide initiative to promote culture and the arts. The city has also made the most of experiences such as overcoming pollution and has conducted countless international technical cooperation and urban exchange with cities across Asia to foster dialogue not only between governments but also grassroots exchange between individuals and communities.

The Higashida district is home to World Heritage sites such as the former head office of Japan's Imperial Steel Works, which contributed to the nation's rapid modernization from the end of the Edo period and into the Meiji era. With the scheduled opening of a new shopping mall and science museum that combine entertainment and commerce on the former site of Space World in 2022, Kitakyushu City is also working toward fulfilling a global SDG challenge as it enters a new phase in its urban development.

This art festival hopes to offer the world a better vision for the future by highlighting the varied expressions of contemporary Japanese artists, who continue to reinvent Japan's rich aesthetic tradition cultivated over its long history. Kitakyushu City, a manufacturing center that aims to become the world's foremost environmental city, is the perfect place for such an ambitious endeavor. The festival will be a beacon of sustainable development and exchange through innovation in a society that is stagnating in the wake of COVID-19.

Dates: April 29 - May 9, 2021
*Exhibition at Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History & Human History will be open until May 30, 2021.
Exhibition at Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art will be open until July 11, 2021.


In 2018, Kitakyushu City was desinated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a "SDGs Pilot Model City", the first city in Asia to be selected as an official promoter of the SDGs. At ART for SDGs: Kitakyushu Art Festival Imagining Our Future, we aim to visualize the goals of the SDGs through art and present a forward-looking vision for a new way of life after COVID-19.

Since ancient times, Japan has elevated a love of nature and an eco-friendly way of life to an aesthetic that can be found in the traditional themes of natural beauty in Japanese art and the design of Japanese gardens. These nature motifs of Japanese influence, termed Japonaiserie by Vincent van Gogh, swept through Europe in the 19th century. This simple yet notable feature of Japanese aesthetics can make significant contributions in building a more sustainable world—the very goal of the SDGs—advocating for a better natural environment and a poverty-free society of equality and diversity.

That is why this art festival introduces such a wide variety of art: art made from waste materials, art related to nature and medicine, art that expresses the diversity in society, and art that applies cutting-edge technology. Together, they will form the first art festival of its kind. The festival aims to transcend conventional boundaries in art to build a new platform for learning and entertainment. Our goal is to leave a lasting creative legacy in the local community by eliciting new works related to other fields such as science and technology, nature, public welfare, and sports.

To achieve sustainable development, we must reconcile three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection. This art festival attempts to propose, through art, a better future for society by promoting a new way of thinking that would encourage a new way of life.

Fumio NANJO, Director

Director Fumio NANJO


Fumio NANJO (Curator)
Graduated from Faculty of Economics and Faculty of Letters (Philosophy, Aesthetics & Science of Arts), Keio University
Senior Advisor of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo/Representative Director of N&A Inc.
Nanjo formerly served as Mori Art Museum's Deputy Director and Director, after working for prominent cultural organizations such as the Japan Foundation, ICA Nagoya as the Director.
He took artistic directorship of numerous important art festivals, including the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1997), the Taipei Biennale (1998), the Yokohama Triennale (2001), the Singapore Biennale (2006 & 2008), and KENPOKU ART (2016).

Publications include: From Art to the City, a Record of 15 Years as an Independent Curator (1997), Asian Contemporary Art Report: China, India, Middle East and Japan (2010) and A Life with Art (2012).

About SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of international goals for building a sustainable and better world by 2030, as stated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted at the United Nations Summit in September 2015 as the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which first launched in 2001. It consists of 17 goals and 169 targets with the pledge to "leave no one behind" on planet Earth. Kitakyushu boasts a significant role in Japan's modernization at the end of the 19th century, with a resourceful population that applied their knowledge and skills to overcome difficulties along the way. Having been selected as the first "SDGs Pilot Model City" in Asia by the OECD in 2018, Kitakyushu continues to take on new challenges as a global SDGs leader.