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Posts Tagged ‘Japanese art galleries’

Japanese gallery MEM re-opens in new Tokyo space with RongRong & inri exhibition

Posted by artradar on October 14, 2010


ART GALLERIES JAPAN ART EXHIBITIONS CHINESE ARTISTS

MEM, an art gallery based in Tokyo that represents mainly Japanese contemporary artists, has moved to a new gallery space in NADiff a/p/a/r/t in Tokyo. MEM announced this news in early September so should now be settled into the new space.

The gallery has announced the opening in conjunction with an exhibition of RongRong & inri, a pair of artists who live and work in Beijing, China. They are also the founders of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, an important institute for Chinese contemporary art and photography.

 

 

RongRong and inri, Untitled, no. 25, 2008, gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of MEM.

RongRong & inri, Untitled, no. 25, 2008, gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of MEM.

 

NADiff is an art bookshop and gallery located just off the fashionable Omotesando strip in Tokyo’s youth culture centre of Shibuya.

KN

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Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara reappears after 8 year absence – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 19, 2010


JAPANESE ARTIST INTERVIEW PAINTING DRAWING EMERGING ARTISTS

Eight years ago, Japanese artist Hiroshige Fukuhara was building up a successful career as a promising contemporary artist. He showed work at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 2001 then disappeared from the contemporary art world. Then, in 2009, he reappeared at Tokyo’s ULTRA002 art fair, and in March this year exhibited work at NYC PULSE. Last month, Art Radar Asia spoke with Fukuhara in a special interview in which he talked about artwork from his recent solo exhibition “Binary” and explained what he has been doing in the eight years that he withdrew from the art world.

Fukuhara is represented by Ai Kowada Gallery in Ebisu, Japan, where he had a solo exhibition, “Binary”, earlier this year. His artwork from this exhibition features a series of drawings on which he sketches images of flora and fauna onto a black background with pencil, making the image difficult to see in certain lighting or at certain angles. We interviewed Fukuhara at this gallery, surrounded by his most recent work. Here he explained the reasons he chose this new medium and talked about his inspiration for the title of the exhibition. We discussed his background, what drives him and his art and the challenges that face young artists working today.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

Artist Hiroshige Fukuhara next to his piece, 'The Night' at his latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image property of Art Radar Asia.

When did you first feel that you were an artist?

Something like, when I felt different from other people? (laughs)

You mean you wanted to do something different?

Yes, when I thought that, and also when there are judgment calls between something that’s supposed to be “good”, and “bad”, and I felt that, even though I know what’s socially right, morally right, I want to take those social and moral judgments separately. For example, with morals, morally, something could be bad, but it can still be good. I sometimes made that kind of judgment, but people around me, if it was morally bad they would always consider it bad. So there’s a difference there.

After exhibiting at P.S.1 in 2001, you quit all activity as an artist to pursue other work until ULTRA002 in 2009. What influenced your decision to quit activity as an artist?

When I was in university, what I made was the same as now, fine art. Then, when I was there, Phillip Morris [International] did things like Art Hour. I was remaining as a candidate until the finals – well there were twenty, thirty of us – but I was one of the finalists. Then, that became a trigger that led to some small exhibitions.… That time it was already the final. There were people from other countries in the finalists, so there were a quite lot of people, but the Finalist Award pretty much triggered other things, several other things, but after that, I sort of got tired of it…. And then, what I mean by ‘tired of it’ is that I sort of grew tired of what I was making at the time as well, and then from there, I went more towards media art.

Things like graphic design?

No, more interactive than that. There’s some programming, then projection, like that…. Then, when I was making interactive art work, places like Sendai, Mediatheque from Sendai, and New York, and there was talk of Kyuushu at one point, although that didn’t end up happening, there was talk of going to these places … and when I participated in that, then I really ended up tired of what I was doing. What I mean is, I like media art, but I don’t think I can do it.

So what did you do after you grew bored of new media art? Why hadn’t you been creating art until recently?

In 2001, I did one exhibition, but then I started to question whether there was a point in doing art without the thought, without the creativity. And then I really began to think, was there a point in doing art? Is there a point in making, say, a sculpture? Who would it be for? And what manner of creating art would satisfy me? Keeping these things in mind I made some simple test pieces…. Samples. For example, making something without a shape. Not exactly design… just the idea. Just the philosophy behind it. And so the period of time that I spend just focusing on the philosophy part, the philosophy regarding art, the creative part is open. And so I subdivided my brain a little, separated creative as creative, and that part I used when I was doing design, which I don’t consider fine art. In my head, therefore I had space to consider what I should do with the “art” side of things. I kept thinking. I mean really, I tell everybody this but, I spent at least six years thinking about this.

What have you learnt during your absence from the art world?

I realised there’s no need to make things that are already visible. For example, let’s say you go somewhere, travel somewhere, maybe. You see a very beautiful landscape. I think you can leave that for a photograph. So I decided not to recreate things that exist in the first place … I think that it’s best to draw something that uses imagination and inspiration as a way to consolidate your own philosophy.

Tell me about how you came to participate in ULTRA002 (2009) and NYC PULSE (2010).

That’s because I’m part of this gallery of artists. The artists associated with this gallery … can speak with the directors and discuss the possibility of entering the next ULTRA art fair, and it’s not certain you’ll pass, but you know, you apply for it.

Why did you want to become an artist?

I think that art is like a subject. It’s academic … the basis of art is quite academic. But the viewer has freedom. That’s why, when I make my work, it’s more philosophical. I like to have philosophical ideas and make pieces…. The point is that the people who critique art often have very academic backgrounds, but I think even children and people who don’t know anything about art should be able to see the art, and freely feel what it means to them. I feel that is the most pure, somehow. And so, for fine art, there aren’t any restrictions. For example, the big difference between ‘design’ and ‘art’ is whether or not it’s been requested. The thing with design is that, after all, it’s somebody else’s intention, or somebody’s … desire…. There’s a purpose, very clearly. And so, for fine art, the purpose is in the self, so it remains extremely pure…. For example, nobody is going to be sad as a result, or maybe they won’t be happy either, and maybe they will be sad, but, even so, it might make them happy. Thus it’s really quite a … place where one can face new challenges.

So would you consider yourself a fine artist? What do you consider your main line of work?

Myself? I would like to keep being an artist.

What major influences have you had in your life?

I suppose books…. I don’t really read novels much. Other than novels, documentaries, philosophical books, chemistry books, things like that. Especially books that might change one’s perspective, thoughts. Or else something that changes one’s thoughts, one’s mind. How should I explain this? To ‘dephase’…. And so, I’m always trying to find opportunities for change, so yes, perspective. What kind of perspective to have each time.

What was it that changed you as an artist?

Maybe books. I suppose books. For example, even people you can never meet, people who you really respect, even if you’ve never met them, that person’s words are written down. The words affect us, and make us consider things like, maybe there’s no value in that, or that’s not quite right. In the end it’s yourself thinking, but the trigger for that, what gives it initiative, are the words of those people you respect.

What has challenged you as an artist? Why? What kinds of things have been challenges for you as an artist?

Everyday is a challenge (laughs). There’s a kind of fulfillment when you finish a piece, but at the end, that’s it; and so little by little, I try to find something I don’t like about it. Even if I’m pleased with it, I look for something I find displeasing, and next time, try to make it better. Whether it’s the technique, or the philosophy behind it, or the surface, that [makes it] good. And so I don’t know what it is, but I try to improve it, even if it’s just a little bit.

What do you like about art?

After all, we don’t have to have art, but it’s better to have it. We can have art, or not, but it’s definitely better to have it; the strangeness in that! The fact that we don’t know if there is or isn’t value; it’s unclear. I think it’s obvious that it’s better to have it, so that’s what’s fun.

What makes your work different from other artists’ in your generation?

I think they’re all very accomplished (laughs)…. The difference is that they are Fukuhara, or they aren’t. What I do, only I can do; when I’m doing art, I think like that…. For example, I consider the boundary between something existing and not existing. I like that boundary … I pay a lot of close attention to that, so, for example, the medium can be pencil, or oil paints, or metal, it can be anything. And so, if something does exist, or it doesn’t … I pay attention to that, I want to express that. And so I consider how to convey that, I look for that. And even if there’s someone who’s thinking the same thing, that person and I will probably come up with different ideas. And since we have different knowledge, that’s only possible for me to do, there’s only me.… My priority is not for the expression. I’m more inclined towards the philosophy involved.

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any future projects?

A big art fair. It hasn’t been decided yet but either in Miami, PULSE in Miami, or next year in New York … or a show. There are also some shows that want to exhibit my work, they’re pretty far ahead, but there are some exhibitions.

What challenges do you see for young artists working in contemporary art today?

In Japan? The circumstances are bad. Business is bad. Right now, it’s so. And, yes, the Japanese economy is very … the Japanese arts, arts scene? The arts scene I suppose, or more like, the custom here, is very bad. It depends on the culture. In Europe, and probably at PULSE as well, probably everyone is quite understanding, so they say, ‘Mr. Fukuhara, I can support you.’ As in, before they ask ‘How much?’ or things like that, they tell me, ‘I can support you.’ I’ve never heard of it in Japan. There were some people like that up till now, and so, yes, there are some, but they’re few. Overseas, in the USA, what I learned when I went to PULSE was that in fact, both very rich people, and people not quite so rich are willing to buy a piece of art if they like it. Because if they support a young artist, and since they like the piece itself, maybe they’ll become really well-known later on. There’s sort of a feeling like that. And also, they know that if they buy this piece, the artist can go on to make their next piece; they’ll approach artists in a sensibility like this, even if they don’t say it to this extent. Japan likes modern art. In Japan, there’s a kind of feeling that there’s a tendency towards it. I think that’s because the value is already determined, like: ‘This is good’; ‘That there, that is worth about this much.’ But, there isn’t much of a sense of supporting young artists … Japan has lots of really amazing young artists, but I think it’s very difficult in Japan.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, "the night with a clouded-over moon (carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50x35 cm, image courtesy of the artist

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night With a Clouded-over Moon (Carp)", 2010, pencil on aluminum panel, 50 x 35 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Tell me about your current exhibition, “Binary”.

The color is black, but, color depends on the light. The color is determined by the light. This here, what the color white means, is that it’s reflecting white light back at us. And here the light is getting absorbed and so it’s black in color. This looks silver, but all it is is that the carbon in the pencil lead is shiny. If you put black on black, well, you can’t see it very well, but it shines, and sometimes you can see it well, sometimes you can’t. And if you see it at night, it’s almost completely dark. If you see it in a room at night the surface is completely black.

What was the philosophy behind “Binary”?

As I said earlier, I’m trying to reach the borderline between what exists and what doesn’t. That’s why, for example, from here it’s impossible to see this painting because of the glare, yes? Because of the acrylic board, because it’s darkened. But if you put your eye close to it, you can see that there’s quite a bit drawn on it. ‘Then don’t draw on it!’ someone might say. But I want to draw on it. …When you interpret a computer, the data formats are, for example… there’s a thing called text, and text goes on forever. But with binary code, it tells you in the first row how many letters there are. And you can’t have any more than that. In that lies a big difference between so-called binary code and text. With binary you know the end from the very start, and in text it goes on forever so the end is unknown. Text has no limit but binary defines the end in its first row of numbers.

How did you use this idea of “binary” in your artworks?

In how I incorporated a limit into my work process. To start with, drawing lines in a way that makes them invisible is in itself limiting. And also, binary is in two states, so it’s ‘0’ and ‘1’… there’s no middle point, I didn’t draw any middle tones. They’re all drawn as solid lines, and it’s not in grey scale, but it’s black on white. What is it? Gradation? Gradation is hard to reproduce. If someone says, ‘Here is some gradation, go copy that exactly onto here,’ it’s really difficult to do that…. If’s it’s only two colors, if there’s a line in exactly the same place, it can be reproduced. …It’s just the placement. And so, this is somehow maybe worthless in value in terms of creativity. The act of purposely making something that can be re-created easily, that’s somehow important, the value. The easiness to re-create and the difficulty to re-create. Maybe it should be the priority to make things that are harder to re-create, but I deliberately want to express what’s easy to re-create.

What do you like most about this exhibition, “Binary”? What do you like most about this series?

The fact that it’s black (laughs)… It can be black or it can be white, but to have none… The good part is that it’s clear if it is or isn’t there … if you go in what you notice in the moment you enter is that there are black squares. And then in that, there’s a, what do you call it, in minimalism they made black panels, or red panels, but I can’t get that stoic, and I do want to express…. I want to express something animated, something pulsated, but part of me also doesn’t want to express it…

And so you make it harder to see.

Yes that’s it. And also in a picture, you try to fill it up; this goes here…. And so in order to not do a layout, I start drawing from an area.

Is that easier to do if it’s black?

No, that doesn’t affect it. In order to make the layout quieter… this isn’t fixated. And so if you take the acrylic board off and touch it, it’ll come off.

Why did you decide to use black gesso?

That’s because black holds a lot of different meanings. For example, it’s very still, it has a sense of immense quiet, and also a strong sense of night and also darkness… And it’s possible to see a highly dense something in black. White things are the opposite and they’re pure, there’s cleanliness. Black for me is a mysterious color. In order to fully expose the good qualities of the color black, I wanted to make it black on black. In the end it looks more like black on silver than black on black, but the act was to put black on black.

Is there a reason you decided to use pencil?

I think it’s the freshness?… For example that piece there, I’ve fixated. It’s more like a CD. If you compare it to music, it’s more like a CD. And this is more like a live show. It’s possible to do black on black by using a brush, for example, to place a transparent medium on the black, that would make it black on black as well. But if you do that, I think that makes it more like laying it out. I think that once you start deciding the composition, the picture will get more like, well industrial arts, or arts and crafts.

And it will get harder to see.

Right. Also I don’t intend to do arts and crafts, so, for lines that I can only draw in this instant, I want to draw them in that instant as much as possible, and with pencil it’s fast.

Do you draw directly onto the gesso or the aluminium?

Yes. As a piece…. I’m repeating myself a bit, but the relationship between the pencil and the gesso is that, it’s ultimately about being able to adjust the image, and I suppose how to deal with the lighting, because I’m not using colour. And so, it’s all about how much you control the light, and so I don’t question the medium. And this acrylic case protects it, but the piece is actually the whole thing, case and all, so it’s okay. It’s fine if the surroundings are reflected on the acrylic board. It’s all included in it.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Hiroshige Fukuhara, 'The Night', 2010, pencil, black gesso on wooden panel, 900 x 630 mm. Image courtesy of the artist.

This artwork shaped like a horse is a little different? Could you tell me more about this one?

It is different. I’m starting to do these recently, but as I said earlier about layouts, pictures tend to mostly be rectangular shaped.  I want to be able to connect the philosophy and the technique as directly as possible onto the square, the surface. However, somehow various… um, it has to go through, a certain way, and so it’s inevitable that the expression becomes more …angled than what was being imagined. For example, just drawing instinctively… without making a draft and drawing in real-time, directly, means that the lines aren’t pre-determined. After drawing a strawberry-like image… a flower appeared, and then below that are some moss-like things … and in each of those instants, there’s something that’s alive, and I try to draw them, picking up these random images from the library in my head and placing them onto the canvas. And so, when it’s square, I can’t help placing an object on it. For example, the butterfly, I put the butterfly down. This shape here, because the shape is intentional, internally it is tremendously free. I’m thinking I’d rather continue to do this sort of thing. And then when you do that, the place where it’s displayed? There might be more freedom in where you hang it and, if it’s square, for instance, often, pictures are something I want to be displayed in houses,… or museums and such as well. And so, with things like that, you feel an urge to place it bang in the middle. For example… there’s a horse drawn on that one. It’s just that a horse is there, but I drew the horse by accident. But, instead, if the canvas is a horse, then isn’t there no need to draw a horse? I can draw the pattern more freely from within, because if the tableau is square, I’m compelled to draw a horse. It’s a way that I strategise, but if the canvas is already shaped like a horse, there’s no more room to place one, and it makes it easier to make a direct connection between my head and my hand…. It’s impossible to remember what I drew (laughs).

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

Gallery view of Hiroshige Fukuhara's latest solo exhibition at Ai Kowada Gallery in Japan. Image courtesy of the artist.

You mean, the order that they’re hung is decided?

Yes, like maybe you want some more space between them. But if they’re shaped like this, and for instance, if there’s a small picture then maybe it might be good to put them in a spot like this. Yes, you might be freer to put them where you want, and maybe the meaning of the piece might change depending on where you place it. Also, outside? Having an association with a silhouette, also, makes the interior extremely … there’s a feeling of my own sense of alive-ness, and so for me I’d really like to continue to do this sort of thing.

MM/KN

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Japanese contemporary art – changes and trends – by gallerist Koyanagi

Posted by artradar on March 24, 2009


JAPANESE ART SCENE

Gallerist Atsuko Koyanagi discusses:

  • why Japanese galleries group together in different districts
  • how the opening of the Mori museum impacted the art scene
  • Japanese government’s relationship with culture
  • how Japanese and Western collectors differ
  • the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese art market
  • the future for art in Japan

Gallery Koyanagi is one of Tokyo’s top contemporary art galleries, representing major artists such as Sophie Calle, Marlene Dumas, Olafur Eliasson, Mariko Mori, Rika Noguchi, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Tabaimo.

The gallery, a regular exhibitor at Art Basel, Frieze Art Fair, Art Fair Tokyo and CIGE, started out as a contemporary ceramics gallery in 1988 but its founder and director Atsuko Koyanagi reopened the space as a contemporary art gallery in 1995. She talks here to Ashley Rawlings, an art critic based in Tokyo, about the changes in contemporary art in Japan over the last 15 years and about upcoming trends.

Atsuko Koyanagi

Atsuko Koyanagi

AR: What led you to open your gallery as a contemporary art gallery in 1995?

AK: The mid-1980s was when Cindy Sherman was becoming known and photography was starting to be appreciated as an artistic medium in its own right. Back then, with the exception of Zeit Photo Salon, Tokyo didn’t have any museums or galleries dedicated to photography. At that time I also met Hiroshi Sugimoto, and he was looking for a gallery that would represent him, but was being met with a lot of rejection. I was inspired to show his work and make the shift into contemporary art.

The advertising work I had done at Kazuko Koike’s office until then was in some respects close to photography. I felt I had an eye for this medium and that it would offer me the easiest way to enter the contemporary art world. I hadn’t studied art and I had never worked in another gallery before, so opening my own contemporary gallery was incredibly difficult at the beginning. But it was for that very reason that I felt I was open to involving myself with something new. So Gallery Koyanagi reopened as a contemporary art gallery on the first floor of this building in 1995, and then moved to the 8th floor in 2004.

AR: From the mid-1990s you became closely associated with other young gallery owners who drove the Tokyo art scene towards recovery. What was the reason for you all grouping together?

AK: Until then there had been no real talk of bringing Tokyo’s galleries together in the same space. There were, of course, a couple of old gallery associations like the Bijutsu Club and so on, but nothing equivalent for contemporary galleries. People working in the contemporary art world tend to be quite individualistic. It wasn’t like we all had to all be best friends, but given how small the market was back then, we were stronger and stood out more as a group. It would allow us to introduce each other to each other’s clients. So I started to talk to the various galleries about it, and we held a group show at Spiral Garden called ‘G9: New Direction’.

AR: Ever since then the contemporary art world in Tokyo has been characterized by various combinations of galleries grouping together in buildings around the city. What led to the Shinkawa building opening?

AK: Tomio Koyama was already occupying one of the spaces within the Sagacho Exhibit Space, as were Shugo Satani and Taro Nasu. The Sagacho Exhibit Space was doing very well and in 2001 Shugo Satani and I opened the Rice Gallery by G2 within it, but by then the building had been slated for demolition the next year.

Everyone had been working really well together, so we wanted to keep the collaboration going. Koyama-san happened to find the building in Shinkawa, and we moved there in 2003. The Shinkawa building was able to house four of us: Taka Ishii Gallery, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Shugoarts and a showroom extension of Gallery Koyanagi.

AR: At this time the Mori Art Museum was about to open. How did that impact the gallery scene?

AK: I was working with Mariko Mori, and at her wedding party, I had the opportunity to talk with Minoru Mori. I mentioned to him that abroad, the opening of a major museum tends to attract the opening of commercial galleries around it.

The Mori Corporation was buying up old buildings in the area for future redevelopment, so I suggested to him that it might be interesting to rent out those buildings at reduced rates to galleries that wouldn’t mind their condition. He was interested and straight away he introduced me to the planning division, which suggested a building on nearby Imoaraizaka. It was in a pretty run down state, so the rent was very cheap. The galleries that couldn’t fit into the Shinkawa building opened up there.

AR: With the map of Tokyo’s contemporary art galleries having diversified so much beyond the Ginza area, are you still happy to have your space in this neighborhood?

AK: I was born and raised in this neighborhood and my family business has always been here. I guess if I were starting from scratch now, I probably wouldn’t choose to run a contemporary art gallery here. But then this building belongs to my family, so there are financial incentives to be here too.

AR: What do you think the future is for Ginza?

AK: In recent years there have been more and more buildings by foreign companies going up and it’s a little sad to see Ginza losing some of its original character. Ginza is one of the most representative, internationally known parts of Japan, and so I have quite strong views on how it should be and a strong desire to protect its status as one of Japan’s most significant areas.

Areas like Daikanyama, Aoyama and Roppongi are becoming these very stylish places, so I think Ginza has to keep up. On the other hand, the people running old shops here are working really hard too, so I hope we can achieve a neighborhood with the right balance of new and old.

AR: What do you look for in an artist’s work before deciding to take them on?

AK: It’s not so much what I look for in the artist’s work as what I look for in the artist as a person. Of course, when I encounter a work, I want it to have an impact on me, but it’s who the person behind it is that’s more important. I want to know what they see, what they think, what it is they are trying to convey.

The quality of each work that an artist produces may vary, but overall it is a constant process of trial and error that they are engaged with. If I can look at the fundamentals of what they do and feel good about it, then I know I can work with them.

I also have to bear my clients in mind. I know what kind of tastes they have and what they are searching for in contemporary art, so when looking at an artist’s work, it’s incredibly important to consider how it fits in with our current stable of artists. In general if I like the artist and their work, then my clients will like them too.

AR: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese contemporary art market?

AK: One of the main reasons the art market doesn’t really grow here is due to taxation laws. In the United States, you get tax breaks if you buy an artwork and eventually donate it to a museum. This is a fantastic system that allows people with money to buy art, enjoy it and then give it to a museum for the benefit of others, and it helps museums enrich their collections.

However, there is no such system in Japan: if you buy an artwork here it becomes an asset and you have to pay tax on it.

Another problem is that there are very few big collectors of contemporary art. Perhaps that’s because the market hasn’t fully matured. There are of course serious collectors like Toshio Hara, Minoru Mori and Soichiro Fukutake, but overall there are very few compared to the number you would find abroad.

AR: Compared to other large cities in the world, does Tokyo receive enough funding from the government to support the art world?

AK: Not really. The Japanese government has absolutely no cultural strategy when it comes to contemporary art. Of course, when manga suddenly became popular, everybody in the government started to pay attention to Takashi Murakami and government officials started to make use of manga as a buzzword, but that’s not the same as having a strategy.

In other countries, like Switzerland, the government pays for the insurance of artworks. Tohaku Hasegawa’s ‘Pine Trees’ screen is a national treasure, and it was shown in Switzerland last year. The insurance costs for having that work shipped over there must be astronomical and too much for a museum to bear, but it was all covered by the Swiss government. It would be so helpful if there were a system like that in Japan, but there isn’t. If Japan could give tax breaks for donating to museums and cover the insurance costs of shipping artworks, I think the market here would be able to grow much more healthily.

AR: Broadly speaking, are there any identifiable differences in taste between Japanese and foreign collectors?

AK: A lot of artists in Europe and the US make work that really engages with the serious social issues of their time, be it war, economic problems or racism. Those kinds of problems are more immediate in Europe and the US, and the people who live there deal with them in real time. Correspondingly, there are collectors who truly comprehend their work and buy it.

 Japan, on the other hand, is more of a monoracial society; it has not been at war at all for the past sixty years and in general has had much less social instability to deal with. As Takashi Murakami put it, the Japanese suffer from ‘peace lag’ or have been infantilized; they don’t feel themselves to be very connected to the problems that affect the world.

For example, the wars going on in the Middle East are thought of as America’s problem, and the Japanese don’t feel the same anger towards President Bush as everyone else does. If an artist conveys that anger in a work, then there will certainly be American collectors who will identify with it and buy it, whereas Japanese collectors probably wouldn’t. Of course, some work speaks to everyone through technique alone, but contemporary art is about more than just that; collectors have their conceptual preferences as well.

In Japan there is also a tendency for people to rush towards easily comprehensible art. Gallery owners like Tomio Koyama and artists like Motohiko Odani and Takashi Murakami have been instrumental in making art more accessible to a greater number of people, and I think that’s really good, but equally it’s important not to go too far. I think contemporary art should relate to social issues, and I hope that Japanese collectors will also make the effort to understand the nuances that artists are trying to convey.

AR: How has Japanese contemporary art changed over the past fifteen years?

AK: Looking back at how appalling a state the economy was in when I opened my gallery thirteen years ago, I’d have to say the state of the Tokyo art world has changed a lot since then. To talk about these changes simply in terms of prices, fifteen years ago, a small work by Hiroshi Sugimoto would sell for 350,000 yen, whereas now its primary market price at this gallery would be 1.5 million yen. It would then fetch about 5 million yen at auction. A work by Marlene Dumas was worth 350,000 yen back then but now on the primary market her paintings will sell for three to 5 million yen; at auction her work would fetch close to 10 million yen. So just looking at the prices you see how much the market has grown.

I think the market will grow just as much over the next fifteen years as well. But whether it’s Murakami, Nara or Sugimoto, these price rises have largely been due to the growth of the international market, so in a sense it’s like they are being imported back into Japan. These works didn’t increase in value through Japanese auctions, but European and American ones. But their sales abroad caught people’s attention here and have encouraged Japanese people to buy.

Another thing that has changed has been the opening of a new generation of galleries here in Tokyo. I’m very happy about this, as it helps encourage young people to get involved in the art world. Before, collecting habits used to be very divided, with only young people buying work by young artists and only established collectors buying work by big name artists, but that has changed. The market has matured a lot.

AR: What about upcoming trends?

AK: In the past Western artists used to dominate everything and both female and Asian artists were a minority. That’s just not the case anymore. Now artists gain recognition simply according to their individual merits. There are also more and more chances for artists to go abroad these days. In the 1980s it used to be that an artist would have to make it big in Japan before going abroad, but now it’s possible to become popular in other places like New York and then come back to Japan, and I think there will be more artists taking that sort of route from here on.
This interview is an extract from Art Space Tokyo (Chin Music Press, 2008), an intimate guide to the Tokyo art world that features 20 interviews with the directors and curators behind some of Tokyo’s most distinctive galleries and museums, and many others. To find out more, visit Art Space Tokyo.

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Surprises in store at Singapore Art Fair October 2008 – Asian Art News

Posted by artradar on October 2, 2008


ART FAIR SINGAPORE

ARTSingapore 2008 has some important surprises in store says Asian Art News. There will be a new focus on art from Korea, India and Japan, first time gallery participants, a collector’s show of art never before displayed in public and specially featured emerging artists to watch.

 “This year’s event will highlight a sizeable representation from India Korea and Japan” says fair director, Chen Shen Po. Alongside 22 new Korean fair participants ARTSingapore will also welcome 13 Japanese art galleries including Megumi Ogita Gallery, Shonandai MY Gallery, Arte Gallery and Shinsedo Hatanaka. This marks a new milestone in the development of the fair which has historically been a showcase for South East Asian art.

First time gallery participants include Sundaram Tagore Gallery (USA), Cais Gallery (Korea), Hwas Gallery (China), Silverlens (Philippines) and Bruno Art Group (Israel). Click here for full gallery list.

Jirapat Tatsanasomboon 'Fighting over the Maiden 2'

Jirapat Tatsanasomboon

Rising artists to be featured at the fair include:

  • Wu Jianjun (China)
  • Kengo Nakamura (Japan)
  • Jirapat Tatsanasomboon (Thailand)
  • Dang Xuan Hoa (Vietnam)
  • Wayan Sujanda (Indonesia)
  • Thota Vaikuntam (India)

This year the popular Special Collector’s Showcase section is curated by Masanori Fukuoka owner and founder of Japan’s Glenbarra Art Museum and who according to Asian Art News is ‘recognised as the world’s top collector and connoisseur of Indian contemporary art’. Fukuoka has arranged a solo show of Jogen Chowdhury (b 1939), one of the foremost artists of post-Independent India which will contain 18 ink pastel and watercolour works never before displayed in public.

As well as the Collector’s Showcase there will be another important exhibition. Kim Soo Keong a leading collector in Korea and a director of Kwangju Biennale Foundation has agreed to loan the Fair a group works from her collection of more than 100 pieces of Nam June Paik’s works, some of which including TV Repair Man and Blue Buddha have never been shown in public. Kim Soo Keong’s Nam June Paik collection is widely regarded as being amongst the most important in the world.

In total the fair will feature 110 galleries and institutions from 16 countries who will showcase more than US$30 million of artworks before an expected 15,000 visitors. Despite the fair’s growth from just 19 galleries in 2000, the Singapore fair remains ‘one of the most friendly and accessible’ fairs in the region says Asian Art News.

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