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Art Space Tokyo: An intimate guide to the Tokyo art world

The Book — Interviews

The inteviews bring you closer to the spaces. We flesh out the stories behind these art spaces, the ideologies that drive them and the role they play in the broader Tokyo art world.

Spontaneous Encounters & Permanent Installations

Toshio Hara and Yoko Uchida, Hara Museum

Director Toshio Hara and Curator Yoko Uchida talk about how this family-estate-turned-museum was founded out of the desire to establish a new, more architecturally inspired model of contemporary art museum. They discuss the museum's collection, how they meet artists, curate their shows and how the contemporary art world has changed in Japan over the last thirty years.

Open to Something New

Atsuko Koyanagi, Gallery Koyanagi

The director of one of Tokyo's most internationally renowned contemporary art galleries, Atsuko Koyanagi talks about what drew her to contemporary art, her role in rallying gallery owners together to regenerate the art scene in the 1990s, what she looks for in the artists she works with, and the differences between Japanese and foreign collectors' preferences.

A Collection with a Personal Edge

Ryutaro Takahashi, Takahashi Collection

One of the primary collectors of Japanese contemporary art with some 1000 works in his collection and two gallery spaces in which to show it, Ryutaro Takahashi describes what kind of a collection he is trying to build, his sense of responsibility to exhibit it to the public, and how tax issues limit Japan's potential for a fully fledged community of collectors. He also gives his thoughts on the Chinese art boom and the future of Japanese art in the growing Asian market.

Contemporary for the Community

Julia Barnes and Clint Taniguchi, Nakaochiai Gallery

The directors of this small gallery space in residential Tokyo talk about how they came to be involved in the Tokyo art scene, how it compares with their experience in San Francisco, and their interest in bringing contemporary art to the local community that surrounds their gallery.

Bilingual Tokyo Online

Paul Baron, Kosuke Fujitaka and Olivier Thereaux, Tokyo Art Beat

The co-founders of Tokyo Art Beat talk about the technical challenges of setting up Tokyo's primary bilingual art listings website, the Tokyo art world's reaction to it, and the expansion of the Art Beat model to Japan's Kansai region and New York.

A Triangular Temple to Modernism

Etsuko Watari, Watari Museum of Contemporary Art

The museum's curator tells the background story of how this distinctive, triangular family-run museum came to be, her thoughts on the white cube and coordinating exhibitions held in public space, and the government's lack of support for the art world.

Architecture Built to be Destroyed

Yoshio Futagawa, GA Gallery

One of only two galleries in Tokyo that focuses on architecture, GA Gallery is run by architect Yoshio Futagawa. In this interview he discusses architecture's relation to the art world, the validity of white cube exhibition spaces, Tokyo's relentless urban regeneration and the potential for cross-collaborative projects between architecture and other fields.

Rethinking Design

Noriko Kawakami, 21_21 Design Sight

The associate director of Japan's first design museum, housed in a signature building by Tadao Ando, talks about how the facility aims to transcend established conventions of displaying works of design, the crossover between art and design and how the world of design has changed over the past fifteen years.

Fundamental Change in Asia

Fumio Nanjo

This interview with Fumio Nanjo, a key player in the Tokyo art world since the late 1970s and now the director of the Mori Art Museum, covers his past work with curatorial office Nanjo and Associates, his thoughts on public art, alternative spaces, the white cube and the position of Japan's contemporary art scene in Asia.

Post-Bubble Determination

Masami Shiraishi, SCAI The Bathhouse

The director of one of Tokyo's most well-known commercial galleries, housed in a converted bathhouse, Masami Shiraishi explains his role in the establishment of the Nippon International Contemporary Art Fair, the ethics of the art market, SCAI's role in setting up public art projects in the city, and the growth of Roppongi as a new art district.

Classic Contemporary

Misa Shin, Art Fair Tokyo

The executive director of Tokyo's main art fair explains how the fair evolved out of the Nippon International Contemporary Art Fair, the reason for its mix of antique and contemporary artwork, the fair's identity in relation to other Asian art fairs and the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese art market.

Tokyo's First Satellite Art Fair

Agatha Wara, Antonin Gaultier, Julia Barnes and Kosuke Fujitaka, 101Tokyo

Members of the founding committee of Tokyo's first satellite art fair describe what motivated them to set up the fair, how they aim to make it differ from Art Fair Tokyo and Tokyo's potential to become a major international destination for collectors of contemporary art.

Ginza: Tradition, Inspiration and Louis Vuitton

Hozu Yamamoto, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP

Hozu Yamamoto recounts the history of Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo's oldest commercial contemporary art gallery, and describes the changes in the Ginza area, which gradually lost its status as the center of the Tokyo art world over the 1990s.

Between Tokyo and Beijing

Yukihito Tabata, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP

In 2002, Tokyo Gallery opened Beijing Tokyo Art Projects in the Dashanzi (798) area of Beijing, which has since become the epicenter of the booming Chinese contemporary art scene. Yukihito Tabata talks about his involvement with Chinese contemporary art since the 1980s, how Japanese and Chinese artists and collectors differ in their buying habits, and the resurgent potential of Japanese contemporary art.

Asakusa Contemporary

Mahiro, Gallery éf

Established in 1998, Gallery éf is housed in a 140-year-old wooden warehouse that has miraculously survived the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945. The gallery's director talks about how the space was renovated, what approach they take to exhibition planning and the artists they work with, as well as the character of the Asakusa area and how it differs from other neighborhoods of Tokyo.

An Undecided Space in the Mind of the Audience

Ikko Suzuki and Kirara Kawachi

Dancer Ikko Suzuki and artist Kirara Kawachi hold a yearly collaborative performance that commemorates the firebombing of the Asakusa area on March 11, 1945, during which 100,000 people were killed. In this interview they discuss how they respond to space when making their work and the nature of social space in Tokyo.

A Shared Space for the Next Generation

Hideki Aoyama, Aoyama | Meguro

Aoyama Meguro is one of seven "second-generation" galleries known as the New Tokyo Contemporaries, which have all opened in Tokyo since 2004 and are directed by former staff of the first generation of commercial galleries that rebuilt the art scene during the 1990s. Director Hideki Aoyama talks about his interest in conceptual art, his experience of working for Mizuma Art Gallery, and how he views the future of the Tokyo art scene.

Bidding for a Better Market

Yoichiro Kurata, Shinwa Art Auction

The president of one of Tokyo's leading auction houses talks about the history of auctions in Japan, the changes in the relationship between Japanese auction houses and galleries, and how the Japanese and Chinese art markets compare.

Plugging into Public Space

Masato Nakamura and Shingo Suzuki, Project Space Kandada

One of the few alternative spaces to have survived more than a few years, Project Space Kandada is run by artist Masato Nakamura and a collective of other creative figures known as commandN. They discuss commandN's activities in public space in the Akihabara area, the reasons why their space has had to move several times since its establishment in 1998, the need for artistic exchange and the government's role in supporting the art scene.

From the Woods of Mononoke to the Woods of Mitaka

Kiyofumi Nakajima, Ghibli Museum

Set in the woods of Inokashira Park, the Ghibli Museum is a truly atypical building inspired by the anime of Hayao Miyazaki, whose work is the subject of the museum. Director Kiyofumi Nakajima talks about how the museum balances its exhibits to make them appealing to children and adults alike, the relationship between anime and art and the difficulties facing the anime industry in the face of piracy.