Asia Society Japan Center, Arts Committee Signature Symposium
"The Future of the Art Market – Discussion of its Innovation & Evolution"
Asia Society Japan Center, Arts Committee Signature Symposium
The Future of the Art Market – Discussion of its Innovation & Evolution
Monday, November 18, 2019
Part 1: Keynote by Masamichi Toyama (President, Smiles, ArtStickers)
Jobs that could be changed by art: Mr. Masamichi Toyama, CEO of Smiles, Soup Stock Tokyo, 100 Spoons, Pass the Baton, and most recently the Chain Museum, welcomed the turning point of his life in 1996, at the age of 33. He held his first art exhibition, which ushered in a sense of responsibility and self-expression that was then new to him. There was no logical reason for his spontaneous decision, but it was: 1) the first indication of his own will; 2) and the first event of self-responsibility for selling all seventy pieces exhibited. This led to the urge to create something new, resulting in launching Soup Stock Tokyo in 1999. Having served soup at his exhibition for visitors to enjoy while looking at this artwork, Mr. Toyama discovered the excitement of immediate feedback. This was the beginning of bring the soup business and art together.
Art that could be changed by jobs. Chain businesses and art seemingly did not mix well together and therefore the challenge of combining the two concepts appeared to be all the more attractive. That is how he came up with the word “Chain Musuem.” Mr. Toyama believes that only ten percent of all existence can actually be seen or touched, and that the remaining ninety percent is dormant. The visualization or activation of this invisible fraction is what artists do best. The same can be said for business. In the Showa period, market players could expand their businesses just by lending an ear to the market, but today, marketing does not provide all the answers. In that sense, artists, always trying new approaches, are at the forefront.
The Chain Museum: Mr. Toyama seeks to further verbalize and shape the “Chain Museum” concept. His ambitions include spreading small and unique museums around the world. For example, he has placed a wildflower by contemporary artist Yoshihiro Suda on the top of a wind turbine owned by Shizen Energy. The idea is that the piece is difficult to identify from the ground, just as electricity is invisible. While museums are usually site-specific, the Chain Museum chooses specific sites. To explore new possibilities, the Chain Museum has recently acquired the celebrated Tanikawa House in Kita-karuizawa, built by architect Kazuo Shinohara based on a poem by Shuntaro Tanikawa.
Art Sticker: The Art Sticker is a smartphone application launched in August. It is a platform of the Chain Museum that maps artwork. A recent partnership with Starbucks has led to the registration of different artwork exhibited at Starbucks. The application allows users to locate artwork, communicate with artists, and make donations, thereby letting artists see their fans. Conventionally, art could only generate profits by selling pieces or through entrance fees, but this platform enables the separation of artistic presentation and sales. This opens opportunies for installations and theater productions, as Art Sticker provides a means of gaining profits without selling the work itself. Comments can also be archived. Today, Art Stickers has 400 registered artists, but has yet to increase the number of users, which currently stands at around 10,000, and to encourage read-only users to be active players on the platform.
ACOP (Art Communication Project) is a dialogue-based method for appreciating art. The value of art is variable and can change according to the relationship one has with the works or the artist. People often go to art exhibitions to see the featured works and pass through the remaining works. Many people tend to feel that they need art literacy to speak out, but once that reluctance is overcome, one can have a completely different and exciting relationship with art. Feedback from beyond the market and curators are rarely heard, but can open the door to a new zone of art appreciation.
Part 2: Panel discussion: “The Future of the Art Market – Discussion of its Innovation & Evolution”
Moderator: Tsutomu Horiuchi (Arts Committee Co-Chair, Asia Society Japan Center /Professor, Center for Social Investment, Tama University)
- Gallery : Whitney Ferrare (Senior Director, Pace Gallery)
- Artist : Kohei Nawa
- Business/ Market : Masamichi Toyama (President, Smiles, Art Stickers)
- Curator : ACC - Wang Weiwei
- Collector : Christopher Wells (Asia Society Japan Center)
Mr. Tsutomu Horiuchi started the discussion by introducing recent figure representing the art market. According to Art Basel and UBS, the global art market hit a record high of 68.2 billion USD in 2014. However, despite the size of its economy with the third largest GDP, Japan has a 2.3 billion USD art market, which accounts for a relatively small marginal share of 3.6% in the global market. He asked the panelists three questions to start the discussion:
1) What do you think of the present situation of the art market in Japan?
2) What do you think will be the impact of state of the art technologies such as the internet and blockchain on the art markets?
3) What do you think of the happening of this year’s Aichi Triennale where the government withdrew the subsidy for “Exhibition of Non-Freedom of Expression”? Do you think it is a good idea that the government proactively foster artists and art markets as a government policy?
Ms. Wang Weiwei pointed out that we need to discuss how to find innovative or alternative ways for value creation in the art world. With artists beginning to experiment with diverse and unconventional media, it has become a challenge for museums and galleries to exhibit artwork and for collectors to acquire art. While grants are important for artists to make a living, they develop too close a link with consumer culture and trends; and therefore, their survival can become too dependent on the market, harming art creation.
In China, artists have started to lay a greater emphasis on creating social value through art projects leading to community building or art education. They are seeking new resources while maintaining the independence of art experimentation and curation, breaking the boundaries of different fields of art. In South Korea, there is an increasing number of independent art fairs launched by young artists. This bottom-up revolution is manifestation of rebellion against the inherent hierarchy system and top-down stereotype of the art world. This can be seen as a test of value and artistic beliefs.
The art ecosystem is even more complex in Japan. There are some local government-led initiatives like Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media and Art Tower Mito. These have used a series of innovative measures to work with artists, showing internal reform in traditional art institutions.
Many East Asian artists are exploring new channels for funding outside the mainstream grant system for more flexibility. Ms. Wang looks forward to closer collaboration in East Asia to form international collectives or to build platforms based on common principles on art. Mutual inspiration will allow the use of different methods for the further creation and expansion of artistic value.
Mr. Kohei Nawa hosts “Sandwich,” his studio, which was originally a sandwich factory that he renovated in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto. He considers his studio as a platform where different people gather – a place where networks are created across the world. After studying sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London in 1998-99 and studying in London’s contemporary art scene, Mr. Nawa returned to Kyoto to find that Japan’s art scene was lacking in competition, small and closed to society. London had an established system to bring young talent to the spotlight, which also meant that artist would immediately be exposed to an evaluation of their place in art history. Art education in Japan does not offer a place where students can have a clear vision of where they stand in art history by coming into contact with real pieces of artwork.
Mr. Nawa held his first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in 2011 with 95% of new works presented in twelve rooms. Given the limited budget, he brought in works from different projects to the exhibition. Installations are strong forms of expression that match the times, but much devotion is required for creation. Since installations often do not lead to sales, artists are always faced with the challenge of making a living. Artists also need to assume self-responsibility for presenting their artwork, especially large installations for which there is no constant market or exceeds what galleries can manage.
Ms. Whitney Ferrare was born into an art collecting family and has collected art herself from her adolescence. As a gallerist, Ms. Ferrare feels that from a commercial perspective, the global market has reached a structural threshold, and that while we are currently inundated with online sales and gallery openings, these volumes will peter out, while sales figures rise. Hong Kong accounts for 40% of the Chinese art market, with its success attributable to its geographic proximity to other markets. Digital disruption has encouraged more galleries to take advantage of the accessibility and universality of the Internet. In Hong Kong, 93% of millennial collectors have reported that they bought from online platforms, using online viewing rooms, auctions and tracking, as well as artwork directories. Today, more and more people have access to information and transparency about how to collect art.
In the 1980s, Japan was one of the most important art centers, mainly for Impressionist art. Hindrances in Japan include taxation, inheritance laws, and lack of international interaction. The future is bright for Japan, a state-sponsored utopia with small museums across the country, and it is an attractive destination and source of inspiration.
How art is used and access to art has potential to change society. Crowdfunding for individual artwork and the blockchain present new frontiers for art and technology.
Mr. Christopher Wells commented that art collectors are made collectors by the environment in which they are brought up. He became a collector as a child, growing up in a house full of Asian art. “A person just needs to have some money and access to art.” Mr. Wells also mentioned that many collectors like to have a personal connection with the artwork they possess and thus enjoy connecting with artists. He finds it disappointing that artists in Japan do not consider themselves commercial. While he has had artists on Painters’ Street in Shanghai to make paintings according to his image, he has never had a successful experience of the kind in in Japan, where he finds it difficult to communicate directly with the artists.
Why is art communication so different in Japan? Ms. Wang felt that in Japan the media is more diversified than in Hong Kong, where QR codes are a common tool to access artist information. That said, the inconvenience for collectors in gaining information forces them to spend more time to learn more about the artist, searching on the Internet or talking with curators. Mr. Nawa sees young art students taking advantage of digital tools to introduce their work. This implies that the times are shifting from a time when galleries were responsible for promoting artists to a time when artists and their collectors and fans can connect directly. Artists who understand this change and are good at self-production have an advantage in the art market.
Will the world still need galleries? Mr. Nawa pointed out that many graduating students are not interested in galleries because they already have fans who buy their artwork directly from them and are reluctant to have galleries take margins. Most students today do not consider working with galleries as a first step of their art careers. Ms. Ferrare commented that the model for supporting art is changing. She welcomes the development of different channels such as the Instagram, which offers opportunities for artists who would otherwise not be spotlighted by galleries to expose themselves. On the other hand, galleries offer a platform for artists to focus on creating art and bear the role of educating young artists, coordinating, displaying, exhibiting and publishing art. They should acknowledge changing trends and reach out to new audiences and new communities. Mr. Wells commented that it would be helpful if artists could incubate curators and collectors.
Mr. Toyama commented that Art Sticker could be the answer to many of these questions. He seeks to promote alternative art, or an art version of Indies music. Art Sticker can provide access to the information sought by many art fans. Giving thought to why people purchased art, Mr. Toyama realized that it was not always for the sake of possession or exclusive rights to a piece, but to express one’s support for the artist. While is not always possible for many people to constantly purchase art, Art Sticker allows fans to communicate their fondness of artwork directly to the artists.
The motivation driving installations and other unconventional forms of art is sometimes the excitement of exploring new modes of expression. Therefore, art is often not commercial. In contrast, many collectors often want to be a part of art creation. Art has historically been commissioned, but how would that relate to the present-day art scene? Ms. Ferrare commented that commissioning was a vital part of the art scene, and that even today, projects such as the Benesse House have been commissioned. Commissioning can come in various forms, not necessarily through galleries, whose important role is to communicate art. Mr. Toyama pointed out that anyone can take part in commissioning art today and that Art Sticker was a novel way to realize the concept. Ms. Wang also agreed that commissioning was still important in today’s art scene.
It was also pointed out that art education was needed to foster both artists and collectors in society. Education can help devise new ways for collaboration among different actors and encourage consideration of the market. Mr. Nawa commented that Japanese art colleges are reluctant to promote art sales and rather find virtue in keeping a distance from the market. However, the Kyoto University of Art and Design encourages students to conceive reality and to know the price of one’s own works. The university offers a course on setting international prices on art.
How can government help increase art in public spaces and what can it do to offer artists space for art creation? Mr. Nawa pointed out that Japanese museums do not have large collections and are not founded upon a scheme to collect art. A musuem’s fundamental role is not to exhibit art, but to collect art and perform academic studies on it. Mr. Toyama introduced the Chain Museum’s recent engagement in “wall branding.” The Chain Museum is renting walls to display art, which can be rotated among different walls. Emerging artists would also be offered the opportunity to present their art. Artist talks can be held from time to time in front of the walls.. Ms. Ferrare pointed out that Japan could also explore public-private partnership. Mr. Wells also pointed out that meeting room walls also held many opportunities for a Netflix-model of art leasing, allowing people to have a trial period before deciding whether or not they really want to purchase a piece.